This document, which is dated October 1953, was circulated in the Fourth International’s British section during the political dispute that led to a split in the International. Although the document appeared under the name of “Burns” (one of Healy’s pseudonyms), whole sections of it were lifted from US Socialist Workers Party National Committee’s “Memorandum on The Rise and Decline of Stalinism” (5 October 1953). It would seem to be the only attempt by Healy’s faction in the British section to present a theoretical critique of “Pabloite revisionism”, and does not appear in any of the published documentary collections covering the history of the FI. I am grateful to Paolo Casciola of the Centro Studi Pietro Tresso for providing a copy.
WE ARE entering today what is probably the most serious and most important discussion in the history of our movement. What is at stake is nothing less than the fate of Trotskyism, that is, of the Marxism, the revolutionary socialism of our time. Make no mistake about it – nothing less is involved in the present struggle for each single one of us than this: Whether we are to remain true to the ideas which won us to the movement and which have guided many of us for years – and which all of us have hold and I, for my part, continue to hold – can alone provide an answer to the burning problems facing humanity in these crucial times, which alone can ensure the victory of socialism, of the working class.
Before going into the issues of the dispute themselves it is, I feel, necessary to say a few words about the background, the setting for the present struggle. Every serious comrade must have asked himself or herself even before now: How do you account for the great heat, for the suddenness of the outbreak of this struggle, for its swift development? Why has this fight arisen? Why at this time?
It is the duty of a leadership to give an accounting for such a serious turn in the affairs of a revolutionary organisation, and I believe I would be remiss in my obligations to you if I did not first undertake to try to give you such an accounting.
How the Dispute Arose
The truth is that the rise of this dispute is sudden only in appearance. In reality, the issues have been under the surface for quite some time, since about the time of the Third Congress to be precise. Only we ourselves have not been fully aware of their significance. How do you explain that? It can only be explained by the fact that consciousness lags behind reality, that the mind grasps only more slowly what the eye perceives.
It is necessary to understand the mechanics of this tardy catching up of the mind with new facts, to understand it concretely, and in particular in this case.
For some time now a good many comrades not only England, but elsewhere, have felt uneasy about some of the formulations on Stalinism that have come forth from the IS in Paris, and also about some of the organisational procedure in Paris. There were, for instance, formulations in some IS documents which lent themselves to interpretation as though they said the Soviet bureaucracy could not, because of the new objective situation, develop politics other than those going in a leftward direction.
These things were disturbing to us, but we put them in the back of our heads, so to speak.
Why? Well, to be frank, it was due to a certain amount of conservatism that developed in us. After a number of years of international disarray in our movement, we seemed to have established on authoritative leadership in the IS, with prestige of a sort that we had not had before, with a certain amount of regularisation that undoubtedly was fruitful and of benefit to us. We were naturally reluctant to disturb that, or rather, to countenance the fact that it was or could be disturbed.
Similarly in England, we had from time to time clashes of opinion in the leadership, on practical matters relating to the question of Stalinism particularly, which were alarming.
Here are a few examples:
1) We had differences on the Sheffield Peace Congress organised by the Stalinists in 1950. Comrade Collins [John Lawrence] wanted to give it critical support. This gave rise to a heated. discussion which led to substantial alterations in the article that had already been intended for the paper.
2) The next criticism against the tendency of our paper under the editorship of Comrade Collins to conciliate with Stalinism arose at our active workers’ conference in May 1951. Rank and file comrades strongly opposed a review of a book called Soviets in Central Asia. The piece which came under strongest criticism read as follows:
“Major irrigation schemes have been constructed, there has been a great extension of the area of land under cultivation, and an extension of cattle breeding and dairy farming. The challenge of the desert is being met. Afforestation to halt shifting sand has taken place and methods of irrigating the desert are being tried. Rich mineral deposits are being exploited and new industries are being set up.
“A serious omission in the book is that no details of wages and conditions of labour are given – though the authors assure us that none of this progress is due to forced labour.
“What is certain is that only Socialist planning could have accomplished the transformation of such a region.
“The claim of the Soviet scientists that ‘the desert will bloom’ may soon be made good. It is at any rate an aim far more worthy of man’s labour and ingenuity than the devising of new and more ghastly weapons of death.”
3) After these episodes we adopted a resolution on Stalinism at the 1952 Conference. Unfortunately this did not end our difficulties. In November 1951 Comrade Collins again was on the brink of including a report from a fellow traveller who had been to E. Germany. His big point was that the policemen there were “very democratic”. This was withdrawn by the Secretariat.
4) When Transport House had it all laid on to utilise the Vienna Peace delegates last year as an excuse to get rid of the real socialists – Comrade Pablo felt we were wrong in taking action against the Peace delegates in the LP, and that we should have supported them against Transport House. Everyone knows that this was precisely the trap that was set for us,
There is another startling recent example which will be dealt with in a separate document.
We did not connect up all these matters, nor events here with our misgivings about the IS, until it became plain that there was connection.
Since the publication of the document “Rise and Decline of Stalinism”, Pablo has done everything in the public organs of our movement to convey the impression that this is the position of the international.
Comrade Collins went to great lengths in an effort to have us publish it publicly, so that it would be read as our line.
And yet its proper status is that of a draft document. It is for discussion and until carried by a World Congress is binding on no one. The indecent haste of Pablo, Collins, Clarke and Co. to push it to the forefront is but a trick to compromise our movement before it has had the opportunity to have a proper discussion. It is the old “operation smuggle” of alien ideas.
As we watched this developing tension we nevertheless felt reluctant to decide irrevocably to face up to an internal struggle. Why?
As in the case of the IS, and even more so, we had developed a certain amount of organisational conservatism. After many years of strife and paralysis in the British Trotskyist movement, we had succeeded in establishing a harmonious atmosphere, a homogeneous leadership with some five to six years of stability and fruitful work in the mass organisations.
We were particularly reluctant to disturb this peace in our midst. We were anxious to maintain the collaboration in the leadership, the continuity of our good work, the unity, achieved with so much effort; and of course, we had an utter distaste for factional strife from our previous experience.
You all probably experience a similar reaction, particularly the older comrades among you; and that is only natural. Internal struggle is something serious revolutionists do not particularly relish – there are plenty of tasks to absorb us and take up our energies outside. But it is also something revolutionists do not shrink from when it becomes a necessity. On the contrary.
Revolutionists face internal ideological struggle with the same resoluteness and determination as any other task; even more so, for without clarity, precision and correctness in our political line, all our work is like the course of a ship without a rudder. We must know where we are going, how the chart reads of the waters we navigate, and what is our direction.
That precisely is the question that the new IS documents raise anew. We thought we were clear on that for a long time. But now the IS under Comrade Pablo has undertaken to challenge some of the fundamentals of our traditional position. Their challenge constitutes a new revisionism. I shall try now to explain why, and from that the meaning of this struggle.
The Issues in Dispute
I come to the heart of the question before us – to the issues in dispute. In their essence all these issues can be summed up into one overall question:
Shall we continue to base ourselves on the theory of Trotskyism, that is, on Marxist theory as applied by Trotsky to the great new social phenomena of our epoch? Or shall we, in the somewhat indelicate words of Comrade Clarke, “Junk the Old Trotskyism”?
In other words: Is the theory that has guided our movement for more than a quarter of a century now outlived, dated, obsolete? Have the new facts, the “new realities” of the recent period basically changed such concepts as we have held up to now of the Soviet bureaucracy, of Stalinism, of their relationship to the big contending classes in present-day society? And, if they have, must we not also change our own function, our role, as we have conceived it up to now – as a Fourth International, as the nucleus of an indispensable revolutionary party still to be built to carry the proletarian revolution to its ultimate victory over capitalism?
These two questions really hang together inseparably. You cannot discuss the one without the other. For Marxists theory is the guide to action and not an abstract dogma. If we revise our theory, we are obliged to change our mode of action.
I say bluntly: The ideas put forward by Pablo, Clarke and their friends in the Thesis on the “Rise and Decline of Stalinism” over the signature of the IS, open the way for revisionism in our basic theory. I say just as bluntly: The only logical, consistent conclusion that can follow from this revisionism is the liquidation of the Fourth International as we have conceived it up to now.
Now there will probably be flung at us the charge that we are “traditionalists” (apparently it is a new crime in some people’s eyes to remain true to the traditions of Marxism; else why use this word?). That we are “sectarians”. That we cling to “ossified” theories and formulas, that is, to the dry bones of theories that have lost their life and vitality. That we are like the “Old Bolsheviks” whom Lenin condemned in 1917 for hanging on to slogans that should have been relegated to the museum of pre-revolutionary oddities,
The older comrades in the movement, and also the younger ones who have familiarised themselves with the literature of our historic disputes and struggles, will recognise such charges for what they are – a smokescreen for an operation that otherwise would be given short shrift by Trotskyists. I propose here, to try to clear the smoke a little for other comrades.
What is theory in the sense that Marxists understand it? What is our attitude, our real attitude to theory, not the one attributed to us by others?
We have always regarded Marxist theory as a system of ideas based on an understanding of social phenomena as they have evolved the past, are affected by new developments, and have their impact in turn upon the present. That indeed is the essence of living Marxism, of historical materialism, of the dialectic.
Now it is obviously not Marxism, not even good sense, to shut your eyes to new facts of life, because as long as there is life on earth there will be new facts.
But Marxists never stop there. They examine the new facts very carefully and watch their further course, to distinguish what is really fact and what is illusion or a false impression – and above all: relate what is new to the past performance of given phenomena. That is, to past theory. Marxists don’t “junk” theory, they bring it up to date. Marxists don’t look askance at innovations in theory – they test such innovations in the light of the body of theory inherited from their predecessors, from the “classics”, if you please.
Why is this so? Because of some kind of ancestor worship? Because of some “scholastic” attachment to a Marxist Bible? What a shame to have all this nonsense offered up once more as “original” criticism along with such other allegations as “conservatism”, “routinism” etc. How often we have heard this from revisionists before!
We are attached to our body of theory because these ideas have time and again withstood the test of experience. Because they have overcome challenge after challenge from superficial critics. Because they have proved indispensable as an instrument to understand the meaning of new facts. Because they embody the memory of the working class in the struggle for emancipation.
Trotsky said in his booklet Whither Britain in 1926 that what distinguishes the revolutionary party of the workers from the treacherous reformist parties is that the revolutionary party serves as the memory of the class, the heart of its experience.
This is the concept that our new opponents want to overturn. Because of some real or alleged new facts about Stalinism, we must forget all about the past, about the whole evolution of this social phenomenon – as though what has been involved in Stalinism is some accidental aberration of individuals who are now in the process of self-reform!
There have been many such attempts in the Marxist movement – with regard to the nature of capitalism and the capitalist class – from Bernstein down to Strachey. In fact, the official ideology of the labour movement in this country is that the capitalist class has more or less reformed and accepted the need of a Welfare State just as the Labour leaders have accepted the need for a “mixed” economy with capitalists in it. It is only a matter as to who can administer it better, more wisely, more democratically etc. Is it necessary to go into the “new realities” on which this reasoning is based? Not here, I hope.
Attempts to overthrow theory in the Trotskyist movement, with regard to the nature of Stalinism, are also not altogether new. There were the capitulators of the time of Radek, for whom the adoption of the first Five Year Plan changed the character of the bureaucracy from a reactionary caste into a proletarian leadership, and there were the Shachtman-Burnham revisionists for whom the Stalin-Hitler plan sufficed to change the bureaucracy from a caste to a new class replacing the proletariat as the challengers of capitalism for world domination.
Historic experience has, I think, since then given its verdict over these innovations and their innovators. We are now confronted, however, with a new attempt to overthrow theory in the Trotskyist movement. It is far less excusable than previous attempts, because experience has since repeatedly confirmed the correctness of Trotsky’s theory of Stalinism, of the Soviet bureaucracy, of the chief social phenomena of our epoch. But to make up for that, this new attempt is all the more devious, all the more dangerous. It is the most serious revisionist threat to our movement since Burnham’s and we are confident it will in the end be just as thoroughly exposed and defeated in our ranks throughout the world.
I have said that the Pablo-Clarke Theses before us open the road for revisionism. It is their opening shot. There have already been a few victims in this campaign, but these are in their own ranks. I refer to the four members of their international caucus who in Seattle, USA, have gone over bag and baggage to Stalinism, who now stoutly proclaim their endorsement of the murder of the whole Bolshevik cadre by Stalin’s GPU, along with every other crime of the bureaucracy. I shall return to this not unimportant “new reality” in our movement later on.
Meantime, let us examine some of the innovations in theory presented in this draft document and see how they are reached, and how they shape up in the light of actual experience as will as in the light of our theory.
What is New in Fact and What in Illusions?
Now, ever since the Third Congress, we are all agreed that some changes of the first order have taken place in the relationship of class forces in the world after the war.
One-third, instead of one-sixth, of the earth’s surface has been withdrawn from the capitalist market, from the domination of imperialism. In this sense the class relationship of forces has altered sharply in favour of the working class, of socialism. The total collapse of capitalism in Eastern Europe and more particularly the victory of the Chinese revolution mark the high points of this change.
This expansion of the area withdrawn from imperialist domination has not only enormously aggravated the crisis of capitalism, but it has introduced a greater crisis than ever into Stalinism as well. Evidence of this crisis has become clear in the break of Yugoslavia from the Kremlin, in the obvious though not open clashes between the Chinese CP and the Moscow bureaucracy, and so forth.
The new relationship of class forces has the tendency of developing into international civil war or war-revolution.
Now some in our movement were slower to recognise these new facts than others. In fact, some of the people who had previously departed from our movement, and gone over to reformism (like Haston and Co. in England or Geoffrey and Co. in France) saw one or the other of these developments before any of us. That alone, however, did not suffice, as their subsequent fate has shown, to guide them to correct conclusions. They lost their bearings in theory and in practice, and developed all sorts of illusions, first about Stalinism and ultimately about reformism. Their break with our tried and tested international cadre set them adrift, and allowed all the winds of alien ideologies to carry them to unforeseen shores.
An Analysis of the IS Document
I said that at the Third Congress we were agreed on the main traits of the change, in the international relationship of forces in favour of the proletarian revolution.
No one at that time conceived of this change as some kind of irrevocable guarantee of victory – as an automatic process. On the contrary, we laid stress on the need to build the parties of the FI to assure that victory.
Still less did anyone openly claim that the crisis in Stalinism, evidenced by the Yugoslav and Chinese developments, had made a re-evaluation of Stalinism necessary. Let alone any idea that the Stalinist bureaucracy was reforming itself.
On the contrary, we drew the conclusion that where the Stalinist parties were weak, it was our task to remove them from serious competition by building our independent organisations through closer penetration of the existing mass movements. Where they constituted the mass movement, we were to undertake an entry into the Stalinist mass organisations for the purpose of taking advantage of their deepening crisis – with the same ultimate objective.
Now there are some who say that the present document is merely a continuation of the line of the Third Congress. We are prepared to restudy this whole question. But that is not the way I at least and, I know, a good many others, saw it then or see it now.
We have three main differences with the IS document:
a) The first is on the question of perspective.
b) The second is on the way it deals with the problem of the bureaucracy.
c) Thirdly on the role of the CPs outside the USSR.
In its approach to the background of the crisis in the USSR the document is completely one-sided. On page 2 it says:
“The fundamental conditions under which the Soviet bureaucracy and its tight hold over the Communist Parties developed, namely, the ebb of the revolution, the isolation of the Soviet Union, and the backward conditions of its economy – these conditions have disappeared.”
On another page the document states that “the objective foundations of the dictatorship are in the process of rapidly disappearing”.
Let us examine the post-war world and see to what degree these sweeping assertions conform to the real state of affairs. We are here dealing with matters of fact. Let us analyse each of the above three fundamental conditions to see to what extent they have vanished.
i) The Development of the World Revolution
The international revolution has undoubtedly experienced a considerable resurgence since 1943. The Second World War generated a revolutionary wave of greater scope, intensity and persistence than the First World War. The Soviet victory over Nazism, the revolutionary victories in Yugoslavia and China, the extension of nationalised property into the buffer states by bureaucratic-military means, the spread of the colonial revolution have all dealt hard blows to world capitalism and enormously strengthened the anti-capitalist camp.
However, this trend in the world situation has been combined and criss-crossed with another. The immense revolutionary movement which has produced such transformations in Eastern and Central Europe and in Asia, came to grief in Western Europe during this very same `period. Through its alliance with the allied imperialists, the Soviet bureaucracy was chiefly responsible for this reversal and betrayal of the European revolution.
This has generated a series of opposite effects in the unfolding of the world revolution. The proletarian offensive was curbed, the working class became weaker, Western European capitalism was rescued and became relatively stabilised for a period of years. This has enabled the imperialist counter-revolution directed by the US to take hold of these countries and use them as drill grounds and spring-boards for its war preparations and prospective attacks upon the anti-capitalist countries and revolutionary forces.
Thus the revolutionary process since World War II has experienced an uneven and contradictory development. While the revolution moved forward in a number of backward countries, triumphed in Yugoslavia and China, it has undergone set-backs in a number of the advanced countries. The victories for the revolution represent gains for the working class and oppressed peoples. But they must be considered in connection with the recession of the revolution in Western Europe and its effects, in order to arrive at a more balanced and accurate reckoning of the progress of the revolution.
To imply, as the document does, that one of the main factors in making for a weakening of the objective foundations of the bureaucracy is the revolutions in backward countries – this suggestion is completely one-sided. Search the document and you will not find a single word about the role of the West in this matter.
We are supremely confident that the Russian people can and will overthrow the bureaucracy, but the final attainment of socialism in the USSR is irrevocably bound up with the revolution in the West.
ii) Isolation of the Soviet Union
This first factor is directly connected with the second: the encirclement of the Soviet Union by world imperialism. The post-war developments certainly succeeded in loosening and unsettling the imperialist encirclement to a certain extent and breaking through the previous tight isolation of the Soviet Union. The linking together of the countries from the Elbe to the Pacific, however much they may be bureaucratically governed and oppressed, is a strong bulwark to the USSR. But here, too, it is necessary to preserve essential proportions.
The failure of the revolution to break through to victory in Western Europe, which would have radically altered the balance of class forces throughout Europe and Asia, has permitted imperialism to reassert its encirclement and intensify its pressures against the Soviet Union on all planes.
This isolation is felt in the economic, political, diplomatic and military fields in varying degrees.
Despite all their achievements, the industrial capacities of the states in the Soviet bloc is far below that of the capitalist states. This unfavourable balance could be rectified only with the inclusion of the industrial complex of Western Europe. But this is now cut off in large part by the economic blockade which is an element in the isolation of the Soviet Union.
The moves being made by the Kremlin to curry favour with the bourgeois governments of France and Italy, and its manoeuvres around the German question, testify to its attempts to overcome its isolation.
Instead of attracting workers in the advanced countries, the Kremlin’s policy helps to repel them and thus aggravates the social isolation of the SU from the class forces which alone can guarantee its defence.
Finally, the United States is engaged in forging a military ring around Kremlin-dominated territories and exerts unremitting pressures from all directions upon it. The Soviet bureaucracy must reckon with this at all times both in its domestic and foreign policies. The looming menace of A-bomb attack determines its plan of production. This takes first place in the strategical plans of the Soviet General Staff. The menace of imperialist encirclement and aggression determines the policies of those Communist parties under the Kremlin’s control.
How then can the resolution assert in such an unqualified way that the isolation of the SU has disappeared? The isolation has been modified and mitigated but not at all removed. The pressures of imperialist environment weigh upon the entire life of the Soviet peoples. The Soviet workers, with memories still fresh of the last war, fear the outbreak of a new one. This is still a factor in restraining them from open conflict with the bureaucracy for fear of aiding imperialism. Thus the very encirclement of the SU, which the policies of the Kremlin serve to sustain and even augment, remains one of the factors in maintaining its. grip upon power.
iii) The Development of Soviet Economy
Marked advances have been made in Soviet economy, especially since 1947. However these have been extremely uneven.
One of Trotsky’s classical definitions for the bureaucracy was that it was the “policeman of inequality”. We have only to examine the recent speech of Khrushchev to understand the full meaning of this.
Khrushchev speaks about the absolute decline of animal husbandry in the USSR He gives the following table:
|Beef & dairy
|(million head as of the beginning of the year, on comparable territory)|
He says: “We must say, however, with all frankness that we poorly utilise the tremendous reserves inherent in large-scale socialist agriculture. We have not a few collective farms and whole districts that are backward and are even in a state of neglect. In many collective farms and districts crop yields have remained low. The productivity of agriculture, especially in animal husbandry, the growing of feed and fodder crops, potatoes and vegetables increases very slowly. A definite disproportion has set in between the rate of growth of our large-scale socialist industry, the urban population and the material well-being of the working masses, on the one hand, and the present level of agricultural production on the other.”
And again: “The lag in a number of important branches of agriculture retards the further development of the light and food industries and prevents the incomes of the collective farms and the collective farmers from rising.”
Thus we see that agriculture lags far behind the needs of the Soviet people.
Soviet advances have led to an improvement in the living conditions of its citizens, especially in urban centres. They have still greater hopes and expectations of betterment in their material conditions, which the post-Stalin regime has had to take into account. The new rulers have made certain concessions in the sphere of consumption and promised still more.
But the question at issue is this: has there been so drastic a change in the Soviet economy as to eliminate the objective material basis for the bureaucracy? That would entail the production of consumers’ goods and food in sufficient abundance to guarantee necessities to everyone, satisfy the demands of the people, and thus eliminate any need for bureaucratic arbiters to decide the distribution of the available products.
Has Soviet economy, with all its indubitable successes, reached that point, or even approached it? The citing of general production figures and their global comparison with those of other countries will not help here. The decisive point is not how much more is being produced than before, but is enough being produced now to take care of the basic demands of the people?
The facts are that the rise in the economy has sufficed to provide a minimum for most workers, to eliminate famine conditions, and ease some economic tensions. But side by side with the general improvement, there have been considerable increases in consumption for more favoured layers. From the aristocrats of labour up to the tops of the bureaucracy, there is an inclination to grasp for more. Malenkov is compelled to give a bit more bread and other articles to the masses. But at the same time the Kremlin makes sure to provide more new cars, refrigerators, television sets etc. which are exclusively within the reach of the upper layers of Soviet society.
All this accentuates the contradiction between the rulers and the ruled, heightens social inequalities, and makes the situation more intolerable to the workers. There is a sharpening conflict between the working class growing in numbers and the bureaucratic guardians of privilege.
The economic and cultural backwardness is in the process of being overcome. But to assert that this has already taken place is to falsify the real state of Soviet economy today.
This does not at all mean that the bureaucracy can or will perpetuate itself in power indefinitely. That depends upon further developments of the world revolution which can definitely remove the hostile pressures of world imperialism, and not simply temporarily ease them, and overcome the scarcity of consumers’ goods by placing the industrial resources of more advanced countries at the disposal of Soviet economy. It depends even more upon the development of the deepening conflict between the bureaucracy and the masses. The Soviet people need not wait for the elimination of the economic roots of the totalitarian bureaucracy in order to embark upon a mortal struggle against it. As Trotsky pointed out, the social conflict can explode into political revolution as a result of the intensification of antagonism, to the boiling point. “Economic contradictions produce social antagonisms, which in turn develop their own logic, not awaiting the further growth of the productive forces.” (Revolution Betrayed, p.48.)
Thus a sober analysis of the world situation and its development during the past decade discloses that three major objective factors responsible for the rise of the Soviet bureaucracy have not been changed in a fundamental sense but only to a certain extent. The Kremlin bureaucracy has to operate today under new but not decisively different circumstances. Its further life-span will depend upon the struggle of the living forces in the world arena and in the Soviet Union over the next period in which the ideas and forces of Trotskyism will play their part.
b) The Bureaucracy Today
We now come to the most controversial section of the document. I refer to Section 15. The false, one-sided description of the processes at work inside and outside the USSR is designed to provide a background to this section, which in turn tends to convey the impression that these social forces at work internally and externally are changing the role of the bureaucracy.
“Traditionally”, the section states, “the historically transitional and passing character of the Bonapartist dictatorship in the Soviet Union was analysed correctly in the sense that this dictatorship could lead either to a reinforcement of the restorationist tendencies within the peasantry and the bureaucracy, that, with the aid of imperialism, would restore capitalism in the Soviet Union by means of a civil war; or, thanks to the extension of the world revolution and the aid brought by the world proletariat to the Soviet proletariat and thanks to the “Reiss tendency” of the bureaucracy (a tendency which will rally to the side of the proletariat for the defence of the social bases of the USSR) would lead to the overthrow of the Bonapartist dictatorship and the re-establishment of Soviet democracy. But it is evident that the two variants of this alternative imply a special dynamism of the class struggle on the world scale. The first appears as the result of the retreat of the world revolution, the second as the product of the international victories of the revolution.”
What does this mean? Let the document speak. The restorationist danger “will be nothing more than a by-product of the evolution and not its dominant characteristic”. The dominant feature will be the growth of the “Reiss tendency”. This tendency, which Trotsky mentioned in the Transitional Programme as one which would passively reflect the pressure of the masses, is now given prominence by the authors of the document.
Why? We are left to draw any conclusion we like, and this is in fact what is happening. It is precisely from these vague formulations that Clarke and Pablo extract their “sharing of power by the bureaucracy” theory. This is the vehicle to revisionism.
But let us proceed. The section concludes: “The coming decisive battle within the Soviet Union will not be waged between the restorationist forces aiming to restore private property and the forces defending the conquests of October. It will be, on the contrary, waged between the forces defending the privileges and administration of the bureaucracy and the revolutionary working class forces fighting to restore Soviet democracy upon higher level.”
Good – but one question please? What social forces will the bureaucracy rest upon in this fight with the revolutionary working class? The document relegates the “restorationist” elements to a role of minor importance – but it absolutely refuses to answer this vital question. Why? Because the authors are fiddling around with the idea that under the pressure of this struggle the majority of the bureaucracy can transform into a “Reiss tendency”. The document, which elsewhere claims that the Stalinist parties outside Russia can project a revolutionary orientation under certain conditions, in effect does not exclude this possibility for the CPSU – that is why the authors play down the role of the restorationist elements, and leave unanswered the social implications of the evolution of the bureaucracy in struggle with the working class. The vagueness of this section is not accidental. It is in fact nothing more than a smokescreen for revisionist conclusions.
What will the bureaucracy do in a crisis? Take the present crisis in agriculture. Khrushchev admits that this is affecting certain branches of industry. There is obviously serious discontent with the shortages amongst industrial workers.
And how do the bureaucracy propose to overcome this crisis? In every case by strengthening the restorationist elements amongst the peasantry. In every case it is to make concessions to encourage interest in private plots of land. Not only this, but on the tractor stations they have created a new type of proprietor.
All personnel are to have private plots of ground and state loans of 10,000 roubles. To solve the crisis the bureaucracy leans towards the restorationist tendencies.
What is the most important task before the FI in relation to events now unfolding inside the USSR? We agree that the militancy of the proletariat is on the increase – that the situation is favourable for us.
Our most important task is to re-form the ranks of the Bolshevik Leninists. Trotsky supplied us with the programme. Our task is to supply the perspective, and prepare our Soviet comrades for struggle. How can this be done if we do not prepare them for struggle against the bureaucracy? How can we do this if we place a question mark over the role of the bureaucracy? How can we prepare for struggle against the bureaucracy if we neglect to analyse the social base upon which it will rest in this struggle?
If for example we adopt the “sharing of power” theory what is to be the role of our comrades in the USSR?
It is not possible to build a revolutionary party in the USSR on the basis of Section 15. This can only be done if they are prepared for a fight to a finish with the bureaucracy, for the political revolution, for its overthrow if necessary by civil war.
Nobody excludes the development of the Reiss tendency, but an essential pre-requisite for utilising its possibilities is a powerful Soviet section of the FI.
Many excuses have been brought forward by supporters of the document to explain the reason why the last two sentences are missing from the quotation taken from the Transitional Programme, on our programme for the Bolshevik Leninists in the USSR These are the sentences.
“Only the victorious revolutionary uprising of the oppressed masses can revive the Soviet regime and guarantee its further development toward socialism. There is but one party capable of leading the Soviet masses to insurrection – the part of the Fourth International.”
It has been said that the document states these by implication. The same could be claimed for the Transitional Programme, but it was no accident that Comrade Trotsky included these sentences. For Trotsky a programme for work in the USSR was meaningless unless connected with the perspective of building a party – that is why we have trouble with these sentences today.
The authors of the draft document have excluded these sentences because it falls in line with their revisionist conclusions in Section 15. They are perfectly familiar with the sentences. They utilised the same quotation in the Thesis for the Second Congress and included these sentences. If they were valid in 1948, why are they excluded now?
c) The Kremlin and the Communist Parties
The resolution states that the Kremlin’s rigid grip on the mass Communist parties is weakening. It gives three reasons for this deduction: the growing power of the mass movement exerted on these parties, the loosening of their relations with Moscow, and uncertainty about the Kremlin’s authority and policy in recent months. No specific evidence is cited to substantiate this speculation, although the development cannot be ruled out in advance in specific cases. Such has certainly been the case with the Yugoslav and Chinese CPs. But there are no open signs of a similar occurrence elsewhere yet,
To buttress this point the resolution cites the Kremlin’s inability to re-establish any International since 1943. Actually Moscow finds any International more of a liability than an asset. It wishes to keep the CPs separated and to control them by other means.
This alleged relaxation of Kremlin control is associated with “the penetration of ideas opposed to the interests of the Kremlin bureaucracy within these organisations: and a process of modification in the hierarchical, bureaucratic relations previously established”. That is how the disintegration of Stalinism is beginning. Vague as these observations of tendencies are, they point to the growth of new ideological currents and organisational relations within the shell of the CPs which will apparently continue inside them until the reformed and rebellious parties become strong and independent enough to throw off the Kremlin’s stranglehold. Does this not project the perspective of such reformed Stalinist parties escaping the Kremlin’s clutches and proceeding on the road to revolution?
This conclusion receives reinforcement from the assertion that the mass Communist parties are forced to radicalise their policies more and more. This is the fundamental and inescapable course of their policies.
The resolution grudgingly admits “the possibility of the mass Communist parties to carry through temporary turns to the right within given conditions, so long as the mass pressure has not reached its culminating point”. The direction of Stalinist policy in such parties is thus made to depend in the last analysis on the degree of mass pressure exerted upon them.
Up to now there has been no such direct correlation. The history of the French CP is instructive. From 1929-1933 when the workers were not yet energetic it pursued, an ultra-left line. In 1936 when the mass movement reached its height the CP took a People’s Front line. In 1944-47, at the crest of the revolutionary wave generated by the war, the Stalinist leaders disarmed the workers and helped de Gaulle restore the capitalist regime. In 1952, when the workers had relapsed into passivity, thanks in large measure to the previous gyrations of Stalinist policy, it summoned the Paris workers into the adventure of the anti-Ridgway demonstrations. Finally, in August 1953, during the General Strike, the CP remained passive and maintained its “National Front” mixture of opportunism and sectarianism without radicalising its policy an iota.
This record shows that, far from co-ordinating their line with the rise in mass pressure, this mass CP ran counter to it. The diplomatic needs of the Kremlin got the upper hand over the demands of the masses. This does not mean that the CP can get away with anything at any time. It too must adjust itself, like other mass parties, to the radicalisation of the masses, more in words than in deeds. But in and of itself the pressure of the masses does not suffice to push the CP closer to the revolutionary road.
The conception that a mass CP will take the road to power if only sufficient mass pressure is brought to bear is false. It shifts the responsibility for revolutionary setbacks from the leadership to the masses, according to the following reasoning: if only there had been more pressure, the CP could have been forced to drive for power. The interaction between the insurgent masses and the leadership is thus reduced to the simple equation: maximum mass pressure equals revolutionary performance, however inadequate, from the CP leadership.
Actually, the pressure of the workers in the 19533 French General Strike was formidable enough to start the offensive for power. But it was precisely the momentum of this mass power and its implications that caused the CP leadership to leap away in fright from it and prevent its organisation. In this not unimportant case, instead of radicalising Stalinist policy, the mass pressure had a different effect. Obviously, there is not a direct but a dialectical relationship between the two factors,
Yugoslavia and China show that under certain exceptional conditions the leadership of a Stalinist party, caught between extermination by the counter-revolution and an powerful revolutionary offensive of the masses can push forward to power. This can be repeated elsewhere under comparable conditions, especially in the event of a new world war.
But it would be unwarranted to generalise too broadly and hastily on this point. It should be remembered that while the Yugoslavs marched to power, the CPs in other countries remained subordinate to the Kremlin and facilitated the work of the counter-revolution. Two Communist parties, the Yugoslav and the Chinese, met the test in one way: the others in a directly opposite manner.
The specific conditions which forced the Yugoslav and Chinese CPs onto the revolutionary road analysed and understood. Both parties had been in conflict with the existing regimes and operated illegally for long years. Both fought prolonged civil wars during which the leadership and cadres were selected, tested and hardened and their forces organised. The Chinese CP had armed forces of its own for years before launching the struggle for power. The domestic capitalist regimes were exceptionally weak and imperialism was unable to intervene with any effect.
In any case, as the Manifesto issued by the Third World Congress declared. “The transformation which the Stalinist parties might undergo in the course of the most acute revolutionary crises may oblige the Leninist vanguard to readjust its tactics toward these parties. But this in no way relieves the proletariat from the task of building a new revolutionary leadership. What is on the agenda today is not so much the question of a projection of a struggle for power under exceptional conditions in this or that isolated country, but the overthrow of imperialism in all countries as rapidly as possible. Stalinism remains obstacle number one, within the international labour movement, to the successful conclusion of that task.”
1) No matter what excuses the supporters of the document make for the revisionist formulations, there is no getting away from the conclusions which people are beginning to draw.
In Seattle four members of the Clarke-Cochrane faction deserted for Stalinism. The answer of our opponents to this one is that Cannon drove them there, and after all was there not the case of Grace Carlson!
It won’t work. Nobody ever left this movement for Stalinism because people drove them there. They left for political reasons and nothing else. The desertions in Seattle are the logical outcome of the Clarke, Cochrane, Pablo line.
The case of Grace Carlson was one of those unpredictable things that happen from time to time in our movement, under the best possible conditions. Her desertion to the RC church was not followed either in America or anywhere else with a general walk-out to join “the faithful”. Nobody in the IS majority adopts the method of Clarke to explain why she left. If someone were, for example, to blame Cochrane, it would be really absurd, just as it is absurd to blame Cannon for Seattle.
2) Seattle paved the way for Ceylon. Mouthing quotations from Pablo, a minority a few days ago deserted from our section to the Stalinists. Now who is to blame for this? Cannon again? Or our Ceylon people? It is obvious that there is an important connection between Ceylon and Seattle. The same false international line lies very much at the roots of both.
You would think that these are events to sound the alarm about in the International, if our IS took its responsibilities seriously. But no. We don’t hear even a word of information from Paris on any of these real desertions, these real dangers to our movement of capitulation to Stalinism.
Instead, the shabbiest intrigues, gossip and puerile cominternist organisational measures are undertaken against the loyal Trotskyist cadres upon whom the movement has rested for decades and who admittedly served as the basis of authority for the IS up to the Third Congress.
We have had a visiting “fireman” here to put out the revolt against the revisionism of the Pablo-Clarke IS and its documents. We understand that to some comrades the visitor offered, in the name of his faction, to make all kinds of amends and amendments. It is said he is ready to restore the shamefully dropped sections from the quotation from the Transitional Programme; that he is willing to repudiate or withdraw his own trial balloon formula about the Stalinist bureaucracy sharing power with the masses. If this is seriously meant, and not sheer deception, it can be proved.
Let me conclude, therefore, by asking a few questions of Comrade Collins, and through him, of Pablo and Clarke. 1) Are you prepared here and in the IS to issue a written statement dissociating your group from the alarming statements by Clarke and Pablo in the FI on the possibility of self-reform of the bureaucracy, its sharing of power with the masses – and to reaffirm our traditional Trotskyist position on the need for a political revolution against the bureaucracy? 2) Will you condemn the capitulators to Stalinism in Seattle, in France, in Ceylon unequivocally and join in a struggle against conciliation to Stalinism, as we are unreservedly prepared to join with you in condemning any manifestation of yielding to the pressure of imperialism or reformism?
On your replies to these questions the movement here will be able to judge you and the road you intend to take. Whether, no matter how extreme your position, you are prepared to discuss within the framework of the ideas of Trotskyism. Whether, no matter how serious your struggle, you intend to carry it on within the framework of a united Trotskyist movement.
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