Stalinism in Eastern Europe

berlinWhat failed in Russia and Eastern Europe was not communism or socialism, in any sense that this was understood by Marx or Lenin, but a bureaucratic and totalitarian caricature. Lenin explained that the movement towards socialism requires the democratic control of industry, society and the state by the proletariat. Genuine socialism is incompatible with the rule of a privileged bureaucratic elite, which will inevitably be accompanied by colossal corruption, nepotism, waste, mismanagement and chaos.

The nationalised planned economies in the USSR and Eastern Europe achieved astonishing results in the fields of industry, science, health and education. But, as Trotsky predicted as early as 1936, the bureaucratic regime ultimately undermined the nationalised planned economy and prepared the way for its collapse and the return of capitalism.

– From The fall of the Berlin Wall

In 1968, over 50 years ago, USSR-backed tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia to crush the Prague Spring. But could the movement have been successful? The Prague Spring was a movement with the potential to develop into a socialist political revolution against the Communist Party bureaucracy, possibly with far-reaching consequences. For this reason, over the last half century, this inspiring episode has been slandered by Stalinists, co-opted by liberals, and distorted by both.

Prague 1968

The Prague Spring was a movement with the potential to develop into a socialist political revolution against the Communist Party (CP) bureaucracy, possibly with far-reaching consequences. For this reason, over the last half century, the Prague Spring has been slandered by Stalinists, co-opted by liberals, and distorted by both.

This month marks the anniversary of the December 1970 Polish protests – or ‘Black Thursday’ – when the workers of Polish coastal cities of Gdańsk, Szczecin, Gdynia and Elbląg rose in protest against a huge increase in prices of basic food products, but were harshly repressed by the so-called People’s Army. The cost of striking against price rises was high: 46 workers and students were killed and thousands injured in the stand-offs, just a week before Christmas.

The Russian revolution changed the course of world history and the last century has been dominated by its consequences. Ted Grant’s book traces the evolution of Soviet Russia from the Bolshevik victory of 1917, through the rise of Stalinism and the political counter-revolution, its emergence as a super-power after the Second World War, and the crisis of Stalinism and its eventual collapse. The book has been updated and edited in the light of new developments and the subsequent

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60 years ago, on 23rd October 1956, the workers and youth of Hungary rose up in a political revolution against the Stalinist bureaucracy. Contrary to Stalinist slanders at the time, this was never a movement for the restoration of capitalism, but an attempt by the Hungarian working class to establish a healthy socialist society.

Fred Weston introducing the discussion on Stalinism at the British Marxist Summer School on 18 June.

This is a speakerscorner.net radio show by Heiko Khoo. The author was on the Berlin Wall the day it fell and lived in East Berlin at that time. Listen to sounds and speeches from the November 1989 demonstrations and interviews with eyewitnesses and participants of the movement.

Twenty years ago as the Berlin Wall came tumbling down the bourgeoisie in the west was euphoric, rejoicing at the “fall of communism”. Twenty years later things look very different as capitalism has entered its most severe crisis since 1929. Now a majority in former East Germany votes for the left and harks back to what was positive about the planned economy. After rejecting Stalinism, they have now had a taste of capitalism, and the conclusion drawn is that socialism is better than

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To mark the 40th anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia, we are here reprinting an article by Alan Woods, first written on September 4, 1968, and published in the Winter edition of the Spark, in which he clearly relates the momentous events that shook the Stalinist regimes and explains their significance.

Heiko Khoo talks about the revolution in Germany in 1989. The defeats suffered by the German working class laid the ground for the rise of Nazism and World War 2. After the war Berlin became the focal point for the cold war. On November 9th 1989 the Berlin Wall was opened after the German Communist Party bureaucracy buckled under pressure from East Germans demonstrating for the democratisation of society.

Hungary is preparing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1956 uprising. The Stalinists in the past presented that movement as reactionary. Today's regime is trying to usurp the banner of 1956, falsifying completely what really happened. It is our duty to explain what really happened. The heroes of 1956 were trying to build a democratic workers' state and genuine socialism.

Fifteen years ago on November 9th 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. Within a year East and West Germany were reunited. But unification was carried out on a capitalist basis. Thus it was a counterrevolution. But the movement in the East did not start with that aim in mind, far from it! The early movement had many elements of the political revolution, i.e. a movement against the bureaucracy and for genuine socialism. Here we provide an analysis and also material produced by the Marxists in East

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23rd October sees the anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. That movement of the Hungarian masses signified the culmination of the growing discontent evident in Eastern Europe at the time.

A dozen years ago, the Berlin Wall fell. The world was changed irrevocably. The wave of East European revolutions, the unification of Germany, and the collapse of the Soviet Union all followed in quick succession. An eye-witness account by Heiko Khoo.

'Lenin wake up, Brezhnev has gone mad.' This was one of the slogans chanted on the street of Prague 30 years ago as Russian and Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia. The upheavals in Czechoslovakia had began with a stormy session of the Writers Union which passed a resolution supporting Soviet author Solzhenitsyn's protest against censorship.

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

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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.

In 1966 an economic crisis forced Yugoslav leader Tito to announce a plan of reforms in order to decentralise power. Bureaucratic corruption and mismanagement were exposed for the first time in the Yugoslav press. Ted Grant explained how self-reform on part of the bureaucracy would not solve the problem and why workers' democracy and internationalism would be the only way forward.

At the peak of the economic growth of the USSR, in 1965, cracks appeared in the planned economy revealing that the burden of the privileged caste and bureaucratic mismanagement was becoming more and more unbearable. Ted Grant explained the reasons for this crisis and the futility of the attempts to solve it without restoring workers’ democracy.

In 1963 there were indications that a crisis was brewing in the USSR. Ted Grant showed how the twists and turns of Kruschev's policies were empirical attempts on the part of the Russian bureaucracy to reform the system in order to avoid the possibility of a political revolution developing along the lines of Hungary 1956.

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. 

The NEC of the Labour Party in 1954 argued in favour of German rearmament against the Soviet "threat". The Labour left argued that a re-armed West Germany, backed by the United States, would be facing a hostile and armed East Germany, backed by Russia, making World War III "inevitable." Ted Grant replied to both, putting forward an internationalist position.

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

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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

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Using the method of Marxism to describe the regime of Tito, and hence explain the split with Stalin, this document by Ted Grant from 1949 takes the argument further and extends it to the example of China. It elaborates further the process by which Mao Tse Tung established his regime, explaining that it was, of necessity, 'deformed' from the very beginning.

We reprint this article by Ted Grant, first published in the July 1948 edition of Socialist Appeal which analyses the real reasons behind the split between Tito and Stalin.

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

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In late 1946 Stalin announced that the immediate task in the Soviet Union was one of building "Communism". At the same time he set in motion new purges among the lower layers of the bureaucracy. Imposing these limits on corruption among the lower bureaucrats, Ted Grant argued, arose from the need to gain support from the pauperised and deprived masses for the reconstruction effort, in order to preserve the general privileges of the bureaucracy as a whole.

In 1946, while offering the exiled White Guards full citizenship, Stalin retaliated against the Chechen-Ingush and Crimean peoples and dissolved their autonomous republics, accusing them of having not rebelled against the Nazis during the War. 1,500,000 men, women and children were deported. "How [does one] explain the fact that the peoples see no advantages in the Stalinist regime, but the White Guard capitalist elements do?" Ted Grant asked.

In 1946 one of the main stooges of Stalin, Aleksandrov, delivered an official speech during the Lenin memorial meeting in Moscow announcing a revision of Marx and Lenin's theory of the state. Ted Grant highlighted the importance of this open breach with Marxism showing that it sought a theoretical justification for the persistence of the rule by the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union.

As Hitler's armies advanced into the Soviet Union, Ted Grant explained that it was the abandonment of genuine workers' democracy and internationalism and its replacement by a dictatorial national bureaucratic regime that weakened the ability of the country to stop the Nazis. In spite of this the duty of British workers was to defend the land of October with all means possible.