As the world enters a new turbulent period of wars and revolutions Rob Sewell looks at the situation in Europe in the period of the 1930s and 1940s.
As was the case with so many post-war political developments, the colonial revolution was shrouded in mystery and confusion to the leadership of what remained of the so-called Fourth International, as well as to the theoreticians of Stalinism and reformism. Different 'Trotskyist' sects took turns to idealise Mao Tse Tung, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and others, without a glimmer of understanding about what real political forces these leaders represented. It was the Marxist tendency gathered around Ted Grant which was able to place all these leaders and movements in their correct context, explaining their origins and development.
One of the most important contributions made by Trotsky to the theoretical storehouse of Marxism was his analysis of the rise and development of Stalinism. He explained that the fundamental social gains of the October revolution remained intact, in the form of the state-ownership of the economy and the plan of production, but that the working class had been politically expropriated by a new ruling caste. Against those who saw this bureaucracy as a new ruling class, Trotsky argued that it was a parasitic growth resting on the economic base of a workers' state, and not a class.
The Hungarian revolution was the most vivid confirmation of the perspectives of Trotsky, that the workers under Stalinist dictatorship, far from accepting their conditions or demanding a return to capitalism, would move in a political revolution to take power into their own hands. The tremendously inspiring events of the Hungarian October are full of lessons for the workers of Eastern Europe and the whole world.
A key historical document that analyses the important question of "proletarian bonapartism", i.e. Stalinism, in the former colonial countries. It explains the roots of the Chinese revolution and why the Maoist regime came into conflict with the Soviet Union, and also the nature of several similar regimes that came into being in that period. It was also the basis for the expulsion of Ted Grant and his followers from Mandel's so-called Unified Secretariat of the Fourth International.
The events that unfolded towards the end of 1956 in Hungary shook all the Communist Parties of the world. The official line of the Communist Parties was that what was taking place in Hungary was a Fascist counter-revolution! Not all the ranks of the CPs were fooled. Many could see that the workers of Hungary had risen up against the bureaucratic elite in power. This could be no counter-revolution.
Not only was Ted Grant's analysis of the Eastern European states able to explain the Tito-Stalin split, it could also anticipate - and this is the test of the correctness of theory, in politics as in science - other splits, along national lines, within the Eastern European monolith. More prophetically still, the document not only anticipated in advance the establishment of a Stalinist state in China after the revolution, but it predicted the inevitability of a split between the Chinese and the Russian bureaucracy, on the same basis, although on a far larger scale, as in the case of Yugoslavia.
In June 1948, Tony Cliff, an RCP member, published a lengthy document entitled The Nature of Stalinist Russia. This work has been extended over the years, and the arguments partly modified, but its essence has always been the idea that Russia, under Stalin, became 'state capitalist'. It followed from this that the other states of the Eastern bloc were also 'state capitalist'. Taken as a whole, the reply to this by Ted Grant is itself a modern 'classic', a major contribution to the theoretical arsenal of Marxism. It is to this day the most definitive defence, and a deepening, of the original arguments of Leon Trotsky, that Russia was a degenerated workers' state, and in that light, deserves not only to be read, but carefully and diligently studied.
This article from 1948 describes and explains the 'February events' in Czechoslovakia, the so-called 'Prague coup'. Here, the Stalinist-dominated government, leaning on the working class through 'action committees', overcame the resistance of the capitalist class and carried through the nationalisation of industry and the major part of the economy. The end result, as the article explained, provided 'the economic basis for a workers' state', but without the democratic control of the state by the workers, 'all the rights which the workers still possess will be strangled and an uncontrolled bureaucracy will ride roughshod over the masses, as in Russia.'
Edited for publication in The Unbroken Thread, full version available on the Ted Grant archive.
A letter written to the Italian Trotskyists in 1930 in which Trotsky deals with the question of the Constituent Assembly and the perspectives for Italy at that time. He severely criticises those who attempted to mix the slogan of the Constituent Assembly with that of workers' soviets, and also showed incredible insight into how the process would unfold once the Mussolini regime collapsed.