Written: 1991 / 93.
First Published: 1991 / 93.
Source: Qina Msebenzi, Number 7, May-June 1993.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Sean Robertson for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
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After more than a year of discussion, collaboration and common political work, the Comrades for a Workers’ Government (CWG, South Africa), the Leninist-Trotskyist Tendency (LTT, Britain, Belgium and Germany) and a South African group based in Britain announce their decision to fuse and, from now on, to act as a single international tendency organised on democratic centralist lines.
The political basis of this fusion is constituted by the central documents produced by the CWG and the LTT, including the LTT fusion document, documents on Stalinism, the Fourth International, the tasks of international Trotskyist regroupment and the perspectives and programme of the South African revolution. In addition, extensive agreement has been reached on tactics towards social democracy and bourgeois and petty bourgeois nationalism.
In its essentials, the LTT / WIL fusion document, conceived as a summary of basic positions rather than an extensive programmatic or perspectives document, remains valid. A number of its projections have been borne out by subsequent events – the absence of any stable ‘new world order’ after the collapse of eastern Europe and the Gulf war; the impending collapse of and the possibility of a military coup in the Soviet Union; the resulting pressure on petty bourgeois and bourgeois nationalist movements in Africa and elsewhere to move further to the right and to deepen their accommodation to imperialism. Although the main lines of development were correctly anticipated, important developments since March 1991 require further elaboration.
The LTT / WIL Fusion Document is reproduced below, followed by an elaboration of the original document.
With the imperialist epoch, capitalism exhausted its progressive potential. Since 1914, capitalism has, again and again, demonstrated that it can assure its survival as a system only through misery for the great majority of the world’s population, through the destruction of countless numbers of workers and poor peasants (by war, famine, disease etc), and through the destruction of nature. But, with its creation of a world market, capitalism also brought into being a worldwide class of workers whose objective interests remain to overthrow capitalism internationally, as the first step towards the building of a world socialist federation.
The imperialist epoch remains ‘the epoch of wars and revolutions’ (Lenin), in which the objective conditions for world socialist revolution have matured. But capitalism will not collapse automatically or be overthrown spontaneously. Socialism can only be the result of conscious revolutionary leadership of the international class struggle. Socialism is both possible and necessary but it is not inevitable. Setbacks and defeats, some of historic significance, have also occurred. The development of society does not proceed in a straight line, and its outcome is not pre-determined.
The death agony of capitalism has been far more protracted than Trotsky envisaged in 1938. In the decades since the Second World War, the growth on the productive forces has been accompanied by a higher degree of the socialisation of production and massive new proletarianisation has taken place worldwide.
The opposite side of this combined development has been the exacerbation of the unevenness of world economy. The spectacular rise of Japan has been mirrored by the devastation of large parts of Africa and Asia. On the plane of history, the alternatives are still those posed by Marx: Socialism or Barbarism!2. The necessity of revolutionary leadership
The parties of the Second International, with few exceptions, increasingly accommodated themselves to their ‘own’ ruling classes, through the medium of bourgeois parliamentary democracy. The catastrophe of the First World War revealed openly that the social democratic parties had capitulated to the capitalist system. From parties of the proletariat, they had become transformed into political agencies of the bourgeoisie in the workers’ movement. Only in Russia was the working class, led by the Bolsheviks, able to overthrow capitalism and install its own dictatorship. The October Revolution confirmed the correctness of Lenin’s conception of the party as a combat organisation – democratic in discussion, disciplined in action. It also confirmed that the downfall of capitalism must be a conscious act of the proletariat. The Communist International, founded in 1919, fought to solve the crisis of proletarian leadership, but its young and inexperienced sections were unable to take advantage of the revolutionary wave which followed the war.
The isolation of backward Russia was reinforced by the resulting defeats. The exhaustion of the Soviet working class, its decimation in the civil war, and the destruction of large parts of the means of production, created fertile conditions for the growth of bureaucracy both within the party and the state apparatus and, ultimately, Stalinism.
The victorious bureaucracy under Stalin increasingly used its domination of the Comintern to defend its own particular national interests, finally destroying it as an instrument of world revolution.
The international proletariat paid for the crisis of leadership with terrible defeats in the class struggle, (Italy, Bulgaria, Estonia, Britain, China, Germany), leading to a chain of fascist victories and finally the inferno of the Second World War.3. The degeneration of the Fourth International
Stalinism triumphed over the Left Opposition both in the Soviet Union and in the Comintern. The demoralising effect of defeat upon the international working class, and the consequent revival of social democratic fortunes, created extremely unfavourable conditions for the struggle of the Trotskyists. Nevertheless, the Left Opposition represented the continuity of genuine Bolshevism and trained the cadres with which a new Fourth International would be built. The great achievement of the founding congress of the Fourth International, despite the numerical weakness of the forces it represented, was to systematize a programme of transitional demands – fulfilling the task set by the third and fourth congresses of the Comintern.
With the outbreak of the Second World War, the sections of the Fourth International became the target of all governing powers. No organised tendency in the world workers’ movement except the adherents of the Fourth International can lay claim to defending revolutionary Marxism during the imperialist war. The heroism of the Trotskyists, hundreds of whom were murdered by the fascists and the Stalinists, does not however blind us to the political weaknesses which the war revealed. The objective difficulties created by the war and the absence of a functioning international leadership for four years favoured the development of both opportunist deviations and sectarian abstentionism among the sections of the Fourth International. But, in 1944, the International did show a capacity to criticise and correct many of these errors.
The closing stages of the Second World War saw a deep radicalisation of the masses – in France, Italy, Britain, Belgium, Greece, the United States, in Eastern Europe and in other countries – leading to pre-revolutionary and revolutionary situations in some instances. The colonial masses in Indo-China, India, Ceylon and Algeria surged forward. But the European revolution was strangled by Stalinism in alliance with social democracy. Despite its leading role in this political defeat of the European working class, Stalinism’s prestige and strength were greatly enhanced by the defeat of Nazi Germany and by the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe. The revolutionary movement of the masses in the colonial countries was contained and betrayed by bourgeois nationalism, supported by Stalinism.
The genuine enthusiasm with which Trotskyists applied themselves to re-establishing the Fourth International at the end of the war was undermined by the increasingly false perspective developed in relation to the post-war world. In place of a sober analysis of the emerging boom and the expansion of Stalinism, the leaders of the Fourth International sought to make reality conform to Trotsky’s pre-war prognoses. Together with the questionable methods with which the FI was rebuilt after the war, this disorientation marks the beginning of a rapid process of degeneration.
From denying the possibility of Stalinism overturning capitalist property relations, the great majority of the FI’s leading cadre moved over to an accommodation and finally a capitulation to Stalinism, from the adulation of Tito in 1948 to the Third World Congress in 1951. The Trotskyist movements in Vietnam and China were betrayed by the international leadership and those in Ceylon and Bolivia misled, with the result that revolutionary opportunities were missed. In countries such as Britain which lacked a large Stalinist movement, a parallel liquidation into social democracy took place. Well before the split of 1953, the FI had ceased to be a consistent revolutionary movement. The outcome of the 1953 split between the IS of Pablo and Mandel and the IC of Cannon, Healy and Lambert was two centrist currents, neither of which was capable of honestly assessing – still less correcting – the post-war crisis of the FI, the abandonment of Trotsky’s programme and the failure to meet the political challenge of the world after 1945. These two centrists currents were dominated by a European or North American leadership which consistently demonstrated their political bankruptcy by failing to provide revolutionary internationalist leadership, not least in the cases of the revolutionary crisis on Latin America, Asia and Africa (eg Bolivia in 1952, Ceylon in 1953, Vietnam in the 1970s and South Africa in 1976).4. The causes of the post-war imperialist boom
Capitalism owed its survival after the Second World War to the active help and support of social democracy and Stalinism. Faced with war-shattered economies and the extreme weaknesses of the bourgeoisie, they applied themselves to rebuilding the capitalist order. The weakness of revolutionary leadership and the legacy of the political atomisation of the working class under fascism greatly assisted this task. The onset of the Cold War in 1947 split the workers’ movement throughout much of Western Europe, enabling the bourgeoisie to use social democracy and Stalinism to divide and rule.
The hegemony of US imperialism at the end of the war as the world’s banker and creditor and its ability to finance reconstruction through the Marshall Plan, the international Monetary Fund and the World Bank was the prime factor in the stabilisation of the metropolitan countries. To a far greater extent than either the First World War of the world crisis of 1929-33, the Second World War had caused an enormous international destruction of productive forces. In the absence of significant revolutionary opposition, conditions were created for a new period of growth on a higher scale. The rapid expansion of armaments expenditure, the creation of welfare state reforms and large service sectors, the opening up of colonial and former colonial markets to international competition and the founding of the Common Market (EEC) all served to prolong the boom.5. Stalinism and Cold War
With the retreat of revolutionary prospects in Western Europe and the exhaustion of the working class an extremely unfavourable balance of forces for revolutionaries existed in the workers’ movement. The Stalinist bureaucracy, anxious to shore up the Soviet economy in order to defend its own privileges and ward off the spectre of political revolution, plundered the countries occupied by the Red Army. This policy however, had the effect of undermining the rebuilding of capitalism in Europe. At the same time Stalin brutally repressed every manifestation of independent workers’ action, protecting the remnants of the bourgeoisie, preventing factory and land seizures, stamping out revolutionary opposition and establishing ‘People’s Fronts’ governments. The historic ‘alliance’ between the wartime allies broke down in 1947. Having already begun to recover, the imperialists could scarcely regard the East European coalition governments, tolerated by occupying Soviet forces, as reliable guardians of capitalist property relations.
With the launching of the Cold War and Marshall Aid, Stalin was forced to consolidate the ‘buffer zone’. The bourgeoisie and its political parties were suppressed by bureaucratic methods backed, in some cases, by a limited mobilisation of the workers. Deformed workers’ states came into being. Stalinist repression in every sphere of life, and in particular the crushing of independent workers’ activity, fuelled from the outset anti-communist moods among large sections of the population, including workers, both east and west.6. Revolution and negotiation in the colonies and semi-colonies
The Second World War – an inter-imperialist war – had weakened the imperialist world system, especially in the colonies and semi-colonial countries. The relations between the great powers and their colonial possessions were shaken to their foundations. The weakness of the old colonial empires was compounded by the destruction caused by the war (China, Indo-China and in many countries of the Pacific) and by the ‘open door’ to the colonial market demanded by US imperialism in return for bailing out Western Europe. Stalinism reacted as it had done in Europe – it fought alongside the national bourgeoisie to stabilise social relations. (Social democracy, an openly imperialist force, played little or no role in these countries). In many cases Britain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands were compelled to retreat and hand over power to the embryonic local bourgeoisie as the guarantor of future interest, after military struggle had proved impossible. In the other cases, where the imperialist boom lessened the political risks, the colonial powers opted for ‘peaceful’ negotiated settlements within the framework of continued economic dominance.
In China and Vietnam, Stalinist parties were compelled, by the imperialist offensive in 1946-47 to take up armed struggle, based largely on the peasantry, in order to preserve themselves. Far from breaking with Stalinism these parties imposed their own schema of ‘stages’ upon the struggle, remained tied to the theory of socialism in one country and did everything possible to prevent the working class fighting for its own independent class interests. The creation of deformed workers’ states not qualitatively different to other Stalinist regimes, gave the lie to Mao and Ho Chi Minh’s alleged ‘break with Stalinism’.
The unique nature of the ‘Cuban road’ in fact lay only in the non-Stalinist political origins of the forces which led the Cuban revolution. In its reliance on guerrilla warfare based on the peasantry and the intelligentsia, Castro’s July 26 Movement closely paralleled the Chinese and Vietnamese experiences. The extreme weakness and corruption of the Cuban bourgeoisie made it unable to reach a compromise with this ostensibly petty bourgeois democratic movement.
On the other hand, under the pressures of the international situation and the threat of American intervention, Castro was compelled to break with and expropriate the bourgeoisie, implement a planned economy and create a deformed workers’ state. With the merger of the July 26 Movement and the Cuban Stalinists, the new Cuban Communist Party was proclaimed in 1965, bringing Cuba into conformity with other Stalinist regimes.
The subsequent evolution of the Castroite movement far from proving the unconscious triumph of permanent revolution, demonstrated the necessity of political revolution in Cuba and of an internationalist Bolshevik-type party.
The open rifts which developed between the different communist parties, culminating in the Sino-Soviet split, signified the fracturing of Stalinism into different ‘national’ Stalinist bureaucracies, all pursuing their own and frequently opposed interests. This in turn registered a new stage of crisis for Stalinism, brought to a head by economic crisis.
The semi-colonies and ex-colonies, while frequently relying on the rhetoric of Stalinism, ‘non-alignment’, ‘African socialism’, ‘the non-capitalist path of development’ etc) remained completely dominated by imperialism. Over the last decade, under the economic and military ravages of imperialism (collapsing and debt-stricken economies; the imperialist-sponsored terrorist armies of the Contras, UNITA and RENAMO), previously ‘non-aligned’ countries have been forced to drop their pretence of being anti-imperialist or pro-socialist.
Now with the disappearance of the Soviet Union as a world rival to imperialist America, the pressures of the variety of radical non-aligned bourgeois nationalist regimes have increased enormously. They can no longer rely on the radical sounding language of Stalinism, material aid has disappeared and the prospect of military aid is non-existent. The rhetoric of ‘a transition to socialism’ or ‘Marxism-Leninism’ which these regimes used to raise their credibility in the eyes of the masses, has been abandoned. Instead these regimes have been driven to embrace openly the virtues of the ‘market economy’, imperialist investment and the policies of the World Bank and the IMF.7. Break-up of the boom and the combined crises of imperialism and Stalinism
By the mid-sixties, the driving forces of the boom in the US and Western Europe were weakened, rates of growth sank and the rate of profit declined. Sharpened competition forced international finance capital to abandon its policy of class peace (‘full’ employment, steady growth of the standard of living) and to go on the offensive against key sections of the workers, one by one. The post-war rise of Japanese imperialism was accompanied by a revised international division of labour, with the growth of such manufacturing centres as South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. The two decades after the Second World War saw the emergence of South Africa as a minor imperialist power.
At the same time, imperialism sought to renew its counter-revolutionary alliance with Stalinism (outlined in the Harmel Report of NATO in 1967), aiming not at any lasting coexistence with ‘socialism’ but rather at capitalist restoration. It obtained the neutrality of the Soviet bureaucracy during the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973, and its backing for the Balkanisation of Lebanon. Whilst strongly pursuing a policy of capitalist penetration of Eastern Europe, imperialism continued to escalate the arms race.
The bureaucracy’s room for manoeuvre was increasingly restricted, faced with the masses’ insistence on an improvement in their living standards on the one hand, and the military-economic pressure on the other. The Soviet bureaucracy became more and more an absolute brake upon the development of the planned economy and, by excluding the democratic initiative of the working class, it guaranteed that the gathering crisis would explode. The chain of workers’ and students’ revolts in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia clearly showed the writing on the wall for the bureaucracies if they did not find a new modus vivendi with imperialism.
The combined crises of Stalinism and imperialism were far from under control by the rulers of the East and the West. In Vietnam, in February 1968, the Tet Offensive brought US imperialism to the brink of defeat. In Czechoslovakia, the Stalinist party fell apart after the Prague Spring and the workers attempted to build a new anti-Stalinist socialism.
In May 1968 in France, the general strike gave the lie to then fashionable theories of the New Left that the working class has become ‘incorporated’ into the capitalist order. The Cultural Revolution (which many Western radicals misinterpreted as an anti-bureaucratic struggle) showed the instability of the Chinese bureaucracy.8. The continuing crisis of revolutionary leadership
The long boom of the post-war capitalism held back revolutionary developments in the imperialist countries. Unable or unwilling to theoretically rearm themselves, the organisations descended from the Trotskyist tradition entered a deep political crisis. Many of those forces which had expected an ‘automatic’ collapse of capitalism rapidly became demoralised. Others became sects, ignoring reality and preaching – for decades – the imminence of revolution (SLL / WRP and the OCI / PCI). Still others developed theories rationalising the boom and believing that capitalism had overcome its contradictions – the theories of state monopoly capitalism (Stalinism), neo-capitalism (the United Secretariat) and the permanent arms economy (the British IS / SWP).
The revolutionary character of the imperialist epoch does not consist in the possibility of social revolution at any and every moment; rather it is contained in the growth of the inherent contradictions and anarchy of the capitalist mode of production on the international arena. The development of the revolutionary cadres cannot however be accomplished merely on the basis of subjective revolutionary intentions and an acknowledgement of the nature of the imperialist epoch. Only those who link their day-to-day activity with the ultimate socialist goal through a system of transitional demands will be able to mobilise and politically prepare the working class to act as the conscious agent of socialist revolution. To reject such a method inevitably means a relapse into the old social democratic division between minimum and maximum programme and retreat into opportunism and or sectarian propagandism – or both.
The objective development of the social revolution continues even during periods of relative social peace. The exploitation of the working class, the existence of unemployment and hunger on a massive scale, the oppression of women, of racial, national and other minorities, the threat of war and the destruction of the environment are fundamental to capitalism, even during periods of boom. Even in the advanced capitalist countries, every apparent social advance is paid for in suffering and misery. The development of capitalism forces it to attack even the limited gains workers have made. In the world system of capitalism, development of particular countries has only been possible through the maintenance of backwardness in the continents of Latin America, Asia and Africa. This has created an unevenness within the world proletariat, which can only be overcome – in both political and economic terms – by revolutionary internationalism.
Socialism remains the only solution for the international working class and oppressed of the planet. The attempt by the bureaucracies in the workers’ movement in the capitalist countries to limit all struggles to reforms leads not to a generalised steady advance; on the contrary, it leads to an assault on the reforms and rights workers have won in the past. This is the common experience of workers in the imperialist, semi-colonial and colonial countries. In many semi-colonial countries and in the workers’ states the prospect of improved living standards on the part of the masses has all but disappeared. The unleashing of the ‘free market’ upon Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union underlines the urgency with which the first steps toward resolving the international crisis of working class leadership must be taken.9. The collapse of Stalinism
The degeneration of the first workers’ state was an expression of its isolation and backwardness in the face of international defeats of the working class. The triumph of the bureaucracy was accompanied by the systematic destruction of the vanguard of the working class through state terror and purges. By thus eliminating its opponents, the bureaucracy was able to assert its relative independence and initiate primitive socialist accumulation through the five-year plans. But the bureaucratically dominated industrialisation programme had tremendous social costs. Bureaucratic planning placed new burdens on the Soviet Union, creating political tensions which were held in check only by police methods and, in spite of the rapid growth of the 1930s, ultimately prepared the ground for capitalist restoration.
Even with the expansion of Stalinism into Eastern Europe after the Second World War, political and economic nationalism remained dominant. Comecon was merely a federation of national bureaucracies, each pursuing separate national roads to socialism. These ‘command economies’ stifled the creativity of the working class. The conscious initiative of the workers was replaced by generalised de-motivation. Bureaucratic planning ignored the needs of the masses, and thus thoroughly alienated them. The planned economies, basing themselves on the Stalinist theory of ‘socialism in one country’, were unable to surpass capitalism in developing the productive forces and technology, and moreover created terrible environmental disasters. The more the Stalinists became empirically aware of the limitations of their own planning methods, the more they turned to market experiments which, in turn, further undermined the planned economies.
These inherent contradictions and blocking of a qualitatively higher development of productive forces were veiled by the fact that post war reconstruction in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe started at a very low level. Subsequently, the Soviet economy gained some benefits from the capitalist post war boom. Higher oil prices made some concessions to the working class possible, in spite of the deep-going stagnation of the economy. But by the end of the boom, Stalinism stood at the edge of an abyss. It could only escape political revolution with the aid of imperialism.
The break-up of the post-war boom signalled by the dollar crisis in 1971, led to a chain of instability and revolutionary upheavals. The quadrupling of oil prices as a result of the Middle East war in 1973, the Watergate crisis (1973-4), the fall of the Heath government in Britain (1974), the collapse of the colonels’ regime in Greece (1974) and of the Franco regime in Spain (1975), the Portuguese revolution and the overthrow of colonialism in Angola and Mozambique (1974-5), the Soweto uprising in South Africa (1976) and the Lebanese civil war signalled a period of acute economic and political crisis.
Stalinism and social democracy rallied to the defence of the bourgeois states in Europe. During that period the Stalinists in the USSR and Eastern Europe still clung to the illusion that they could collaborate with and obtain aid from the imperialists, whilst maintaining the foundations of the workers’ states. The metropolitan capitalist countries weathered the storm and recovered economically, resuming the offensive against the worker’s states and the worker’s movement in the West. With the direct collaboration of the Chinese bureaucracy, imperialism managed to block further revolutionary developments in South-East Asia and extended its military-strategic pressure upon the USSR.
The victory of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas in 1979 threatened US hegemony over Central America, despite the limited assistance given by the deformed workers’ states, including Cuba. Although the Sandinistas armed the people and nationalised important sectors of the economy, their government remained at all times a bourgeois government. Large sections of the Nicaraguan bourgeoisie broke with them, but the Sandinistas never broke with the bourgeoisie. There was no repeat of the ‘Cuban road’, with the ultimate result of a bloodless election victory of Chamorro in 1990.
Faced with continual instability of the Middle East, and particularly with the Iranian revolution, the Soviet bureaucracy moved to secure its sphere of influence by the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The response of the US imperialism was to go onto the offensive in a determined drive to overcome the trauma of Vietnam. Stalinism was to be forced economically to its knees by a combination of escalating the ‘arms race’ and ‘regional confrontation’ (Angola, Nicaragua, Afghanistan). Favourable conditions for the imperialist were created as the bureaucratic worker’s states like many semi-colonial countries fell deeper into the debt trap.
At the same time, Stalinism was confronted at home by the growth of workers’ resistance. The unprecedented scale of the struggle of the Polish working class showed the writing on the wall for international Stalinism. Despite the assistance of social democratic and reactionary clerical forces, it was impossible to control the Polish workers without a military crackdown. This was covertly supported by international finance capital in a ‘historic compromise’, whose ultimate function was to create conditions for capitalist restoration.
After the senile interregnum of the last years of Brezhnev and the brief episodes of Chernenko and Andropov, Gorbachev emerged as the new face of the bureaucracy. Perestroika (restructuring) aimed initially at a cautious market-oriented reform intended to relieve the chronic crisis of Soviet economy. Glasnost (openness) was meant to create a political constituency of support among the expanded intelligentsia for the reform programme. At first, the Gorbachev leadership was able to keep the centrifugal forces which had been unleashed under control because of its monopoly of political power. But, as the economy continued to deteriorate, and with the lessons of Poland in 1980-81 in mind, Gorbachev escalated the turn to the market, to the point where large sections of the bureaucracy openly embraced capitalist restoration. With the command economy tottering, but without a viable capitalism to replace it, the Gorbachev leadership increasingly took on the appearance of someone in the driving seat of a runaway train.
Because of the virtually insoluble problem of creating a national bourgeoisie, and because of the sporadic resistance of workers, the bureaucracy was only able to introduce inconsistent half-measures. Far from reversing ‘the Brezhnev era of stagnation’, perestroika has led to ever greater social and economic chaos. The bureaucracy has thus further discredited socialism, and its actions have fostered the growth of nationalism as well as fascist movements and the Orthodox and Muslim religions.
The latest stage of Stalinist decadence, in which the destruction of the planned economy results in the devastation of the (still very modest) conquests of the working class through unemployment and a general decline in living standards, is paradoxically nourishing illusions in capitalism.
Of the Eastern European countries, Poland became the model for the first stage of capitalist restoration. When, in 1988, the Walesa leadership was able to contain and stop the spontaneous strike wave, and when Jaruzelski failed to get a popular mandate through a referendum to restore capitalism, the old project of a national alliance based on the Walesa leadership, the Catholic Church and the bureaucracy was revived. A coalition of all restorationist forces was formed. Poland set the pattern, which was followed with certain variations by Hungary, the GDR (the ‘Round Table’ government led by Modrow), Czechoslovakia, Romania (after the fall of Ceausescu), Bulgaria and even Albania.
The second and more advanced stage of capitalist restoration, completed in the GDR and under way in the rest of Eastern Europe, is the period of the total destruction of planned economy, widespread privatisation of nationalised property, and the transformation, or rather the destruction, of the state apparatus. This is accompanied by the demolition of the Stalinist parties, which were the expression of the old apparatus, and/or their transformation into open defenders of capitalism. The latter process has been seen most graphically in the GDR, but is also apparent in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland.
It would be an error to expect this pattern of development necessarily to be a universal one. In China, the Bonapartist bureaucracy, basing itself on the control of the army, opted for a military solution in Tiananmen Square to safeguard its power and prevent the political explosion destroying its rule. Yugoslavia, and indeed the Soviet Union, can potentially follow a similar road. It would be an even greater political error to confuse the defence of the foundations of the workers’ state with political support for nationalist and chauvinist bureaucrats, who direct their fire against the working class and oppressed nationalities. The Polish, Chinese, Romanian and indeed the Soviet examples show that even where the bureaucracies claim to be defending the workers’ states they do not give up their conscious pro-capitalist orientation. So long as they hold power, the Stalinists remain the main enemy of the political revolution within the degenerated and deformed workers’ states, and the main danger to the remaining conquests of the working class.
With the ongoing implosion of Stalinism, the Communist Parties have dropped their ‘Communist’ and ‘Marxist-Leninist’ pretensions, thereby fully exposing their Menshevik, ie social democratic, politics. This will only deepen their crisis, in both the imperialist and the semi-colonial countries.
Gorbachev’s ‘new thinking’, a direct product of the Soviet Union’s mortal domestic crisis, is only a new brand of peaceful coexistence, but on terms completely dictated by imperialism. Even more now, with the collapse of Stalinism in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union has been reduced to the role of junior partner in a counter-revolutionary alliance with imperialism. In Central America, Southern Africa, South-East Asia and now most graphically in the case of the Middle East and the Gulf War, Stalinism in its death agony proves itself to be capable of nothing but the most criminal betrayal of the masses.10. No lasting consolidation of imperialism
The process of capitalist restoration in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union threatens a major defeat for the international working class. Trotskyists take no comfort in the defeat of Stalinism at the hands of pro-capitalist forces. ‘Anti-Stalinism’ which cannot distinguish between blows from the right and blows from the left will end up as anti-communism.
Nevertheless, capitalism has neither solved its problems nor overcome its contradictions. The most glaring evidence of the imbalance within world economy remains the debt crisis, which brings with it a dramatic escalation of the class struggle in many deeply indebted countries. The integration of the countries of Eastern Europe into the world market will lead to similar developments – mass unemployment, lower purchasing power, poor investment and inflation. With the United States unable to mount a second edition of the Marshall Plan, the positive effects for the metropolitan countries in the short term can only be very limited. The lack of enthusiasm on the part of the imperialists for bailing out the bankrupt economies of the east will accelerate the disillusionment of the masses. Without a revolutionary leadership, the working class has not been able to take advantage of the collapse of Stalinism. However, the logic of restoration will force it to defend its most basic class interests. In the medium term, a revival of the class struggle under the whip of the capitalist offensive is inevitable.
Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 came at a critical conjuncture. With the growing world recession and the disintegration of Stalinism, Iraq’s attempt to assert its ‘independent’ political and military domination of the Gulf and the immense economic and strategic importance of Kuwait prompted an unprecedented response. The crisis in the Gulf and the subsequent Imperialist war against Iraq have dramatically underlined the fragility of the ‘new world order’ sought by US imperialism. The reactionary nature of the Ba’athist regime made it unwilling and unable to rally the Arab masses in a real anti-imperialist struggle. Together with the green light given to the imperialists by the Soviet bureaucracy, a crushing defeat for Iraq was ensured. The immense bombardment of Iraq’s cities and the smashing of its military machine is intended as a brutal lesson to intimidate all national struggles of the peoples of the Middle East.
However, the continuing instability of the entire region – particularly the Maghreb countries, the unresolved Kurdish and Palestinian struggles and the fate of the Ba’athist regimes in Iraq and Syria – demonstrates that the situation has not been decisively resolved in favour of the imperialists.11. For the rebuilding of the Fourth International
Today a revolutionary perspective can only be developed if it is based upon the founding principles of the Fourth International. The failure of the Fourth International in the face of the problems of post-war development in no way invalidates this; rather, it demands the rebuilding of the Fourth International, with sections of every country.
With this strategic aim, we unite our small forces in a single democratic-centralist international tendency, as an initial step. On an international level and in our respective countries we fight to regroup genuine Trotskyist forces.
In addition to our existing areas of agreement, we base ourselves on the revolutionary traditions of the international workers’ movement. We defend and fight to develop its programmatic heritage – especially every positive aspect of the first four congresses of the Communist International, the fight of the International Left Opposition, the Movement for the Fourth International and the founding congress of the Fourth International, including the Transitional Programme.We consider the following positions to be of primary importance:
* The imperialist epoch as one of capitalist decline, opening up the possibility and necessity of world socialist revolution; an epoch characterised by abrupt shifts and sudden turns in international and national politics.
* The recognition of the international character of the socialist revolution and, as a result, the fight for the programme of permanent revolution as a combined process of social, political and anti-imperialist revolution.
* The defence of the heritage of Bolshevism concerning the bourgeois state, parliamentarianism, the role of soviets, of the revolutionary combat party, united front policy, the national question and the necessity of systematic work in all proletarian mass organisations.
* Defence of the Trotskyist analysis of Stalinism as a counter-revolutionary force within the degenerated / deformed workers’ states and the world workers’ movement; defence of the workers’ states against imperialism, Stalinism and other counter-revolutionary forces.
* Defence of the Trotskyist analysis of fascism; rejection of all varieties of the theory of ‘social fascism’ as well as anti-fascist policies which counterpose the struggle against capitalism to the struggle against fascism.
* Defence of the basic anti-militarist positions of Marxism as codified in the theses on ‘War and the Fourth International’ (1934).
* The necessity of mobilising the masses behind transitional demands. Opposition to the oppression of women and all national, racial, and sexual minorities.
* Defence of inner-party democracy, including the right to organise to fight for alternative political positions, whilst upholding discipline in action.
* Rebuilding the Fourth International. As a preliminary step, building an international centre and acting as an international fighting propaganda tendency, without balking at fighting for practical leadership of the struggle under conditions of revolutionary upheaval.
* Demarcation from the major self-proclaimed ‘Trotskyist’ currents – United Secretariat of the Fourth International, International Workers League – Fourth International, Fourth International (International Centre of Reconstruction), International Communist Union, etc – which are centrist organisations, not representing the continuity of Trotskyism.
* Rejection of the concept of a world ‘Trotskyist family’, whilst remaining open to frank, honest discussions and joint action both with forces from the Trotskyist tradition and with revolutionary-minded forces outside it. The importance of a balance sheet of the historical experiences, both positive and negative, of Trotskyists since the war.
* Recognition that an international leadership of the working class will only be rebuilt by systematic intervention in the class struggle.
In addition to the above principles we commit ourselves to develop and extend our programmatic positions upon all vital questions facing the working class today, including international political perspectives, problems of world economy, including the development of the productive forces, revolution in the colonial and semi-colonial countries and women’s oppression.
The states of Eastern Europe and the ex-Soviet union can no longer be categorised as deformed or degenerated workers states. At root, a workers’ state is one in which the bourgeoisie is politically suppressed, leading to its economic expropriation as a class. This is what such apparently disparate events as the October revolution of 1917 and the bureaucratic overturns in Eastern Europe, Asia and Cuba after 1945 have in common. The class nature of a given state is determined by the property relations it defends and / or strives to develop. We reject both purely ‘economic’ and purely ‘political’ definitions of a workers’ state. The former stresses the continued existence of nationalised property and the continued suppression of the law of value, irrespective of the political regime, while the latter equates Stalinist bureaucracy with the workers’ state. Precisely the weakness of capitalist development in the former workers’ states makes a normative restoration of the law of value unlikely in the short to medium term. As Trotsky anticipated, the restorationists will be obliged to retain a significant sector of nationalised property. This inheritance from the past will continue to distort the ‘normal’ operation of the law of value.
A connected argument for the continued existence of the workers’ states bases itself on the fact that since the bourgeois restorationist governments have been unable to create a thriving capitalism this demonstrates that the working class has not yet suffered important defeats. This optimistic scenario underestimates the significance of the destruction of the planned economy and the monopoly of foreign trade, the elimination or drastic reduction of subsidies, hyper-inflation, the growth of unemployment etc.
The apparently opposite argument that Stalinism in government or at least in control of the repressive apparatus, equals a workers’ state leads to similarly erroneous conclusions. It confuses governmental personnel with the function of the state apparatus. The continued existence of large state bureaucracies staffed for the most part by Stalinists and ex-Stalinists in itself demonstrates nothing. If a partial analogy with a previous situation can be drawn, it is with the period 1944-48 when Stalinism used its power to defend a weak bourgeoisie.
The existence throughout Eastern Europe and the ex-Soviet Union of restorationist regimes which are committed to developing capitalism (no matter what the difficulties); which have dismantled the planned economy; which openly promote capitalist elements in society; which tolerate or even defend fascist, chauvinist and racist movements; which conclude strategic alliances with imperialism, leads unavoidably to the conclusion that these are no longer workers’ states and the reference in the Transitional Programme to unconditional defence of the workers’ states is no longer applicable to those states. We regard the states which have emerged from the ex-USSR and Eastern Europe as bourgeois.
We reject therefore the notion put forward by many brands of centrist ‘Trotskyism’ [some sections of the United Secretariat (USec), Lambert, Socialist Workers Party (Britain), etc.] that the collapse of Stalinism has been an unconditional gain for the working class. Although the possibilities for Trotskyists to intervene openly are greater now than in previous periods, it is in a situation in which workers have already suffered serious defeats. We do not characterise (as do Stalinophiles) these defeats as either catastrophe or irreversible and continued instability and fluidity of the situation will constantly create new opportunities for intervention as well as the possibility of further reverses, military coups, Bonapartist regimes.
In the coming period the axis of the construction of Trotskyist parties must be the defence of nationalised property and all the remaining gains of the working class in the struggle against all forces of reaction and restoration. In so far as the revolution will now be faced with overthrowing bourgeois states, it will be a social revolution, even if for some time to come it will continue to have many features of political revolution. To a large extent, Trotskyist parties in Eastern Europe and the ex-Soviet Union will be tested by their attitude to the national question. We reaffirm the Leninist-Trotskyist attitude to the national self-determination as expressed in our articles and documents.2. Revolutionary regroupment
The LTT and CWG reaffirm their commitment to the struggle to rebuild the Fourth International as a genuinely revolutionary Trotskyist international. This process must of necessity pass through a number of stages of regroupment. At each point the task must not be a mere repetition of ‘orthodoxy’ inherited from the past, but to develop and deepen our programme and perspectives, strategy and tactics, in relation to the international class struggle.
Our prognosis that the combination of the collapse of Stalinism and the generally low level of class struggle would accelerate the political crisis of the main currents claiming to be Trotskyist has been confirmed by major splits in the LIT, in the Militant and its international tendency, by the deepening problems of USec and by the purges within the Lambertist movement. Most of the forces issuing out of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) explosion of 1985-1986 are in steep decline. Despite the demoralisation of many ‘Trotskyist’ forces this crisis also contains possibilities for revolutionary regroupment. If the leaderships of the main centrist currents have proved incapable of giving a revolutionary lead in the face of the titanic events of the last three years, then the struggle to rebuild the Fourth International must be taken up with redoubled energy.
With this aim in mind, and without for a moment concealing that we are in combat with the main centrist leaderships of what passes for Trotskyism, we extend a hand to revolutionary minded militants (Trotskyist and non-Trotskyist) everywhere and remain open at all times to serious and comradely discussions.