Much has changed since this document was first produced, and we have continually refined and updated our perspectives and analysis in subsequent books and articles. However, the historical value of this document, especially those parts concerning the history of the internationals, the rise of proletarian Bonapartism, and the post-WWII period retain their full force and value.
The First and Second Internationals
Without an international perspective, programme and policy, it is impossible to build a movement which can face up to the tasks of transforming society. An International is a programme, policy and a method, and its organisation is the means for carrying that through. The need for the International flows from the position of the working class internationally. This in its turn has been developed by capitalism through the organisation of world economy as one single indivisible whole. The interests of the working class of one country are the same as the interests of the workers of the other countries. Because of the division of labour established by capitalism, the basis is laid for a new international organisation of labour and planned production on a world scale. Thus, the struggle of the working class on all countries forms the basis for the movement towards socialism.
Capitalism, through the private ownership of the means of production, developed industry and smashed the local particularism of feudalism. It broke down the archaic customs dues, tolls and exactions of feudalism. Its great creation is the national state and the world market. But once having accomplished this task, it itself has become a fetter on the development of production. The national state and private ownership of the means of production hamper the development of society. Production possibilities can only be fully utilised by abolishing national barriers and establishing a European and World Federation of workers’ states. These, with state ownership and workers’ management, are a necessary transition stage on the road to socialism. It is these factors which dictate the strategy and tactics of the proletariat, as reflected in its conscious leadership. In the aphorisms of Marx “the workers have no country” and therefore, “Workers of the world unite”.
It was with these considerations in mind that Marx first organised the First International as a means of uniting the advanced layers of the working class on an international scale. In the First International were British Trade Unionists, French Radicals and Russian Anarchists. Guided by Marx, it laid the framework for the development of the labour movement in Europe, Britain and America. In its day, the bourgeoisie trembled before the menace of communism in the form of the International. It established deep roots in the main European countries. After the collapse of the Paris Commune, there was an upswing of capitalism on a world scale. Under these conditions, the pressures of capitalism on the labour movement resulted in internal quarrels and factionalism. The intrigues of the Anarchists received heightened impetus. The growth of capitalism in an organic upswing in its turn affected the organisation internationally. Under such circumstances, after first moving the headquarters of the organisation to New York, Marx and Engels decided that, for the time being, it would be better to dissolve the International [in 1876].
The work of Marx and Engels bore fruit in mass organisations of the proletariat in Germany, France, Italy and other countries as Marx had foreseen. This in its turn prepared the way for the organisation of the International on the principles of Marxism, which embraced greater masses. Thus in 1889, the Second International was born. But the development of the Second International largely took place within the framework of an organic upswing of capitalism, and while in words espousing the ideas of Marxism, the top layers of world social democracy came under the pressure of capitalism. The leaders of the Social Democratic Parties and the trade union mass organisations of the working class, became infected with the habits and style of living of the ruling class. The habit of compromise and discussion with the ruling class became second nature. The negotiation of differences through compromise moulded their habits of thought. They believed that the steady increase in the standard of living, due to the pressure of the mass organisations, would continue indefinitely. The leaders raised themselves a step higher above the masses in their conditions of existence. This affected the top layers of the Parliamentarians and the trade unions. “Conditions determine consciousness” and the decades of peaceful development which followed the Commune of 1870, changed the character of the leadership of the mass organisations. Supporting socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat in words, and espousing Internationalism in phrases, in practice the leadership had gone over to the support of the national state. At the Basle Conference of 1912, with growing contradictions of world imperialism and the inevitability of world war, the Second International resolved to oppose by all means, including general strike and civil war, the attempt to throw the peoples into senseless slaughter. Lenin and the Bolsheviks, together with Luxembourg, Trotsky and other leaders of the movement, participated in the organisation of the Second International as the means for the liberation of mankind from the shackles of capitalism.
In 1914, the leaders of Social Democracy in nearly all countries rallied to the support of their own ruling class in the First World War. So unexpected was the crisis and the betrayal of the principles of socialism, that even Lenin believed that the issue of Vorwaerts, the central organ of the German Social Democracy, containing the support for the war credits was a forgery of the German General Staff. The International had ingloriously collapsed at its first serious test.
The Third International
Lenin, Trotsky, Liebknecht, Luxemburg, MacLean and Connolly and other Leaders were reduced to leading small sects. The internationalists of the world in 1916, as the participants of the Zimmerwald Conference joked, could be gathered together in a few stage coaches. The unexpectedness of the betrayal led to the position where the internationalists, isolated and weak, tended to be a little ultra-left. In order to differentiate themselves from “social patriots” and “traitors to socialism”, they were compelled to lay down the fundamental principles of Marxism – the responsibility of imperialism for war, the right to self-determination of nationalities, the need for the conquest of power, separation from the practice and policies of reformism. Lenin had declared that the idea that the First World War was a “war to end wars” was a pernicious fairy-tale of the Labour bosses. If the war was not followed by a series of successful socialist revolutions, it would be followed by a second, a third, even a tenth world war till the possible annihilation of mankind. The blood and the suffering in the trenches to the profit of the millionaire monopolists would inevitably provoke a revolt of the peoples against the colossal slaughter.
The principles achieved their justification in the Russian Revolution of 1917, under the leadership of the Bolsheviks. This was followed by a series of revolutions and revolutionary situations from 1917 to 1921. However the young forces of the new International, which was officially founded in 1919, were weak and immature. As a consequence, though the effect of the Russian revolution was to provoke a wave of radicalisation in most of the countries of Western Europe and the organisation of mass communist parties, they were too weak to take advantage of the situation. The first waves of the radicalisation saw the masses turning to their traditional organisations and because of the inexperience, lack of understanding of Marxist theory, method and organisation, and due to their immaturity, the young communist parties were incapable of taking advantage of the situation. Thus capitalism was able to stabilize itself temporarily.
In the revolutionary situation in Germany in 1923, because of the policies of the leadership, which went through the same crisis as the leadership of the Bolshevik Party in 1917, the opportunity to take power was missed. After this American imperialism hastened to come to the aid of German capitalism for fear of “Bolshevism” in the west. This prepared the way for the degeneration of the Soviet Union, because of its isolation and backwardness, and the corruption and rotting away of the Third International.
In 1924 we had the beginning of the consolidation of the Stalinist bureaucracy and its usurpation of power in the Soviet Union. A similar process to that which had taken place in the degeneration of the Second International over the decades, took place in a short period of time in the Soviet Union. Having conquered power in a backward country, the Marxists were prepared confidently for the international revolution as the only solution to the problems of the workers of Russia and of the world. But in 1924, Stalin came forward as the representative of officialdom which had raised itself above the level of the masses of the workers and peasants.
Where “art, science and government” had remained their preserve, instead of the ideas of Marx and Lenin of the participation in government and the running of industry by the mass of the population, the vested interests of the privileged layers came to the fore. In the autumn of 1924, Stalin in violation of the traditions of Marxism and Bolshevism, for the first time brought out the utopian theory of “Socialism in one country”. The internationalists under Trotsky fought against this theory and predicted that it would result in the collapse of the Communist International and the national degeneration of its sections.
Theory is not an abstraction but a guide to struggle. Theories, when they secure mass support, must represent the interests and pressure of groupings, castes or classes, in society. Thus the theory of “Socialism in one country”, represented the ideology of the ruling caste in the Soviet Union, that layer of officialdom who were satisfied with the results of the revolution, and did not want their privileged position disturbed. It was this outlook which now began to change the Communist International from an instrument of international revolution into merely a border-guard for the defence of the Soviet Union, which was supposed to be busily constructing socialism on its own.
The Left Opposition
The expulsion of the Left Opposition in the communist parties which stood by the principles of internationalism and Marxism, now took place. The defeat of the British general strike and the Chinese revolution of 1925-1927, prepared the way for this development. At this stage it was a question of “mistakes” in the policies of Stalin, Bukharin and their henchmen. It was a question of their position as ideologists of the privileged layer and the enormous pressures of capitalism and reformism. These mistakes of leadership had doomed the movement of the proletariat in other countries to defeat and disaster.
Having burned their fingers in trying to conciliate the reformists in the West and the colonial bourgeoisie in the East, Stalin and his clique zig-zagged to an ultra-Left position, dragging the leadership of the Communist International with them. They split the German workers instead of advocating a United Front to prevent fascism coming to power in Germany, and thus prepared the way, by paralysis of the German proletariat, for the victory of Hitler. The degeneration of the Soviet Union and the betrayal of the Third International in its turn prepared the way for the crimes and betrayal of the Stalinist counter-revolution in the Soviet Union.
Apart from the nationalisation of the means of production, the monopoly of foreign trade and planned production, nothing remains of the heritage of October. The purge, the one sided civil war in the Soviet Union, had their counterparts in the parties of the Communist International. The victory of Hitler and the defeats in Spain and France were the results of these developments. From 1924 to 1927, Stalin had based himself on an alliance with the Kulaks and “Nepmen” in the Soviet Union, and the “building of Socialism at a snail’s pace”. At the same time, abroad Stalinism stood for a “neutralisation” of the capitalists, and a conciliation of the Social Democrats as a means of “warding-off” the threat of war. The defeat of the Left Opposition in the Soviet Union, with its programme of a return to workers’ democracy, and the introduction of five-year plans, was due to the international defeats of the proletariat, caused by Stalinist policies.
From grovelling before the Social Democrats, and other international “friends of the Soviet Union”, the Communist International swung over to the policies of the “third period”. The slump of 1929-33 was supposed to be “the last crisis of capitalism”. Fascism and Social Democracy were twins, and these “theories” paved the way for the terrible defeats of the international working class.
At the same time, the policies of the Left Opposition in Russia won over the most advanced elements in the most important communist parties in the world. The Lessons of October, a work by Trotsky, dealt with the lessons of the abortive revolution of 1923 in Germany. The general programme of the opposition at home and abroad was answered by expulsions not only in the Russian party, but in the main sections of the International. There was a rise of opposition groups in Germany, France, Britain, Spain, USA, South Africa and other countries. The programme of the Opposition at this time was one of reform in the Soviet Union and the International, and the adoption of correct policies as against the opportunism of the period of 1923 to 1927, and the adventurism of the period from 1927 to 1933.
These splits, as Engels had remarked in another connection, were a healthy development in the sense of attempting to maintain the best traditions of Bolshevism and of the ideal of the Communist International. The crisis of leadership was the crisis of the International and of all mankind. Thus, these splits were a means of maintaining the ideals and methods of Marxism. In the first period of its existence, the Left Opposition regarded itself as a section of the Communist International; although expelled, and stood for the reform of the International.
The masses, and even the advanced layers of the proletariat, only learn through the lessons of great events. All history has shown that the masses can never give up their old organisations until these have been tested in the fire of experience. Up till 1933, the Marxist wing of the International still stood for the reform of the Soviet Union and the Communist International. Whether they would remain viable organisations would be shown by the test of history. Thus tenaciously the opposition maintained itself, although formally outside the ranks, as part of the International.
It was the coming to power of Hitler and the refusal of the Communist International to learn the lesson of the defeat which doomed it as an instrument of the working class in the struggle for socialism. Far from analysing the reasons for the fatal policy of “Social fascism”, the sections of the Communist International declared the victory of Hitler to be a victory for the working class, and as late as 1934 continued the same suicidal policies in France, of united action with the fascists against the “social fascists” and the “radical fascist” Daladier, which if successful would have prepared the way for the Fascist coup in France in February 1934.
The Fourth International
This betrayal and the terrible effect of the Hitler defeat led to a reappraisal of the role of the Communist International. An International which could perpetrate the treachery of surrendering the German proletariat to Hitler, without a shot being fired and without provoking a crisis within its ranks, could no longer serve the needs of the proletariat. An International which could acclaim this disaster as a victory could not fulfil its role as a leadership of the proletariat. As an instrument of world socialism, the Third International was dead. From an instrument of international socialism, the Communist International had degenerated into a complete and docile tools of the Kremlin, into an instrument of Russian foreign policy. It was now necessary to prepare the way for the organisation of a Fourth International, untarnished with the crimes and betrayals which besmirched the reformist and Stalinist internationals.
As in the days after the collapse of the Second International, the revolutionary internationalists remained small isolated sects. In Belgium they had a couple of MPs and an organisation of a thousand or two, in Austria and Holland, the same. The forces of the new international were weak and immature, nevertheless they had the guidance and assistance of Trotsky, and the perspectives of great historical events. They were educated on the basis of an analysis of the experience of the Second and Third Internationals, and of the Russian, German and Chinese revolutions and the British general strike, and of the great events which had followed the First World War. In this way cadres were to be trained and educated, as the indispensable skeleton of the body of the new International.
It was in this period, taking into account the historical isolation of the movement from the mass organisations of the Social Democracy and Communist Party, that the tactic of “entrism” was evolved. In order to win the best workers, it was necessary to find a way of influencing them. This could only be done by working together with them in the mass organisations. Thus beginning with the ILP in Britain, the idea of entrism was worked out for the mass organisations of Social Democracy. This, where they were in a state of crisis and moving towards the left. Thus, with the developing revolutionary situation in France there was an entry into the Socialist Party. In Britain the entry of the ILP, then in a state of flux and ferment after breaking from the Labour Party, was followed by entry by many of the Trotskyists, on Trotsky’s advice, into the Labour Party. In the USA there was an entry into the Socialist Party.
In the main, the pre-war period was one of preparation and orientation and selection of cadres or leading elements to be trained and steeled theoretically and practically, in the movement of the masses.
The tactic of entry was also considered as a short term expedient, forced on the revolutionaries by their isolation from the masses, and the impossibility of tiny organisations getting the ear and finding support among the mass of the working class. It was for the purpose of working among the radical elements looking for revolutionary solutions, who would in the first place turn towards the mass organisations. But always under all conditions the main ideas of Marxism should be put forward and the revolutionary banner i.e. the ideas of Marxism, maintained and defended. It was a question of acquiring experience and understanding, of combating both sectarianism and opportunism. It was a means of developing a flexible approach, with the implacability of principle, as a means of preparing the cadres for the great events which impended.
The defeats of the working class in Germany, France and in the civil war in Spain, the defeats of the immediate post-war period, which were entirely due to the policies of the Second and Third Internationals, in their turn prepared the way for the Second World War. The paralysis of the proletariat in Europe, in conjunction with the new aggravated crisis of world capitalism made the Second World War absolutely inevitable. It was in this atmosphere that the 1938 founding conference of the Fourth International took place.
The document which was adopted at the conference itself is an indication of the reason for its foundation. The Transitional Programme of the Fourth International is linked to the idea of mass work, which itself is geared to the idea of the socialist revolution through transitional slogans, from today’s contradictory reality. As distinct from the minimum and maximum programme of the Social Democracy is put the idea of a Transitional Programme, transitional from capitalism to the socialist revolution. This is an indication of the consideration of the epoch as one of wars and revolutions. Thus, all work has to be linked to the idea of the socialist revolution.
The perspective of Trotsky was that of war, which in its turn would provoke revolution. The problem of Stalinism would be resolved one way or another. Either the Soviet Union would be regenerated through political revolution against Stalinism, or the victory of the revolution in one of the important countries would resolve the situation on a world scale. With proletarian revolution victorious, the problem of the internationals of both Stalinism and reformism would be solved by events themselves.
This conditional prognosis, although revealing a fundamental understanding of processes in class society, was not borne out by events. Due to the peculiar military and political events of the war, Stalinism was temporarily strengthened. The revolutionary wave, during and following the Second World War in Europe was this time betrayed by the Stalinists in a worse fashion than the revolutionary wave following the First World War was betrayed by the leaders of the Second International.
The International remained, as it must even up to the present day, on the principles worked out and evolved in the first four congresses of the Communist International and the experience of Stalinism, Fascism and the great events up to the Second World War. Trotsky’s idea in pushing for the foundation of the Fourth International in 1938 was because of the collapse of Stalinism and reformism as revolutionary tendencies within the working class. Both had become enormous obstacles on the path of the emancipation of the working class, and from being a means for the destruction of capitalism had become incapable of leading the proletariat to the victory of the socialist revolution.
The question of new parties and a new International was a question of the immediate perspectives which lay ahead. A new world war in its turn would provoke a new revolutionary wave in the metropolitan countries and among the colonial peoples. The problems of Stalinism in Russia and the world would thereby be solved by these revolutionary perspectives. Under these conditions it was imperative to prepare organisationally as well as politically for the great events which were on the order of the day. Thus, in 1938 Trotsky predicted that within ten years nothing would be left of the old traitor organisations, and the Fourth International would have become the decisive revolutionary force on the planet. There was nothing wrong with the basic analysis but every prognosis is conditional; the multiplicity of factors, economically, politically, socially, can always result in a different development than that foreseen. The weakness of the revolutionary forces, indeed, has been a decisive factor in the development of world politics, in the more than thirty years since Trotsky wrote. Unfortunately, the mandarins of the “Fourth International”, on its leading body, without Trotsky’s guidance and without Trotsky’s presence interpreted this idea of Trotsky’s not as a worked out thesis but as literally correct.(1)
Post-war developments and the role of the Fourth International “leaders”
The war developed on different lines to what even the greatest theoretical geniuses could have expected. The process has been explained in many documents of our tendency. The victories of Hitler in the first period of the war among other factors, was due to the policies of Stalinism in the preceding period. The attack on the Soviet Union, and the crimes and bestialities of the Nazis (fascism is the chemically distilled essence of imperialism as Trotsky once explained), without any check or balance from the working class in Germany, prostrate and without rights in front of the Nazi monsters, meant that the workers and peasants in the Soviet Union saw as an immediate task, not the cleansing and restoration of workers’ democracy in the Soviet Union through the political revolution, but the defeat of the Nazi hordes. As a consequence for a whole historical period, Stalinism was temporarily strengthened.
The war in Europe resolved itself largely into a war between Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany. Anglo-American imperialism miscalculated the perspective completely. They had visualised that either the Soviet Union would be defeated, in which case they would then knock out a weakened Germany and emerge as the world victors, or that the Soviet Union would be so weakened in the course of the bloody holocaust on the Eastern Front, that they would be enabled to dictate the course of world politics, world diplomacy and world redivision according to their whims and desires.
Trotsky’s calculation proved correct in the sense that the Second World War was succeeded by an even greater revolutionary wave than after the First World War. But the masses of the different countries of Europe where, after Russia was attacked, the Communist Parties had played the major role in the resistance to the Nazis, rallied to the Communist Party and also in many countries to the Social Democrats. Already at this stage, the outline was given of the collapse of the leaders of the nascent International in the disputes which began to take place.
In 1944 it was necessary to re-orientate the movement in order to understand that a lengthy period of capitalist democracy in the West and of Stalinist domination in Russia was on the order of the day. In the documents of the Revolutionary Communist Party, it was made clear that the next period in Western Europe was that of counter-revolution in a democratic form. This was because of the impossibility of the bourgeoisie maintaining their rule in Western Europe without the aid of Stalinism and of Social Democracy.
The International Secretariat (ISFI) equivocated, the [American] Socialist Workers Party and some of the other leaders temporised on the question and argued that on the contrary the only form of rule which the bourgeoisie could maintain in Europe was that of a military dictatorship and Bonapartism. Incapable of understanding the turn which had taken place in historical development, they could not understand that Stalinist Russia emerged strengthened out of the war, and that far from imperialism being on the offensive, it was imperialism that was on the defensive.
The alliance of Anglo-American imperialism and the Soviet bureaucracy, was dictated by mutual fear of the socialist revolution in the advanced countries of the world. At the same time the revolutionary wave sweeping over Europe and the world, made it impossible for Anglo-American imperialism, at a time when it was at its strongest in relation to Russia, and Russia at her weakest, to take advantage of the situation by an intervention on the scale even of that of 1918. They were impotent because of the revolutionary wave. Not understanding the changed relationship of forces, and the meaning of the enormous tidal-wave of revolution, the resolution drafted by the ISFI for the World Conference of 1946 even declared that “diplomatic pressure alone” could “restore capitalism in the Soviet Union”!
The changed relationships in Eastern Europe and China
With complete lack of perspective in relation to Western Europe, their position on the theoretical problems facing the movement in relation to Eastern Europe, was even worse. They did not understand the impulse given to the revolution by the advance of the Red Army, an impulse which was then used by the bureaucracy for their own ends. After using it, they then strangled the revolution. It was not a question of the Stalinists capitulating to capitalism under these conditions, but carrying through the revolution and then refashioning it in a Stalinist-Bonapartist form.
The “alliance” between the classes in Eastern Europe was like that in Spain of the Popular Front, an alliance not with the capitalists but with the shadow of the capitalist class. But in Spain they allowed the shadow to acquire substance. The real power in Republican Spain was handed to the capitalist class, but in all the countries in Eastern Europe the substance of power, the army and the police, were held by the Stalinist parties, and they only allowed the shadow of power to the coalition allies.
The Stalinists used the revolutionary situation in all these countries; where the ruling class had been compelled to evacuate with the Nazi armies as they retreated, because of fear of the revenge of the masses, for their collaboration with the Nazis. As the Nazi armies retreated, the state structure collapsed. The army and the police fled or went into hiding. Thus the only armed force in Eastern Europe was the Red Army. Balancing between the classes, the Bonapartist clique proceeded to construct a state not in the image of Russia of 1917, but of the Russia of Stalin. A state in the image of Moscow 1945 was created.
These new historical phenomena, although foreshadowed in Trotsky’s writings, were a closed book to the so-called leaders of the International. They declared the countries of Eastern Europe to be state capitalist, while Russia, of course, still remained a degenerated workers’ state. Such a position was incompatible with any Marxist analysis. For, if Eastern Europe, where the means of production had been nationalised and a plan of production had been produced, was capitalist then it was absurd to maintain that Russia, where the same conditions of bureaucratic dictatorship were in existence, was any sort of workers’ state. The conditions were fundamentally the same.
Thus, both for Western and Eastern Europe, these “leaders” were incapable of understanding the perspectives and of basing the education of the revolutionary cadres on them. Important forces in France and in other countries were frittered away in the arguments over these questions.
But their record in relation to the second greatest event in human history, the Chinese revolution, was if anything worse. Not understanding the peasant war waged by Mao Tse-Tung and his followers, and not calculating the world relationship of forces, they were content to repeat at this time ideas which they had taken from Trotsky’s work but not understood. They declared that Mao was endeavouring to capitulate to Chiang Kai-Shek, and that there was a repetition of the revolution of 1925-27. In the first place, the civil war was being waged on the question of land, and the constant offers of peace by the Chinese Stalinists were on the basis of land reform, and the expropriation of “bureaucratic capital”, a programme which it was impossible for Chiang to accept. They had not understood that as a consequence of the experience of China since the 1925-27 revolution and the complete incapacity of Chinese bourgeoisie to solve the problems of the democratic revolution; of the national unification of China and the struggle against imperialism, as revealed in the war against Japan – that new perspectives were opening out.
On the one hand, there was the passivity of the working class in China and on the other, the peasant war, which was on the lines of those which had developed in China many times previously in the course of the last millennium. There was also the paralysis of imperialism due to the revolutionary wave following the Second World War. All these factors gave the possibility of a new direction of events. In 1949, in a document analysing the position in China [In Reply to David James], the RCP foreshadowed the steps which Mao would take in the event of victory in the civil war, a victory which was inevitable under the circumstances.
At that time the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party were declaring that China stood before fifty years of “capitalist democracy”. They had their alliance with the so-called “national capitalists”, but Marxist analysis would not take this very seriously. Power was in the hands of the Red Army. Thus, we predicted that on the model of Eastern Europe, Mao would balance between the classes, and in the changed conditions, nationally and internationally, would construct a state in the image of that where Stalin had finished and not where Lenin had begun. Thus, right from the start of the revolution, China was heading towards a Bonapartist workers’ state. The leaders of the International Secretariat and of the Chinese section maintained that Mao was capitulating to capitalism and to Chiang-Kai-Shek. Even after the complete victory of the Chinese Stalinists the ISFI did not understand its significance, but declared that China like Eastern Europe, was state capitalist, although they did not define the term.
They then declared for grandiose revolutionary perspectives in China and in Eastern Europe. Mao would not be able to maintain his “capitalist rule” for long. In Eastern Europe the “state capitalist” regimes were in a state of immediate crisis, which would lead to their overthrow. They did not understand that, leaving aside events in the main capitalist metropolitan countries or a victorious political revolution in Russia, that for a decade or two at least, the regimes in Eastern Europe and in China, would remain firmly in control.
They continued to repeat that the world war was going to solve the problems of the revolution, and in the case of one leader, as the war had not solved the problems, he maintained that “the war was still on”. After the war they immediately declared monotonously, that there was going to be an immediate outbreak of a new world war, each succeeding year onwards from 1945, a nuclear war was going to bring socialism. In diluted form, even today, they repeat this idea. At each crisis of imperialism, or between imperialism and the Soviet bureaucracy, they get out the tom-toms and beat out the same hoary message. To this day, they have not understood that the problems of war in the modern epoch is a problem of the relationship between the classes; that only definitive defeats of the working class in the main capitalist countries, particularly America, can lay the basis for a new world war. (See our documents on the question, in particular “World Perspectives”).
Eastern Europe and the Stalinist states
As always, the hammering that their ideas received on the basis of events, coupled with their refusal to analyse their mistakes, merely pushed the ISFI into opposite and worse mistakes; from declaring China and Eastern Europe capitalist states, they now passed to the opposite extreme.
After the national bureaucracy in Yugoslavia under Tito, came into conflict with the Russian bureaucracy they now discovered that Yugoslavia was a “relatively healthy workers’ state”. Not understanding the nature of the conflict, in which critical support should have been given to the Yugoslavs, they began to idealise “hero Tito” and to declare that the new International could arise on Yugoslav soil.
Having been forced to change their characterisation of China from a capitalist state to that of a workers’ state, they declared that China too was a “relatively healthy workers’ state”! They did not take into account the conditions and the way in which the revolution had taken place in China. The immeasurable backwardness of China in comparison with Russia, the fact that the working class had played no independent role in these great events, and, therefore had remained passive; that on a world scale, for a whole historical period, even though temporarily, capitalism had succeeded in stabilising itself in the West and that the socialist revolution was not imminent in the metropolitan countries of the West, meant that therefore, the Chinese Stalinists and the Chinese bureaucracy had an even greater stranglehold on the Chinese state and the Chinese people than even the Russian bureaucracy had obtained. For the socialist revolution, it requires above all, the conscious participation of the working class in the revolution, and after the revolution the conscious control and democratic participation of the workers in the running of industry and the state by the working class. To this day those “leaders” have not understood this problem and still regard China and Yugoslavia as “relatively healthy workers’ states”, which merely require reform, similar to that of the Russia of 1917-23, and not at all political revolution, defined and understood by Trotsky.
Thus they reinforced the errors of their previous position by violating some of the fundamental ideas of Marxism, but now at the opposite pole. They repeated this process like the Stalinists before them: at every great turn of events, zig-zagging from one position to another, and never using the Marxist method of analysing events from their original standpoint, correcting the errors and preparing the way for a higher level of thought on this basis. Each change in line, each change in tactic, abruptly brought forward like tablets from on high, to be given in resounding speeches and documents to the faithful. It is this, among other factors, which was one of the main causes of the complete incapacity to orientate correctly to the development of events. Such an honesty of purpose can be obtained only by those confident of themselves, of their ideas, and of their political authority. Only by such means can cadres of the revolutionary movement be educated, built and steeled for the great task which impends before mankind.
Having maintained that the whole of Eastern Europe and China were some peculiar form of state capitalism which was never defined, analysed or explained they now went off at a 180 degree tangent: without explanation and analysis, purely impressionistically they did a complete somersault. The Yugoslav regime having broken with Stalin because of the vested interests of the Yugoslav bureaucracy, they discovered in Tito a new saviour for the Fourth International. Yugoslavia was transformed into a “relatively healthy workers’ state”.
Instead of seeing on the one hand, of course, the need to give critical support to the struggle of the Yugoslav people against national oppression by the Russian bureaucracy, but at the same time explaining the vested interests of the national bureaucracy in the split, they idealised the latter. Whereas in Russia a political revolution still remained necessary (this must have been for some remote historical reason because Trotsky said so. They did not explain the reasons. Deutscher managed to make the transition and discover that political revolution was not necessary in Russia). In Yugoslavia the ISFI now discovered that a socialist revolution had taken place during the war and the post-war period.
As a consequence of this, whereas the socialist revolution in Russia had been isolated, the revolution in Yugoslavia, because of the revolution in Russia, had not been isolated. The ISFI said the reason for the development of Stalinism in Russia was the fact that it was the only country where the revolution had been triumphant: now that the revolution had been expanded, there was no question of a similar deformation taking place. Therefore, they concluded triumphantly, there could be no repetition of Stalinism in Yugoslavia, and consequently, in Yugoslavia there was a healthy workers’ state with minor deformations. They proceeded to organise international work-teams to render assistance to “building socialism” in Yugoslavia.
Their propaganda was as uncritical and laudatory as the Stalinist propaganda for visits of youth teams “to build socialism in Russia”. The whole episode is an indication of the sociological “method” of this tendency. Germain [Mandel] and Co. put forward the same argument for the so-called “cultural revolution” in China, and of course, to this day for Cuba. In the first place it was the backwardness of the Soviet Union together with its isolation, and the defeats of the world working class which was responsible for the rise to power of the Stalinist bureaucracy in Russia. But once having come to power, the bureaucracy itself with the state power in its hands, becomes an independent factor in the situation. The Stalinist bureaucracy in Yugoslavia was no different in fundamentals from that in Russia. The Tito clique began where Stalin ended. At no time was there workers’ democracy such as that of Russia of 1917-23. The movement in Yugoslavia during the war was mainly a national peasant war of liberation. The state which was constructed was a one party totalitarian regime in the image of Russia with the perfected Stalinist apparatus.
Yugoslavia was a very backward country. Consequently in the Yugoslavian state apparatus were incorporated the elements of the old ruling class, in diplomacy, in the army and the rest of the state apparatus.
This was the same process, of course, as that which had taken place in Russia. But without the check and control of workers’ democracy, there could be no question of a healthy workers’ state. A movement towards socialism in a transitional economy requires the conscious control and participation by the working class. Thus under these circumstances, like conditions and causes give and must give the same results. Leaving aside this or that peculiarity, the fundamental features of the regime in Yugoslavia were no different from those of Stalinism in Russia. It was a complete revision of Marxism to suggest otherwise.
To this day, all those tendencies which took up this position have not re-evaluated their theoretical attitude in the light of events. From Pablo, through Posadas, Healy, Germain [Mandel] and Hansen, no attempt has been made to re-evaluate their theoretical errors. Consequently the most weird combinations of ideas manage to jog together in their writings. Healy finds it quite consistent to characterise Cuba as state capitalist, while hailing the so-called new version of the Paris Commune in the Cultural Revolution in China. The Voix Ouvriere [now Lutte Ouvriere] tendency in France, still remaining on the position of the ISFI of 1945-47 after 25 years of events, still finds it compatible to say that Russia is a degenerated workers’ state, while Eastern Europe, Yugoslavia and Cuba are capitalist states. All of these tendencies declare Syria and Burma to be capitalist. The United Secretariat itself, through all its zig-zags, pays the penalty of a lack of theoretical honesty by compounding the mistakes of the past.
Thus, to this day, they remain cloudy on the question of whether a political revolution is necessary in China and Yugoslavia, the majority believing that these are “relatively healthy” workers’ states, and so no political revolution is necessary, but only reform.
Developments in the Stalinist states
During the course of the last quarter century, this tendency has lost completely its theoretical moorings. Caught by surprise by the development of events, they have always reacted empirically and impressionistically, capitulating to the immediate reality without seeing the future development, inevitable under the circumstances, of groupings and tendencies. Not only in relation to Tito in Yugoslavia, which arises from the incorrect analysis and lack of understanding of proletarian Bonapartism, but also in relation to all the big events in the countries of the Stalinist bloc. The movement in 1956 in Hungary, which took the form of a complete overthrow of the bureaucracy and the beginning of a political revolution in general, they supported – not to have done so would have meant abandoning any pretence to stand in the tradition of Trotskyism. But this did not prevent them from lumping the movement in Poland taking place at the same time, in the same category as the Hungarian revolution.
They did not see that in Hungary there was almost the complete destruction of the so-called Communist Party and the beginning of an organisation of a new workers’ movement. The Hungarian workers, after the experiences of Stalinist totalitarianism, were not prepared to tolerate for a single moment the construction of a new totalitarian Stalinist state during the course of the revolution.
In Poland events developed somewhat differently. The national struggle against the oppression of the Great Russian bureaucracy was derailed by a section of the Polish bureaucrats onto national Stalinist lines. Not understanding this, the leaders of the “Fourth” saw in Gomulka the representative of “democratic communism”. They did not see that he represented that wing of the Polish bureaucracy which wanted to establish itself as “master in its own house” and relatively independent of the Russian bureaucracy. That there was no fundamental difference between them and the reformist wing of the Russian bureaucracy was not clear to them. No more than Kruschev did they really wish to renew the basis of the revolution, or turn towards Russia of 1917. What was more to the point, that they were opposed to the attempt to install socialist democracy in Hungary. Therefore the potential political revolution in Poland was derailed on national Stalinist lines. Like his national Stalinist brothers in Russia, the Polish bureaucrat could only swing from repression to reform and back again while maintaining the Stalinist apparatus intact. The ISFI saw in Gomulka the beginning of a complete change in the situation in Poland, as they had illusions in the de-Stalinisation in the Soviet Union. At each stage in events, they have looked to some sort of Messiah to save them from isolation and lack of mass forces. Each time they have been doomed to disillusion and disappointment.
Not content with having burned their fingers with Maoism, the split between Russia and China, which caught them by surprise – nevertheless resulted in a refurbishing of the illusions in Maoism. They dusted out the “secret” idea that China was a healthy workers’ state with minor blemishes, a state requiring merely reform and not overthrow. Mao was to be the new saviour. They completely misinterpreted the meaning of the “cultural revolution” in China.(2)
Trotsky had already explained that proletarian Bonapartism sometimes rested on the workers and peasants in order to purge the worse excesses of the greedy and rapacious bureaucracy. In the introduction of the 5 year plans in Russia, for a period Stalin leaned on the workers and peasants, and even engendered enthusiasm among the workers for what they considered to be socialist construction. But this did not alter the character, methods and policy of Stalinism. This did not change the character of the state regime. Making a scapegoat of individuals, or even a section of the bureaucracy, far from changing anything fundamentally merely reinforced bureaucratic rule. Thus Maoism and the “cultural revolution” did not change anything fundamentally in China.
Mao, resting on the basis of workers and peasants stuck blows at sections of the bureaucracy which had accumulated privileges and a material position far in excess of what the weak productive forces in China could maintain. The differentiation between workers and peasants and bureaucratic layers had reached such an extent as to provoke enormous dissatisfaction among the workers and peasants. Thus if the workers and peasants were to be harnessed for the tasks of producing heavy industry, nuclear arms and a reinforcement of production in China, it was necessary, if only temporarily, to cut down on these privileges. But the “cultural revolution” was organised from the top, from the beginning to the end. To talk of new versions of the Paris Commune in Shanghai, Peking and the other cities of China, was to bespatter with mud the tradition of the Commune and the Russian revolution. The inevitable end of this experience, as with Gomulka in Poland, was the reinforcement of the power of the bureaucracy in China. On this road there was no way out for the Chinese or Polish masses. The constant search for some means whereby, as if by magic, the problems would be resolved, has always been a symptom of petit-bourgeois utopianism, which replaces Marxist analysis by hysterical hopes in this or that individual or tendency.
The capitulation to various brands of Stalinism or utopianism at each stage in the development of events did enormous harm to the creation of a viable movement. Thus in Italy, it was the “Trotskyists”, or to be more accurate the so-called leaders of the “Trotskyists”, who helped in the formation of a large Maoist movement of 100,000 members. Enthusiastically and uncritically republishing the works of Maoism and distributing them within the Communist Party, they created the basis for Maoism in Italy. The leaders of these tendencies made special trips to the Chinese embassy in Switzerland to get this “precious” material. The consequence of this uncritical acceptance of Maoism is that they won hardly a single member from the 100,000 but, on the contrary, have lost members to the Maoists! Thus the penalty for theoretical confusion, particularly for a weak tendency, is always paid in full. Even worse is the confusion and demoralisation which is sown among their own ranks. The task under these conditions was, while offering a friendly attitude to the CP rank and file, those tending to Maoism and those against it, at the same time offering sharp criticisms not only of the opportunist pro-Moscow wing but also to the ignorant and cynical position of the Maoists, beginning with the leaders in Peking.
Colonial revolution – Algeria
Discouraged by their lack of success (mainly due to objective circumstances, partly due to false policies) they put the responsibilities for this, as always in such conditions, on the shoulders of the working class. The workers had become corrupt and Americanised through prosperity, they said in effect. Their policies indicated that this is what they believed. They therefore looked for a new talisman which would renew and revive the fortunes of the International and the working class. This they found in the colonial revolution.
The recent documents of our tendency have explained the significance of the colonial revolution and the developments within it. It is sufficient here to say that the upheavals in the so-called Third World arise from the impasse of capitalism and imperialism to develop the productive forces in these areas to the maximum extent necessary and possible. But given the world conditions, the existence of strong Bonapartist workers’ states, and the balance of forces between imperialism and non-capitalist countries, the developments in these areas have taken a peculiar pattern. Under these conditions, it is more than ever necessary to maintain with implacable determination the ideas of Trotsky on the permanent revolution, to learn from the experience of China, Yugoslavia and Cuba and to maintain a separation from all the tendencies, bourgeois-nationalist, petty-bourgeois-nationalist, Stalinist and reformist.
In Algeria they tied themselves almost completely to the banner of the FLN, although their position was better than that of the Lambertists (OCI in France), and Healyites (WRP), who supported the MNA which, starting from a position somewhat to the left of the FLN, ended up as an agency of the French imperialists. To give critical support to the FLN was correct, but to subordinate completely the work of their section to the nationalist movement, could only mean that the weak forces under their control would be lost in the war of liberation. While maintaining full support for the just struggle for national independence from French imperialism, at the same time it was necessary for the Algerian Trotskyists to maintain the position of internationalism. Only thus could the struggle for national liberation be linked with the struggle of the working class in France, and the possibility of a socialist Algeria linked to a socialist France. The treachery of the social democrat and Stalinist organisations in France, which led to the Algerian revolution taking a nationalist orientation was no reason to abandon the worked out ideas of Marxism-Leninism on the question.
It should have been clear, that at best after the victory over the French, [which was] in itself an enormous step forward, it would be impossible to construct a workers’ democracy in a country like Algeria. The result would be either a bourgeois or a proletarian version of Bonapartism, with hardly any industry, with a population decimated by war, no strong indigenous working class, with half the population unemployed and without a revolutionary class party. All these factors, without the aid above all of the French and international working class, meant that there could be no real solution, apart from the removal of imperialism, for the Algerian people.
The illusions that they disseminated about workers’ control in the abandoned French agricultural estates showed a complete lack of theoretical grasp on this question. Workers’ control by its very nature, must proceed from the industrial workers and not from the half peasant, half agricultural workers’ associations which took control because the French managers had fled. At best these were primitive versions of glorified co-operatives and not examples of workers’ control and workers’ management. By their very nature they were temporary structures without any real future. Given that the socialist revolution did not extend to the advanced countries they were doomed as an interesting curiosity of social development, indicating the instinctive strivings of the agricultural semi-proletariat, as there had been many such movements at a time of mass awakening in many countries in the past.
The coup of Boumedienne in July 1965 came as a surprise to them, although one way or the other, a similar development of events was inevitable in Algeria. In all the colonial countries where the struggle for the expulsion of imperialist overlords has been successful, similar processes have taken place. Although political independence has been gained, economically they still remain dependent on the industrialised countries. This of course marks an enormous step forward in the development of the colonial peoples. Nevertheless, national independence with imperialist dominance of the world markets on the one side and the strength of the Stalinist Bonapartism on the other, has meant that new problems of formidable character are posed before these peoples. The native bourgeoisie are incapable of solving these problems. Thus in the former colonial territories of Africa, in semi-colonial areas of Latin America, and in most of the countries in Asia, military regimes of one sort or the other have taken power. The crisis of these regimes has forced a move either towards proletarian or capitalist Bonapartism.
While putting the emphasis on the colonial revolution as a solution to the problem of the Fourth International, at the same time blindly they have not understood the dialectic of this process. The whole development of the colonial revolution has taken a distorted form because of the lag of the revolution in the West (America and Japan are included in this). The weakness of the Marxist-Leninist forces due to the historical factors sketched previously played an enormous part in this process. It in turn meant that with the ripeness of the colonial world for social revolution, this has taken all forms of weird aberrations. It was the duty for the Marxist leadership to recognise the process and to give leadership to the young and weak forces of Marxism in the colonial world. Instead of this, the ISFI (in spite of the lessons drawn by Trotsky from the experience of the Communist Party with the Kuomintang in China, the rich experiences of Yugoslavia, China, Russia, and the countries of Africa) failing to draw the necessary conclusions, bowed down before the mighty colonial revolution. It is better to participate than to oppose. But to merge indistinguishably with the petit-bourgeois nationalists, to capitulate to middle class utopias, was to dissolve the vanguard in the nationalist miasma.
Latin America – Cuba
The complete lack of Marxist method in their approach is indicated by their attitude to the Cuban revolution. The Cuban revolution, the ISFI say, is an example of Marxist method. In reality, the army of Castro was gathered together on a bourgeois democratic programme and consisted in the main of agricultural workers, peasants and lumpen proletarian elements. Castro started off as a bourgeois democrat with the United States as his model society. The intervention of the working class took place when the struggle was in its final stage, when Castro was marching on Havana – the workers called a general strike in his assistance. The fall of Havana meant the collapse of the hated army and police of the Batista regime. Power was firmly in the hands of Castro’s guerrillas.
The development of the regime towards the destruction of capitalism and landlordism did not take place as a result of a thought out, conscious process. On the contrary, it was the mistakes of American imperialism which pushed Castro on the road of expropriation.
With 90 percent of the economy owned by American capitalists, the American ruling class imposed on Cuba a blockade at a time when Castro was carrying out only bourgeois-democratic reforms. The monopolies which controlled Cuba opposed the taxes which Castro wished to impose in order to get the money for his reforms. Although these taxes were lower than the taxes they paid on the mainland, they furiously objected and appealed to Washington for support.
As a reprisal to the blockade, the Cuban regime seized American assets in Cuba. This meant that nine tenths of agriculture and industry was in the hands of the state, so the Cuban regime then proceeded to nationalise the remaining tenth. They had the model of Yugoslavia, China and Russia, and established a regime in that image. At no stage was there workers’ democracy in Cuba. The Bonapartism of the regime is embodied in the rule of Castro and the meetings in the Square of the Revolution where the sole contribution of the masses is to say “Si” to Castro’s exhortations. Cuba has remained throughout, a one party state, without soviets and without workers’ control of industry or the state.
Consequently, more and more it has become bureaucratised. This was inevitable, given the isolation of the revolution and the way in which the revolution has developed. The workers’ militia has been disarmed and differentiation between the bureaucrats – especially the higher bureaucrats – and the working class is steadily developing. The development of a state apparatus above and independent of the masses proceeds apace. Behind the scenes, Castro is attempting to negotiate an agreement with American imperialism for recognition and aid: and an agreement is probably inevitable in the next period. This will end the “revolutionary appeals” which Castro directs to Latin America. Cuba, will more and more in the thoughts of its leaders be bounded by the narrow shores of the island in the relations with the nations and classes of the world.
As it is, the Stalinist bureaucracy in Russia gives aid of a million pounds a day, without which the regime could not survive. For a regime of workers’ democracy, the bureaucracy of the Soviet Union would not give one kopeck. It is only because the regime, in its basic outline, becomes more and more like that of all the other Bonapartist workers’ states, that the bureaucracy can permit itself the luxury of fraternal aid to Cuba.
Given a wrong theoretical starting point, one error can only be piled upon another, Thus, the USFI [United Secretariat of the Fourth International](3) is completely blind to the processes taking place on the island. They refuse to face up to the issue of the inevitable degeneration and decay of the regime on totalitarian lines, and persist in their reactionary dream of a Cuba, an agricultural and backward Cuba, moving towards socialism. Apparently, only minor reforms are needed for Cuba to be a model workers’ democracy! There is no question of a political revolution which would mean the control of industry and the state by the workers, but again of mythical reforms which would install a workers’ democracy. Control of industry and the state by the working classes can be gained by persuading Castro that this is necessary!
On the other hand they argue in the most obscure fashion that this already exists, in fact that Cuba is more democratic than the Russia of 1917-23. In reality, if Castro were to even attempt such actions, he would be removed by the bureaucracy. Apart from the fact that without any ideological background, Castro believes that the type of regime he is building is “socialism”. He could not play the role that he does without ideological blinkers. But the sectarians without the pressure of the interests of the bureaucracy, nevertheless succumb to this variant of Stalinism and voluntarily don the blinkers themselves.
To this day, as with the experience of the entire quarter century, this tendency has learned nothing and forgotten everything. In Latin America, they repeat the mistakes in Algeria and in a different form the estimation of China, Yugoslavia and Cuba. Now Bolivia has become the magical means by which the world situation can be transformed. They merge with the petit-bourgeois guerrillas in an attempt to repeat the experience of Cuba. Castro, the “unconscious Trotskyist”, the new messiah of Marxism, is the example that they wish to emulate. Not taking into account the change in circumstances, the different conditions, the awareness of the ruling class, and of imperialism, they support such adventures as those of Guevara, who attempted artificially to inject guerrilla war amongst the peasants.
The heroism of Guevara should not blind us to his theoretical bankruptcy. To endeavour to repeat in the countries of Latin America the policies of Castroism in Cuba, is to commit a crime against the international working class. The literature of Marxism is full of explanations as to the role of the different classes in society: that of the proletariat, the peasantry, petty bourgeois and bourgeoisie. To them, apparently, this is a closed book. Marxism has explained that in the colonial revolution it is the proletariat that has played the leading role. The proletariat is forced together co-operatively in the process of production. They are compelled to combine to protect themselves against the exploiters. It is because of this that the proletariat can be the only force to achieve the socialist revolution.
But even the proletariat is only material for exploitation until it becomes not a class in itself but for itself. This consciousness is developed with the experience of the class and in its struggle for better conditions. Even here the party and leadership of the working class is needed. The peasants, the petit-bourgeois intellectuals and the lumpen proletariat can play no independent role. Where petit-bourgeois intellectuals and ex-Marxists organise the struggle on the basis of a peasant war, the level of consciousness, because of the nature of the struggle, can only be of a low character. If, nevertheless in Yugoslavia and China, the peasantry, the petit-bourgeoisie, and the lumpen proletariat organised in the armies of national and social liberation, could push aside rotted semi-feudal regimes, it is only because of the historical process that we have already explained in many of our documents.
It is true that Lenin had visualised the possibility of tribal Africa passing straight to communism. But this could only be with the aid and assistance of socialism in the advanced countries. It could not be on the basis of their own resources. The material conditions for socialism do not exist in any of the colonial countries, it is only when taken on a world scale and with the decay of the world system of capitalism that the basis is laid for the socialist revolution in the backward areas of the world. These self styled “Marxists” turn the lessons of Marxism upside down. They adopt the policy of the narodniks and the social revolutionaries in Russia. Unconsciously they adapt their ideas as to the role of the different classes in society. For Bakunin the peasants and the lumpen proletariat were the most revolutionary class in Society. This conception arose from the whole method and theory of the anarchists. With this also went the idea of individual propaganda by the deed, i.e. of terror and of individual expropriations.
Guerrillaism and Marxism
It is in this whole milieu and with the even greater discrediting of the Communist Party and the reformists in Latin America, that the programme of guerrilla war in the countryside and even worse, of “urban guerrillas” has been developed. Young, weak forces of Trotskyism, disorientated by the zig-zags of the past 25 years, have been flung into this mess. In Latin America they should be teaching all the advanced elements among the intellectuals, students and above all, the working class, the fundamental and elementary ideas of Marxism. The movement for national and social liberation in Latin America, in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Guatemala and the other countries in Latin America can only come from a mass movement of the working class and peasants. Desperate duels and kidnappings, bank raids etc., will only result in the extermination of young brave and sincere forces without avail. It is not for these elements to fight in a combat alone with the forces of the ruling class, of the army and the secret police, without reference to the real struggle for the overthrow of the corrupt cliques of the oligarchy and of the police.
It might seem harder, and in a sense is harder, but only by organising the working class, above all, in the struggle for national and social liberation can a socialist revolution be achieved, which would develop on healthy lines. Because of the multiplicity of historical factors and the peculiar world relationship of class forces, theoretically it cannot be excluded that a peasant guerrilla war might be successful, but then the model would be not that of the proletariat as a leading force of the revolution, leading to the victory of 1917, but at best of China and Cuba.
A mass movement of the proletariat is entirely possible in these countries. The general strikes in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay in the recent period are proof of this. A revolutionary Marxist tendency must build with these perspectives, with the preparation of a mass insurrection as the climax of the movement in the cities. This could lead to the victory of the socialist revolution which under these conditions would rapidly spread to the whole of Latin America.
It is on the lessons of the Russian revolution that the cadres of the proletariat must be taught and developed, not to follow the examples of the Chinese, Cuban or Yugoslavian revolutions, but on the contrary that of Russia in 1917. The idea of Marx of the proletarian revolution in the cities, with the assistance of the peasant war in the rear; that must be the ideal for which they should work. The main task in these countries is to patiently explain the leading role of the proletariat in the struggle for workers’ power and socialism.
It is not urban guerrillaism, but the mass force of the working class, armed and organised, which must be counter-posed to the capitalist state. As against military police dictatorship, the battering ram of the organised working class must be counter-posed. Once convinced of the necessity, the proletariat will acquire the necessary arms. The army, which is pitted against them, composed in the main of peasants, would split in the face of the mass movement and come over to the side of the revolution. The peasant army could be won with the programme of the agrarian revolution and the national revolution against imperialism which is emblazoned on the banner of the proletariat.
To capitulate to all the pressures of despairing petit-bourgeois anarchism is to betray the mission of Marxism. The task of the Marxist is to polemicise, in however friendly a fashion against the idealists, however sincere, who are leading themselves and the revolution into a fatal cul-de-sac. Against the methods and policies of anarchism an implacable struggle must be waged. Far from doing this, these besmirchers of the tradition of Trotskyism have adopted bag and baggage, the ideas of the theoretical adversaries of Marxism and their degenerate descendants, instead of the clear class ideas, rooted in the centuries of experience of the class struggle and of the national liberation movement.
It is not in the tradition of Marxism to support a movement of peasant war separate and apart from the movement of the working class, which is decisive. The efforts and work of Marxists would be largely concentrated in the cities and among the proletariat. Always of course, under all conditions, the struggle of other oppressed classes must be supported by Marxists.
The argument for peasant guerrillas at least has a semblance of sense considering the experience of the last 30 years. But even in this event, the task of Marxists is not merely to overthrow the capitalist regime, but to prepare the way for the socialist future of mankind. The destruction of capitalism and landlordism in the colonial countries is an immense step forward which raises the level of all mankind. But precisely because of the helplessness of the peasantry as a class to rise to the future socialist tasks, it nevertheless can only succeed in raising new obstacles in its path.
The victory of the peasant war, given the relationship of forces in the world and the crisis of capitalism and imperialism in the underdeveloped countries can result in a form of deformed workers’ state. It cannot result in the conscious control by the workers and peasants of industry, agriculture and the state, because in the ex-colonial and semi-colonial countries, the material basis for socialism has not been created. Insofar as the possibility exists of such peculiar combinations, it is because of the world ripeness of productive forces for socialism. The necessary technique, productive capacity and resources are there on a world scale. This is what makes possible, not only a healthy dictatorship of the proletariat in the colonial areas, but also the perversions of China, Yugoslavia, and Cuba. But where the revolution was carried through in a distorted form or, in the case of the Russian revolution, in a healthy form but under conditions of backwardness and isolation, the retrogression of the dictatorship into Stalinist-Bonapartism means that the proletariat and the peasantry of these countries raise above them a privileged elite and a state machine independent of workers’ and peasants’ control. This means they would have to pay with a new political revolution before being able to begin the transition to socialism. In China, Yugoslavia, Cuba and Russia, the proletariat will have to pay with a political revolution before the beginning of the withering away of the state and coercion can take place. All these problems are linked with the problem of world revolution.
In Latin America, the bowing down before the alien theories and watering down of the basic ideas of permanent revolution, means an abandonment of the ideas of Marxism-Leninism. It means an abandonment of the entire Marxist tradition. Under conditions of great difficulty in Latin America, Asia and Africa, not to maintain the basic ideas of Marxism is to be lost in the swamp of petit-bourgeois nationalism, of anarchist utopianism, of Stalinist cynicism and lack of-belief in the power of the proletariat. Above all it is an abandonment of the perspective of world revolution on which our Marxist internationalism is based. The abandonment of internationalism for the petit-bourgeois deed is the abandonment of the programme of Trotskyism.
In Latin America, the proletariat, especially in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico, is powerful enough to play the leading role in the revolution. It is here that the forces of Marxism must be concentrated. Intellectuals and students breaking away from their middle class traditions, and understanding the impasse of capitalism and imperialism, must be educated in this spirit. It is only in a struggle against all other tendencies that Trotskyism can prepare the necessary cadres, especially among the advanced workers, to lead the revolution to success.
In the first place, a firm critique of the bureaucratic development in Cuba and of the flamboyant excesses of Castroism must become part and parcel of the ideological re-equipment of the revolutionaries in Latin America. While defending the achievements of the Cuban revolution and emphasising its positive sides, at the same time its negative features as far as the advanced workers and youth are concerned, must also be brought out. Only thus can the infantile leftism of Castroism in Latin America be combatted successfully.
Mass parties, entrism, methods of work
On the problem of entrism, the policies of the so-called leaders of the Fourth are no more based on principle than any other part of the ideological baggage. In Britain, they raised the question of entry in the immediate post-war period because they saw at that time, the conditions of slump and the existence of a strong and developing left wing within the Labour Party!As against Trotsky’s conception of winning over the advanced elements by standing for firm political principles, they adopted the policy of trying to win over the advanced elements without an intransigent political programme. They watered down their programme in order to find a means of adapting themselves to the left reformist leaders.
At no time did they maintain the clear programme of Marxism, but on the contrary, adopted the programme of adaptation to reformist individuals who represented no one but themselves. They adopted what they called a policy of “deep entrism”. Mixing up objective and subjective factors, and in no way taking account of the process of development of mass consciousness, they explained to their members that they would organise the mass left wing. If it was a question of organising a movement purely on the basis of tricks, manoeuvres and tactics, then the Stalinist perversion of Marxism would be correct.
Leaving aside the incorrect policies, even with correct strategy, politics and tactics, the development of mass consciousness is not an arbitrary one. It follows its own laws, which are dependent on the molecular process of developing consciousness on the basis of experience and of events. The attempt (partially successful) to paint themselves as left reformists (in adaptation to the milieu) did result in their becoming to a large extent “left reformists”. In the long term such policies are disastrous, and lay the seeds for the recoil in the direction of ultra-leftism – both arising from, on the one hand, the incapacity to stand on firm principles; on the other hand, to see the objective situation as it is, and to marry the subjective factor with the objective developments of events;
Events by themselves, of course, will not solve the problem of growth: and on the other hand, the Marxists will only grow stronger insofar as there is an understanding of the objective processes and an orientation of the organisation on the basis of the real movement of consciousness among the advanced workers. The left wing, as a mass tendency, will develop firstly on left reformist and centrist lines. The revolutionary forces can play a part in the development of the left wing, but with the mass movement, it is the muddled left reformists and centrists who will come to the top. Inevitably they will form the leadership in its early stages, and only the test of experience plus Marxist criticism will lead to their replacement by Marxist cadres.
To this day the “leaders” of the international have not understood the ABCs on this question. In Britain, they constantly proclaimed immediate world war every year. Echoing the opportunist propaganda of the Labour leaders in the general election of 1951, they declared that the victory of Churchill would mean world war! Thus, instead of raising the level of the workers they could reach, they merely succeeded in confusing them. Again in 1951, it was a question of socialism or fascism in Britain within twelve months. One would imagine from reading their material, and that of their then erstwhile disciples, the Socialist Labour League, that they had never read the material of Trotsky and other Marxist theoreticians as to the movement of class forces.
It is not a question at any particular moment of the ruling class deciding to go by car instead of by train; rather it is a question of the relationships in the middle class, working class, and the ruling class itself.
Not only in Britain, where they never assimilated the lessons from their experiences, but wherever they have operated the tactic, they have failed dismally in the objects they set themselves.
This was because of the long economic upswing of the major capitalist countries which led during the quarter century to a renewal of Social Democracy in such countries as Germany and Britain, and of Stalinism in such countries as France and Italy. Due to their theoretical impasse, and the objective situation itself, the ISFI evolved a theory of general entry into the social democratic and communist parties, whichever was stronger. This was the correct tactic under the conditions. But unfortunately, as in Britain, they operated an opportunist tactic. In the communist parties in France and Italy, they adapted themselves to Stalinism, without putting forward a firm revolutionary Leninist line. Even under difficult conditions it should have been possible to contrast the policies of the leadership with those of Marx and Lenin.
Entrism was imposed by the objective situation and the weakness of the revolutionary forces, but they operated it in a purely opportunist fashion. As a consequence in France and Italy, no great gains were made, and they left the communist parties with virtually the same numbers as they entered. As always they zig-zagged from an opportunist adaptation to the leadership to an ultra-left position, thus blocking a road to the rank and file. In the social democratic parties, they capitulated to left reformism; in Germany, Britain, Holland and Belgium. This could not give any results, so they in effect passed a resolution that these parties no longer existed as mass workers’ parties, and adopted completely ultra-left policies in relation to them. Unfortunately, the Communist Party in France and Italy and the Social Democracy in other countries still maintained the support of the overwhelming majority of the working class, and as a result, hardly noticed the displeasure of these ultra-lefts and hardly noticed that they had left.
Keynesianism instead of Marxism
In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War they were guilty on practically all questions of an infantile ultra-left attitude. They denied the possibility of an economic boom of post-war European and world capitalism, which was inevitable given the policies of Stalinism and reformism which laid the political premises for a revival of capitalism. They declared that the economy of the capitalist countries could not be reconstituted. We were told that we were faced with the post-war slump in which capitalism was incapable of finding a way out! They ridiculed our argument when we quoted Lenin to point out that if not overthrown, capitalism always finds a way out. When their claims were falsified by events, they then solemnly pontificated “Marxistically” that there was a “ceiling” on production, that ceiling being the highest level which capitalism had reached in the pre-war period. Alas for our self-styled Marxist economists the “ceiling” was soon burst open by the rise of the world economy.
They declared it was impossible for American imperialism to render aid to its rivals. How could America prop up her rivals, they laughed ironically; were the capitalist philanthropists to bolster up their competitors? In other words they had not the faintest conception of the relationships of forces between the classes and nations, of the relationship of forces between Russia and America. Their economic analysis at this period was on the level of Stalinists of the “third period” of capitalism in the 1930s.
New periods, new gods. In the following years, as a result of the empirical crushing of their crude “theories”, they now did a new somersault. Not that their analysis had been wrong, but obviously capitalism had changed. Secretly, they believed that the Marxist analysis of crisis was no longer relevant. Not daring to declare this openly, for fear of being denounced as revisionists, they accepted nevertheless the basic postulates of Keynesianism that slump could be avoided by state intervention and deficit financing. This can be demonstrated by reference to their main economic documents over a period of two decades. It is clearly stated in their 1965 World Congress document The Evolution of Capitalism in Western Europe and the Tasks of Revolutionary Marxists that “If this boom continues through 1965 and the first half of 1966, it is probable that no general recession will occur in Western Europe. If, on the contrary, a recession breaks out in the USA in 1965 or the beginning of 1966, it is probable that this would coincide with a general recession in Western Europe, and that for the first time since the Second World War, synchronising of the economic cycles of all the important capitalist countries would occur. Even in the latter case, however, it would only be a recession, and not a serious economic crisis like that of 1929 or 1938. The reason for this, amply considered in previous documents of the International is the possibility which imperialism has to ‘amortize’ crisis by increasing state expenses at the cost of continually lowering the purchasing power of money.” (Page 3, our emphasis)
This position today is universally repudiated by the serious bourgeois economists. The USFI did not explain the development of the economic upswing, but on the contrary, adapted themselves to the pressures of bourgeois “theoreticians”. (For a fuller explanation, see Will There Be a Slump?[source] and World Perspectives). They will change their position on this too, now that these ideas are completely discredited. They were caught completely by surprise by economic events, and consequently adapted themselves to all the currents of Social Democracy, Stalinism and even the bourgeois currents of thought in a completely eclectic mish-mash, which they passed off as Marxist theory.
The problems of war
In our documents in the post-World War Two period, we had explained that there was no question of an imminent inter-imperialist world war, or an immediate world war directed against the Soviet Union, because of the revolutionary wave following the Second World War. The bourgeoisie in Europe could only consolidate itself by the concession of democratic rights and as a consequence, allowing the existence and reinforcement of powerful mass organisations of the working class. Consequently, the political preconditions for an assault on the Soviet Union or on the Chinese revolution did not exist. At the same time, within a few years from the ending of the Second World War, due to the enforced de-mobilisation of Anglo-American troops by the pressure of the soldiers and of mass opinion at home, the relationship of forces, so far as conventional forces in Europe were concerned, had changed drastically in favour of the Soviet Union.
With 200 divisions mobilised, as against a little over a quarter of that in the hands of the western powers, if it came to a conventional war in Europe the Russians would sweep through far faster than Hitler’s forces swept through France, and occupy the whole of Western Europe. With a crushing superiority in tanks, planes and guns, the forces which the western forces could mobilise would be swept away in a matter of days in Germany, and a matter of weeks in France [by the Warsaw Bloc armies].
In Asia, China was the greatest military power on the mainland, and here too, given the power of revolutionary or semi-revolutionary war, by winning over the peasants, the Chinese forces could sweep through Asia as well. As a result, the world balance of forces had changed drastically to the disadvantage of imperialism. Having learned nothing in the school of Lenin and Trotsky, these worthy strategists could only go on repeating the cliche that “Capitalism means war”, which a 12-year old schoolboy having read the works of Lenin would have understood. But this formula does not tell how, and when, and under what conditions world war would break out. As a guide to strategy and tactics, this tells us nothing. Especially in the modern era, war is not only a question of the relationship between the powers, but above all a relationship between the classes. It is only with a bloody and decisive settlement with the workers that world war would be possible.
The defeats of the workers in Germany, Italy, France and Spain, and the destruction of their organisations prepared the way for World War Two. Since the Second World War, the power of the workers has been enormously enhanced and imperialists have correspondingly to be wary.
It is true that local wars against the colonial revolution and between minor powers have taken place every year since the Second World War. Similarly, after the First World War, there was a war every year till the final holocaust of 1939.
In addition to all the other factors, there is still the problem of nuclear and other terrifying means of destruction. The capitalists do not wage war for the sake of waging war, but in order to extend their power, income and profit. The idea of war is not to annihilate the enemy but to conquer him. To destroy the enemy and to be destroyed yourself is no gain. To destroy the working class, which nuclear war would mean, would be to destroy the goose that lays the golden eggs. Mutual destruction would mean also the destruction of the ruling class.
Consequently it is only totalitarian fascist regimes, completely desperate and unbalanced, which would take this road. And here again it is a question of the class struggle. The bourgeois will not lightly hand over their fate to new dictatorial maniacs like Mussolini and Hitler. In any event, before they could do so, it would require the bloody defeat of the working class.
Thus to work with a perspective of world war in reality meant not only a lack of understanding of all the multiple social and military forces involved, but was a programme of the profoundest pessimism. To imagine war would solve the problems of the socialist revolution, was to be as light minded as the Stalinists in Germany, who imagined the coming to power of the fascists in Germany would prepare the way for socialism. In reality the outbreak of world war would signify a decisive defeat for the working class. A nuclear holocaust would in more likelihood mean the mutual annihilation of countries and classes. At best, handfuls of survivors might succeed in creating some form of slave state and begin again the necessary development of the material productive forces, that with the working class, are the absolutely necessary pre-requisites of socialism. The Posadists have merely drawn to an extreme the ideas of Pablo, Hansen, Germain [Mandel], Healy and Co.
In any event, they were incapable of seeing the contradictions which still exist between the interests of the imperialists themselves. The Western European capitalist powers, including Britain, were not interested in the victory of an ideal capitalism or that of American imperialism, but of their own vested interests. A world war would at best mean the destruction of Western Europe, as Korea and Vietnam have been destroyed by American bombing. Therefore, these imperialist powers had no interest in a war they could not win, which would be fought over their territories, and which even in the most favourable case would only be for the benefit of American imperialism.
Conventional war, for the Americans would be a daunting prospect. Starting at Calais and working across the Continent to Shanghai, Calcutta and Vladivostock would be an impossible task. Nuclear war for the first time would mean war on American soil. It would mean destruction of their home base – of the cities and the industrial power of America. Thus the theme of “war-revolution” was not only reactionary but a fantasy as well. The position of this tendency showed a complete unawareness of the real social factors in relation to war, a problem which they have not understood to this day. At each crisis, at each conflict between the Soviet Union and American imperialism, they raised the howl of “imminent Armageddon”.
In reality, both the Vietnam war and the Korean war, as well as the other wars of the post war epoch, were localised and limited by the deliberate arrangement between imperialism and the Chinese and Russian bureaucracies. For the whole period, imperialism has been on the defensive against incursions of the colonial revolution and the strength militarily, industrially and strategically of the Soviet Union and the Soviet bureaucracy.
Ultra-leftism and studentism
Having gained little result with their version of the policies of entrism, they now swung over to an ultra-left course in the capitalist countries in the West. Not having drawn an honest lesson from the experience of entrism in the social democratic and communist parties, they now advanced to the policies of ultra-leftism in Germany, France and Italy. However, they managed to combine this with a measure of opportunism. The Wilson government of 1964 was the advent of a “left social democratic government”, one of their supporters wrote in Britain. His views were warmly defended by their supporters in Britain and not repudiated by them. Events were soon to disillusion them in this respect. At the same time, they succeeded in finding a fundamental difference between a Wilson government in Britain and Willy Brandt’s government in West Germany.
Eclecticism could not go further. Differences between individuals are not important, even if there were any important differences between Brandt and Wilson. In Britain, conducting an opportunist policy in the Labour Party, on the part of their protagonists, was only a step to barren adventures on the left.
In Germany, they refused to work with the mass social democratic youth, turning their attention instead to the student movement. This was a tactical question, mistaken but nevertheless tactical. A certain amount of attention should have been paid to the students, but with the main purpose of educating them to understand the need to turn towards the labour movement. The working class in Germany, like their brothers in Britain has to go through the experience of a social democratic government in order to understand that reformism cannot solve their problems. The German working class, which has been thrown backwards by the experience of fascism, and the policies of reformism and Stalinism, can only be educated with revolutionary ideas through testing their leaders by the experience of reformist governments.
Again, [potentially] valuable elements among the students were mis-educated [by the USFI] pandering to their prejudices, instead of undertaking the necessary work of Marxist education. This in turn means that at a later stage they will become discouraged and drop out. The tendency being to blame the working class for what are in effect their own shortcomings. In this, as in all things, this tendency managed to get the worst results from the experience. In Germany a main task should have been to get closer to the social democratic workers, especially the youth. A task which they are incapable of carrying out because of their failure in the past.
Not only in Germany, but in France, Italy, America and throughout the world, this tendency has indulged in what could be called studentism. The progressive aspect of the student break from bourgeois ideology, which has become a world phenomenon, was of course to be recognised and utilised for the purpose of bringing the best of the students to the ideas of Marxism. Above all it should have been explained to the students that this phenomenon was a symptom of the social crisis of capitalism. It is a symptom of the move towards the left which in general is assuming a world scope. In colonial countries, in advanced capitalist countries, and in the Bonapartist workers’ states, the same phenomenon can be observed.
It is the barometer of gathering social crisis, but unless it gains roots within the trade union and working class movements, it is doomed to be sterile and ineffective. Unless the students can gain the discipline of Marxist ideas and Marxist methods, the movement will become sterile, and degenerate into various forms of utopianism and anarchism. Students can form a valuable leaven for the dissemination of revolutionary ideas, but only on the basis of Marxist ideas, and an understanding of the limitations of students and their role in society.
The [May 1968] events in France provide a new, and perhaps decisive test, of all tendencies in the revolutionary movement. The acid test for revolutionaries is revolution. In this crucible, the gold of revolutionary ideas will soon be separated from the baser elements and alloys. Having denied the possibility of revolution in the West, for a whole historical period, they were naturally caught by surprise by events in France. Having started from the standpoint of profound pessimism as to the potential of the working class in the countries of the West, they passed to the most irresponsible ultra-leftism. The complete failure to understand that for a further historical period the communist parties will have a decisive role dooms them to complete sectarianism. To imagine that all the processes of the revolution, beginning to unfold in France would receive their denouncement within a matter of weeks or days, was not to understand the ABCs of revolution. The weakness of the revolutionary forces as a factor in the situation, they had not understood; nor the need to get close to the masses of the Communist Party. Instead, the need to ingratiate themselves with the wild and woolly ideas of the student left, led them to make a whole series of ultra-left gestures and moves. The boycott of the elections and the boycott of the student elections which followed, was sheer irresponsibility which could only play into the hands of the Communist Party leadership, which had the overwhelming majority of the working class still supporting it.
The fact that the Communist Party would recoup its losses as an alternative to the Gaullist party, they did not take into consideration. They have not prepared to this day their supporters for a new and inevitable period of popular frontism, to which the bourgeoisie will resort as a means of breaking a new offensive on the part of the working class. However, our tendency has analysed in full the development of the revolution in France, which is only in its early beginnings, so there is no need to repeat the ideas here. It only need be added that all the tendencies of the revolutionary left in France are on the decline at the moment, because of their failure to analyse and understand the ebb and flow of change in the revolution; that periods of calm, even of reaction, will prepare the way for the revolutionary mobilisation of the masses and renewed offensive on the part of the revolution.
Events indicate that not only in France, but in other countries where the Communist Party is the main party of the working class, only a mass split within the ranks of the Communist Party can prepare the way for a development of a mass revolutionary alternative party. In the countries where Social Democracy is the dominant force, similar considerations apply. The historical experience of the last five to seven decades indicates the correctness of this analysis.
The issues at their 1965 World Congress, at which the British section was expelled, have been sufficiently documented in material of our tendency and the document on our expulsion has shown their incapacity to tolerate a genuine and honest Marxist tendency within their ranks. The refusal to discuss, or to tolerate a Marxist wing within their forces, in an indication of the real processes within this organisation, and its organic tendency towards petit bourgeois sectarianism, utopianism and opportunism.
The history of the Ceylonese organisation provides an instructive lesson in what happens when the lessons of each period are not drawn by a revolutionary tendency. It was the only mass organisation of the Fourth International and the mass party of the working class in Ceylon. But precisely because of that it was prey to all tendencies of degeneration, to the pressures of hostile class forces to which mass organisations are subject. The incorrect policies over 25 years of the so-called international leadership meant that as far as Ceylon was concerned, they had no control over the MPs or the leadership. Being small groupings over the greater part of the world, they could only possess a political rather than an organisational authority. Being bankrupt at these, their feeble attempt at organisational gestures could only be treated with contempt.
It precipitated support for an immediate split when the Lanka Sama Samaja Party took an opportunist position in relation to a coalition government [in 1964], which would only isolate the revolutionary elements and render them impotent and ultra-left. The consequence has been reinforcement of the position of the LSSP and decline and splits in the section that split away. The immediate task of any [Marxist opposition] grouping inside or outside the LSSP should have been to face towards the mass organisation of the workers, in this case the LSSP itself. However, political authority can only be gained over a period of years and decades by demonstrating the correctness of the ideas of a revolutionary leadership, of its method, of its analysis. But of course, this is something that is conspicuously lacking. They tried to replace this real authority, a genuine authority, by means of administrative measures, which merely resulted in a series of humiliating and debilitating splits.
The need for Marxist theory
At their 1965 USFI Congress they put forward a “new” theory, that of capitalism and a “strong” state. This was an extension of their  theory of Bonapartist states being on the order of the day in Western Europe – that capitalism could no longer allow the existence of democratic rights, and that therefore only dictatorial regimes could be established in Western Europe. They revived this theory, which was never officially repudiated in the past, with a new version of the “strong” state. In France, Germany, Britain, everywhere, the bourgeoisie were going to replace democracy with a Bonapartist regime.
This analysis did not take into account the strength and power of working class organisations, the changed relationship of forces between the classes, the vacillation of the petty bourgeoisie, and under these conditions, far from the bourgeoisie being able to impose their will on society, society had a tendency to swing to the left. The attempt to impose prices and incomes policies has tended to break down in the main capitalist countries. Far from the state assuming dictatorial powers, apart from Greece (for special reasons), the tendency has been in the other direction.
In some countries there has been a tendency towards mass radicalisation, but nowhere has the bourgeoisie found it possible to impose their rule by means of installing a military police state. The movement of the students towards radicalisation, on which they place such great hopes, is a movement in the opposite direction. The only recent “strong” state in Europe, that of de Gaulle, was blown away by the first real movement of the mass of the working class. In any event, the Bonapartism of de Gaulle was the most democratic form of Bonapartism that has ever existed. Not accidentally. Its weakness was an expression of the enormous power latent in the working class.
The very development of industry has in its turn meant an enormous reinforcement of the power of the working class. Before there can be a move towards decisive reaction, there will have to be a bloody settlement with the working class. But this in its turn would mean posing the fate of the bourgeoisie as a stake in the struggle. Consequently it will be with extreme reluctance that the bourgeoisie will take this road. Nowhere are there strong fascist organisations, as existed in the pre-war period, especially in the 1930s. After the experience with the fascist maniacs, it is only with extreme reluctance that the bourgeoisie would put themselves in the power of fascism.
On the other hand, a “strong” state in its Bonapartist form is not capable of maintaining itself for any length of time without a mass basis. Hence, on the order of the day are perhaps reactionary methods and laws on the part of the bourgeois state, but not a military police dictatorship. Throughout the bourgeois world, in the twilight of capitalism, it is not “strong” states but extremely weak and paralysed states that the working class and the revolutionary movement has to face.
The whole tactics of the so-called “extra-Parliamentary opposition” in Germany, France, Italy and Britain, are manifestations of verbal opposition. They are indications of middle class and anarchist ideas, rather than those of Marxism. The task for students and radicals generally is first to educate themselves with the sober ideas of Marxism, instead of the rantings of revolutionary romanticism, and then get closer to the masses. The capitulation of the USFI to this verbal radicalisation is an expression of a complete lack of understanding of the dialectic of the class struggle and the methods of class awakening. The task is at one and the same time to maintain theoretical intransigence with flexibility of tactics in order to get closer to the working class. The whole history of this tendency is an inglorious one.
We are now thrown back to a position near to our starting point, of small groupings, struggling against the stream of opportunist tendencies. Historically, the Marxist movement has been thrown far back by isolation from the mass movement.
In one respect we are fortunate, historically. If instead of tiny sects they had organisations of 10,000 to 50,000 members in France, America and other countries, enormous damage would have been done in the mass movement, by the ultra-left course of this grouping and the various groupings around it. It would have been like the policies of the Comintern in its ultra-left phase in the 1930s, when the policies, the light minded attitudes towards the mass organisations, resulted in isolation from the working class. The victory of Hitler in Germany was prepared in this way. In its own way, the antics of all the tendencies in France has enormously facilitated the regaining of prestige and power over the working class of the Communist Party leadership and reformists. In other countries, insofar as they have had any effect at all, they have helped successfully to isolate the students from the labour movement.
The theoretical crudities and the fundamental political errors of the clique claiming to represent the International can be traced from the period after the war. Having learned little in the school of Trotsky, they were incapable of re-orientating the movement to great events. Had they conducted an honest self criticism of their errors at this time, and made a thorough analysis of their mistakes and the reasons for these mistakes, they could have built the movement on firm foundations. But having burned their fingers by repeating what they thought were the recipes of Trotsky, these cooks decided that the “Cookbook of the Revolution” was no good, and proceeded to unceremoniously dump the teachings of the great masters through the window. They abandoned the theoretical ideas of Marxism and proceeded purely on the basis of empiricism and impressionism.
Our task, nationally and internationally, remains basically the same as it has been for the last two generations. That task is the defence and extension of the basic revolutionary ideas of Marxism. The reason for the degeneration of the sects, the most important of whom are those gathered round the banner of the USFI, lies in the historical development of our times. The pressure of capitalism, reformism and Stalinism, in a period of capitalist upswing in the West, the temporary consolidation of Stalinism in the East, and the perversions of the colonial revolution, as explained in the preceding material, were causes of the degeneration of all the sects claiming to be the Fourth International.
But an explanation is not an excuse. Necessity has two sides. In preceding history, the degeneration of the Second and Third Internationals, due to objective as well as subjective factors, did not justify the leaders who had abandoned Marxism. It did not justify either reformism or Stalinism. Similarly, there is no justification for the crimes of sectarianism and opportunism which have been committed by the leaders of the so-called Fourth International for more than an entire generation. It is one thing to make an episodic mistake. Mistakes will be made by even the most revolutionary and far-sighted tendencies. But continuous repetition, a continual zig-zagging between opportunism and ultra-leftism, ceases to be a mistake and becomes a tendency. It is this tendency whose history we have analysed. A tendency which like the Stalinists and reformists before them, refuses to analyse its mistakes in order to correct them.
A tendency of this kind can never rise to the tasks posed by history. They will continue interminably with splits and manoeuvres, with dictates that have no relation to any genuine authority gathered on the basis of political experience. A tendency of this character can never carry on the traditions of Bolshevism, the traditions of Trotskyism. They are the manure of history, which, not being ploughed into the fields cannot bear revolutionary fruit, but left in the open has begun to smell somewhat. Many of the younger elements may succeed in breaking away from this poisonous milieu and assist in building the new International. For a mass revolutionary tendency, it is necessary to have not just the tradition, method and policies of Marxism. It is necessary also to have the current of history with the tendency. Thus it was with the Bolsheviks.
However for a small revolutionary tendency it is essential, an absolute necessity to maintain the basic ideas, while adding to them consciously and openly on the basis of experience. Without this, it is the death of a tendency as a revolutionary force. If such a tendency cannot learn from the experience of events, it is doomed to remain a sect and to provoke further defeats and disintegration of the movement. From the point of view of history, there is absolutely no excuse for the continual succession of errors of the USFI. Mistakes are grievous, failure to rectify mistakes, fatal.
Lenin and Trotsky meticulously corrected even to the minutest detail any theoretical errors in order to maintain the sharpness of theory as the cutting edge of Bolshevism. A tendency like that of the USFI can never rise to the tasks posed by history. The Stalinists and the reformists have mass organisations. The Marxists have revolutionary theory which historically they will transmute from a small quality into a revolutionary quantity. With neither mass organisation nor Marxist theory, there can be no future. This tendency is doomed historically. At each stage in the development of events the British Marxists have acted generally in a correct manner. As far as the basic problems are concerned, the documents can be published and can stand as a contribution to Marxism over a period of 25 years.
The failure of the forces of Trotskyism to build a viable International can be understood on the basis of the experience of the epoch. At one and the same time, revolutionary and counter-revolutionary, with the proletariat faced with formidable obstacles in the shape of social democratic and Stalinist organisations, it was inevitable that great difficulties should lie in the path of creating mass revolutionary tendencies.
The new period opened out by the French revolution begins an entirely new stage in the development of the proletariat. Mass initiative and mass action will put to the test the mighty organisations of Stalinism and Social Democracy. In these events, the mass organisations will extrude a revolutionary or quasi-revolutionary wing, but they are doomed to a whole series of catastrophic splits both to the left and to the right. During the course of this experience, the workers will put to the test, not only the reformist and Stalinist mass organisations, but the variety of sectarian and centrist tendencies – the Maoists, Castroists, Guevarists and other tendencies which have proliferated because there has not been a mass pole of revolutionary attraction. Events will politically expose the inadequacies and ineffectualness of all the varieties of reformism and Stalinism. The fresh forces of the new generation, not alone among the students, but far more important, among the working class, will seek the revolutionary road.
On the basis of events, mass revolutionary tendencies in the countries of the West, where Stalinism is the main current, will be formed in the communist parties, and where the reformists are a mass tendency, within the social democratic parties. The period which Trotsky confidently foresaw in the immediate pre-war period, now opens out in different historical circumstances. The ideas of Marxism, which we have maintained for an entire generation, will begin to have a class audience.
Nationally and internationally, the ideas of our tendency can gain a mass support over the epoch. Our struggle to build the movement will have its effect internationally. Our task consists in building a viable tendency in Britain, which will have the resources and the authority to get a hearing among advanced elements throughout the world. It is impossible to detail the ways in which this will be done, but with initiative and elan, we can succeed in spreading the influence of our tendency.
In the dark days during the First World War, the Marxists were reduced to tiny handfuls but on the basis of events, they carried through a victorious revolution in Russia in 1917 and prepared the way for the building of mass revolutionary parties. Historically, the Bolsheviks maintained a rigidity of revolutionary ideas because of the influence of Lenin and Trotsky. With adverse historical currents, the ideas were swept away. In a new historical epoch the ideas will once again, reinforced by the rich experience of the last quarter century, gain a mass audience. The other tendencies claiming to be Trotskyist, will be put to the test. They will be reduced to ashes in the fire of events.
Capitalism on the one side in the developed and in the underdeveloped world, will find itself in an impasse. On the other hand, Stalinism more and more reveals its incompatibility in the non-capitalist countries with nationalisation and a planned economy. This impasse of the bourgeoisie and the Stalinist bureaucracy, is reflected in the barrenness of their theoreticians economically and politically. The collapse of the Stalinists into warring national groupings in the countries where they have power and the countries where they are in opposition, indicates the bankruptcy of Stalinism.
Reformism on the other hand has demonstrated its baleful effects in the countries where the reformists are in the government, as well as in the countries where they are in opposition. The domination of the labour movement by these tendencies has extended its corrupting influences also to the small and weak tendencies of Trotskyism. For them there is no way forward, but on the basis of the great revolutionary ascent which lies ahead, youth will be attracted to the ideas of Trotskyism. The Bolsheviks in 1917, although no revolutionary International existed, carried out their revolution in the method, ideas and with the name of the International. They were internationalists through and through. The greatest international task of the revolutionary Marxists in Britain is the building of a powerful revolutionary tendency imbued with the principles and traditions of internationalism, which can assist in the building of a viable tendency internationally and prepare the way for the creation of the Fourth International.
How will the International be organised?
Lenin and Trotsky had the occasion to point out many times that if a mistake were not corrected, it could become a tendency. The analysis of this document shows that for 25 years, the USFI has staggered from one mistake to another. From one wrong policy to its opposite, and then a higher level of mistakes back again. This is the mark of a thoroughly petit bourgeois tendency. As far as this grouping is concerned, at least its top leadership, this has now become organic. The whole outlook has been moulded by the mistakes of a quarter century, and become part and parcel of their methods of thinking, of their habits of work, and their whole outlook. Even to dignify this tendency by calling it centrist would be a compliment.
In the case of the Second International, which is a mass movement, its degeneration can be explained by the pressures of society, of the history of the latter part of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. But it is also explained by the separation of the leadership by the rank and file and their remoteness from the mass base.
The Third International began from the most revolutionary mass tendency that the world has ever seen, an international and revolutionary mass tendency. In a revolutionary epoch (at one and the same time, revolutionary and counter-revolutionary) the degeneration of the International, leaving aside the question of the Russian party, has been explained in many documents as the result of the pressure of the bureaucracy and its raising itself above the masses. Internationally, the degeneration of the Third International began with the refusal to learn from and analyse the lessons of events, and to correct the mistakes of the Stalinist leadership. This, among other factors, was not the least important.
Trotskyism, the most revolutionary and honest tendency in history, began its work above all with an analysis of this process. Starting without the broad masses, it could only succeed as a revolutionary tendency by a serious attitude to theory and events. This was the lesson from the works of Lenin, and perhaps even more so in the works and activity of Trotsky during the period of theoretical decline and degeneration. Having abandoned this precious heritage and without the corrective of mass revolutionary pressure, the USFI and other tendencies like it, became irresponsible. Questions of theory were not seriously considered, but became part of the arbitrary humours and whims of the leading clique. Twenty-five years of this process has indicated that they are organically incapable of transformation organisationally and politically in the direction of Marxism.
It would be a distasteful task to document the organisational manoeuvrings of this Zinovievist tendency. It is sufficient here to mention the document we published on our expulsion from the 1965 USFI congress. Lenin contemptuously called the Second International a Post Office and not an International. This clique cannot even be dignified as a Post Office. Organisationally as well as politically, they are completely bankrupt.
How then will the International be built? We have pointed out many times that in Britain the movement will only be built on the basis of events. This applies with just as much force to the question of the International.
In many documents we explained how events will bring crisis to the mass social democratic parties and to the mass Stalinist parties. Events West and East will play their part. But above all, it is the development in the key industrial countries in the world that will be decisive. A new period is opening up in the history of capitalism in the West, and Stalinism in the East. The May events of 1968 in France and the present turmoil in Italy are only a beginning. The outline of the crisis in the relationship between the classes, not only in Europe but in Japan and America as well as other important centres, is already showing itself at the present time.
Under the hammer blows of events, the development of mass centrist groupings in the Stalinist and social democratic parties is inevitable. Mass splits from these tendencies will be on the order of the day in the coming decade or two. Events in Russia can transform the situation internationally. Similarly, for America and other industrial countries of the West. With the developments of mass centrist groupings with large numbers of workers groping for a revolutionary lead, this will be a favourable milieu or a hot house for the reception of Marxist ideas. We must try and reach these elements internationally with the ideas and methods of Trotsky.
It is from these mass forces developing within these organisations that the mass forces of the International will come. Great events will make our ideas and policies more acceptable among these strata, especially the workers. To reach these elements will be an important part of our work in the future.
Events will also make the younger and more intelligent elements within the other tendencies claiming to be Trotskyist, amenable to our ideas. Many of the younger elements will be won over under these conditions.
It will be the Spanish revolution all over again, but with an organic crisis of Stalinism and reformism which events will bring to the surface. The working class is far stronger, international reaction far weaker, [thus] preparing the basis for an offensive by the workers. Then with a period of defeats and reaction of one form or another, as well as important gains and successes, there will be an even greater surge forward by the workers, the way will be prepared for the creation of mass centrist tendencies.
The Russian revolution developed over nine months; this above all because of the strength of Bolshevism. The Spanish revolution developed over six to seven years. A lengthy period of revolution, because of the weakness of the revolutionary forces, is most likely as the example of France has already shown. It is in this lengthy process that the possibility is given to intervene. The revolutionary elements in the mass centrist parties that would develop, would be looking for consistent revolutionary ideas, policies and methods of work.
It is this which makes it vital and emphasises our need to continue and expand our international work. We must develop and broaden our work among contacts, groups and even individuals that we can reach in other countries. Our criticisms and the contrast with the policy of other tendencies should give us the possibility of winning a base. Thus, this remains an important part of the activity of our tendency, nationally and internationally.
However, an important part of the international work consists of building a viable tendency in Britain. That is why the question of headquarters, press and professionals is of such vital importance, not only in our national but our international work. The main argument of the USFI and others has never been a criticism of our theoretical ideas, but a denigration of our work. “Who are they?”, “What have they built?”, “They are incapable of building a tendency”; such was the main line of the poison which they injected among young comrades, especially behind the scenes. A building of a viable and powerful tendency in Britain would demonstrate in practice not only the correctness of our ideas, but also our methods of work and of organisation. Their slanders would be refuted in practice. The collapse of the Revolutionary Communist Party dealt a blow to the movement nationally and internationally which we are now in the process of repairing.
Bolshevism grew internationally through the success of the October revolution. This in its turn was dependent on the organisation of the Russian party as well as the theoretical ideas and policies of Lenin and Trotsky. We are faced here with a similar process, taking things in proportion of course, in that we have yet to stand up to the test of history and to build a mass tendency.
Far more than in any other period of history, the ground is being prepared for revolutionary explosions in the industrially developed countries, and not the least in Britain. On the basis of revolutionary developments, ideas will be seized eagerly by workers groping towards Marxism. Intervention under these conditions in revolutionary situations in other countries can be very fruitful.
In one way, we are more prepared than in the past for such interventions, because we already have comrades who already speak the main European languages. Their services will undoubtedly be required more and more in the coming epoch. But it is also a question of money and resources. We have many criticisms of the American SWP, but on the basis of the revolutionary tide which is now in its early beginnings in the United States, and although principally among the students at the moment it has been reported that the SWP has sixty professionals in New York alone!
For the minimum tasks nationally and internationally, we need at least a dozen professionals. We can say that with our modest successes, the real history of our tendency is just beginning; but with our own press, our own premises and more professionals, we can really turn in a far more serious way to the development of our work on an international scale. With resources of this character, we can begin the publication of a detailed analysis of the policies of the other tendencies for the special purpose of influencing people abroad. We can commence the publication, not only in English, but in foreign languages, of this material and our own analysis and theoretical documents. We can conduct serious work. Thus the task of drawing together the elements that will form a new international goes hand in hand with the building of our own organisation.
Notes by Ted Grant:
(1) As late as 1947, in a conversation with Stuart [Sam Gordon] then one of the leaders of the ISFI, while endeavouring to explain the changed conditions one of the leaders of the British Section was stopped by him saying “Ah, yes, it’s only 1947 now, there is still a year to go of Trotsky’s prognosis.” The whole events of the war and the post-war period had been lost on him and his fellow thinkers of the ISFI.
In 1938, there had been the foundation of the Workers’ International League. This had been as a consequence of the expulsion of a group of comrades from the Militant Group on an organisational issue. Later that year the WIL had refused to participate in an unprincipled fusion between different groupings, some entrist, some non-entrist, with the deliberately ambiguous formula of unity on both tactics, which was calculated as the WIL stated, to produce a paralysis of the new organisation and the certainty of a split. It was a formula to unite three organisations into ten. This was subsequently confirmed by events. JP Cannon, who was instrumental in getting this “unity”, and the leaders of the American SWP, pursued a vendetta against those who led the WIL.
At the  founding conference of the Revolutionary Communist Party, their supporters solemnly declared that with the fusion of all Trotskyist elements there were now no political differences. Consequently, they declared that their “Internationalist” faction was dissolved. This was greeted with hoots of laughter at the conference which gained indignant protest from the representative of the International. This did not prevent the American and International representative, Phelan [Sherry Mangan] that same evening from having a secret meeting with Healy and other leaders of his clique, at his hotel, to decide how best to get rid of the RCP’s anti-internationalist leadership which must be destroyed!
The RCP, of which the WIL was the principal component made rapid gains, due to, among other reasons, the support of the war-time coalition by the Labour, Stalinist and trade union leaders. It pursued flexible tactics, and with correct methods and policies, succeeded in gaining a modest but important support in all the principal industrial areas of the country. At its height, it was an important component part of the working class. The reason for its collapse is not the subject of this document, but will be dealt with when the history of British Trotskyism is produced.
Here it should be pointed out that the WIL, although it was not present at the 1938 founding conference of the Fourth International had been invited to send delegates but had been unable to do so for financial reasons. Nevertheless, it sent a statement which was falsified by Cannon in order to get the rejection of sympathetic affiliation. Despite the fact that it was outside the International formally at the time, Trotsky did not attack it but on the contrary sent a letter of congratulations for the introduction to his pamphlet on the Lessons of Spain and the acquiring of a small printing press.
On organisational matters, the International has been bedevilled with a heritage of Zinovievism and clique factional politics, of horse deals, of “keyman” politics, of which Cannon among others, despite his gifts as a workers’ leader, was guilty. Always methods of this sort arise because of theoretical backwardness and in the last analysis, of incorrect policies. The task of a leadership, nationally and internationally, is to convince by discussion and experience. It is useless to wave the big stick of organisation.
In the days of Lenin and Trotsky, even with the immeasurable political authority that they had internationally, they always endeavoured to discuss theoretical questions, and to win people over by convincing them rather by imposing their policies. Since the death of Trotsky who always emphasised the need for a clean banner, the methods of Zinovievism have crept into the politics of the tendencies claiming to represent the Fourth International. However this document is not intended to deal with organisational questions so much as with the fundamental political divergences from the ideas of Marxism that have taken place in the last three decades.
The RCP and its forerunner the WIL provided object lessons on how organisational questions should be tackled. The RCP participated in the labour movement with flexible tactics. Under the given conditions, conducting its work under its own flag, but nevertheless facing always to the mass movement. The full history of the RCP and its achievements will have to be written. The leadership of the American SWP and of the International pursued the clique politics even to the extent of using the pressure of the resource that they possess, to ensure the acceptance of their ideas. Thus in a small way, continuing the policies of Zinovievism in this respect too.
(2) At the 1965 [USFI] World Congress, the delegation from our organisation challenged the following formulation in their document The Development of the Sino-Soviet Dispute and the Situation in the International Communist Movement: “In China the struggle against the bureaucracy and its regime, and for proletarian democracy, cannot be won except through an anti-bureaucratic struggle on a scale massive enough to bring about a qualitative change in the political form of government.” (page 8)
We demanded to know whether or not this meant that the International held the position that the political revolution was necessary in China before there could be the beginning of the movement towards socialism. Livio [Maitan], for the “majority”, answered that the old International Secretariat (himself, Frank, Mandel and Pablo) believed that the political revolution was not necessary while the American SWP held that it was. The formulation of the document was therefore a “compromise”.
(3) The American SWP, along with Healy and Lambert, split from the ISFI in 1953. In 1963 the American SWP rejoined the ISFI, which was renamed the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI). Pablo himself split from the USFI in 1964.