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Stalinism and Bolshevism


Leon Trotsky


Reactionary epochs like ours not only disintegrate and weaken the working class and isolate its vanguard but also lower the general ideological level of the movement and throw political thinking back to stages long since passed through. In these conditions the task of the vanguard is, above all, not to let itself be carried along by the backward flow: it must swim against the current. If an unfavourable relation of forces prevents it from holding political positions it has won, it must at least retain its ideological positions, because in them is expressed the dearly paid experience of the past. Fools will consider this policy “sectarian”. Actually it is the only means of preparing for a new tremendous surge forward with the coming historical tide.

The Reaction Against Marxism and Bolshevism

Great political defeats provoke a reconsideration of values, generally occurring in two directions. On the one hand the true vanguard, enriched by the experience of defeat, defends with tooth and nail the heritage of revolutionary thought and on this basis strives to educate new cadres for the mass struggle to come. On the other hand the routinists, centrists and dilettantes, frightened by defeat, do their best to destroy the authority of the revolutionary tradition and go backwards in their search for a “New World”.

One could indicate a great many examples of ideological reaction, most often taking the form of prostration. All the literature if the Second and Third Internationals, as well as of their satellites of the London Bureau, consists essentially of such examples. Not a suggestion of Marxist analysis. Not a single serious attempt to explain the causes of defeat, About the future, not one fresh word. Nothing but cliches, conformity, lies and above all solicitude for their own bureaucratic self-preservation. It is enough to smell 10 words from some Hilferding or Otto Bauer to know this rottenness. The theoreticians of the Comintern are not even worth mentioning. The famous Dimitrov is as ignorant and commonplace as a shopkeeper over a mug of beer. The minds of these people are too lazy to renounce Marxism: they prostitute it. But it is not they that interest us now. Let us turn to the “innovators”.

The former Austrian communist, Willi Schlamm, has devoted a small book to the Moscow trials, under the expressive title, The Dictatorship of the Lie. Schlamm is a gifted journalist, chiefly interested in current affairs. His criticism of the Moscow frame-up, and his exposure of the psychological mechanism of the “voluntary confessions”, are excellent. However, he does not confine himself to this: he wants to create a new theory of socialism that would insure us against defeats and frame-ups in the future. But since Schlamm is by no means a theoretician and is apparently not well acquainted with the history of the development of socialism, he returns entirely to pre-Marxist socialism, and notably to its German, that is to its most backward, sentimental and mawkish variety. Schlamm denounces dialectics and the class struggle, not to mention the dictatorship of the proletariat. The problem of transforming society is reduced for him to the realisation of certain “eternal” moral truths with which he would imbue mankind, even under capitalism. Willi Schlamm’s attempts to save socialism by the insertion of the moral gland is greeted with joy and pride in Kerensky’s review, Novaya Rossia (an old provincial Russian review now published in Paris); as the editors justifiably conclude, Schlamm has arrived at the principles of true Russian socialism, which a long time ago opposed the holy precepts of faith, hope and charity to the austerity and harshness of the class struggle. The “novel” doctrine of the Russian “Social Revolutionaries” represents, in its “theoretical” premises, only a return to the pre-March (1848!) Germany. However, it would be unfair to demand a more intimate knowledge of the history of ideas from Kerensky than from Schlamm. Far more important is the fact that Kerensky, who is in solidarity with Schlamm, was, while head of the government, the instigator of persecutions against the Bolsheviks as agents of the German general staff: organised, that is, the same frame-ups against which Schlamm now mobilises his moth-eaten metaphysical absolutes.

The psychological mechanism of the ideological reaction of Schlamm and his like, is not at all complicated. For a while these people took part in a political movement that swore by the class struggle and appeared, in word if not in thought, to dialectical materialism. In both Austria and Germany the affair ended in a catastrophe. Schlamm draws the wholesale conclusion: this is the result of dialectics and the class struggle! And since the choice of revelations is limited by historical experience and... by personal knowledge, our reformer in his search for the word falls on a bundle of old rags which he valiantly opposes not only to Bolshevism but to Marxism as well.

At first glance Schlamm’s brand of ideological reaction seems too primitive (from Marx ... to Kerensky!) to pause over. But actually it is very instructive: precisely in its primitiveness it represents the common denominator of all other forms of reaction, particularly of those expressed by wholesale denunciation of Bolshevism.

“Back to Marxism”?

Marxism found its highest historical expression in Bolshevism. Under the banner of Bolshevism the first victory of the proletariat was achieved and the first workers’ state established. No force can now erase these facts from history. But since the October Revolution has led to the present stage of the triumph of the bureaucracy, with its system of repression, plunder and falsification – the “dictatorship of the lie”, to use Schlamm’s happy expression – many formalistic and superficial minds jump to a summary conclusion: one cannot struggle against Stalinism without renouncing Bolshevism. Schlamm, as we already know, goes further: Bolshevism, which degenerated into Stalinism, itself grew out of Marxism; consequently one cannot fight Stalinism while remaining on the foundation of Marxism. There are others, less consistent but more numerous, who say on the contrary: “We must return Bolshevism to Marxism.” How? To what Marxism? Before Marxism became “bankrupt” in the form of Bolshevism it has already broken down in the form of social democracy, Does the slogan “Back to Marxism” then mean a leap over the periods of the Second and Third Internationals... to the First International? But it too broke down in its time. Thus in the last analysis it is a question of returning to the collected works of Marx and Engels. One can accomplish this historic leap without leaving one’s study and even without taking off one’s slippers. But how are we going to go from our classics (Marx died in 1883, Engels in 1895) to the tasks of a new epoch, omitting several decades of theoretical and political struggles, among them Bolshevism and the October revolution? None of those who propose to renounce Bolshevism as an historically bankrupt tendency has indicated any other course. So the question is reduced to the simple advice to study Capital. We can hardly object. But the Bolsheviks, too, studied Capital and not badly either. This did not however prevent the degeneration of the Soviet state and the staging of the Moscow trials. So what is to be done?

Is Bolshevism Responsible for Stalinism?

Is it true that Stalinism represents the legitimate product of Bolshevism, as all reactionaries maintain, as Stalin himself avows, as the Mensheviks, the anarchists, and certain left doctrinaires considering themselves Marxist believe? “We have always predicted this” they say, “Having started with the prohibition of other socialist parties, the repression of the anarchists, and the setting up of the Bolshevik dictatorship in the Soviets, the October Revolution could only end in the dictatorship of the bureaucracy. Stalin is the continuation and also the bankruptcy of Leninism.”

The flaw in this reasoning begins in the tacit identification of Bolshevism, October Revolution and Soviet Union. The historical process of the struggle of hostile forces is replaced by the evolution of Bolshevism in a vacuum. Bolshevism, however, is only a political tendency closely fused with the working class but not identical with it. And aside from the working class there exist in the Soviet Union a hundred million peasants, diverse nationalities, and a heritage of oppression, misery and ignorance. The state built up by the Bolsheviks reflects not only the thought and will of Bolshevism but also the cultural level of the country, the social composition of the population, the pressure of a barbaric past and no less barbaric world imperialism. To represent the process of degeneration of the Soviet state as the evolution of pure Bolshevism is to ignore social reality in the name of only one of its elements, isolated by pure logic. One has only to call this elementary mistake by its true name to do away with every trace of it.

Bolshevism, in any case, never identified itself either with the October Revolution or with the Soviet state that issued from it. Bolshevism considered itself as one of the factors of history, its “Conscious” factor – a very important but not decisive one. We never sinned on historical subjectivism. We saw the decisive factor – on the existing basis of productive forces – in the class struggle, not only on a national scale but on an international scale.

When the Bolsheviks made concessions to the peasant tendency, to private ownership, set up strict rules for membership of the party, purged the party of alien elements, prohibited other parties, introduced the NEP, granted enterprises as concessions, or concluded diplomatic agreements with imperialist governments, they were drawing partial conclusions from the basic fact that had been theoretically clear to them from the beginning; that the conquest of power, however important it may be in itself, by no means transforms the party into a sovereign ruler of the historical process. Having taken over the state, the party is able, certainly, to influence the development of society with a power inaccessible to it before; but in return it submits itself to a 10 times greater influence from all other elements in society. It can, by the direct attack by hostile forces, be thrown out of power. Given a more drawn out tempo of development, it can degenerate internally while holding on to power. It is precisely this dialectic of the historical process that is not understood by those sectarian logicians who try to find in the decay of the Stalinist bureaucracy a crushing argument against Bolshevism.

In essence these gentlemen say: the revolutionary party that contains in itself no guarantee against its own degeneration is bad. By such a criterion Bolshevism is naturally condemned: it has no talisman. But the criterion itself is wrong. Scientific thinking demands a concrete analysis: how and why did the party degenerate? No one but the Bolsheviks themselves have, up to the present time, given such an analysis,. To do this they had no need to break with Bolshevism. On the contrary, they found in its arsenal all they needed for the explanation of its fate. They drew this conclusion: certainly Stalinism “grew out ” of Bolshevism, not logically, however, but dialectically; not as a revolutionary affirmation but as a Thermidorian negation. It is by no means the same.

Bolshevism’s Basic Prognosis

The Bolsheviks, however, did not have to wait for the Moscow trials to explain the reasons for the disintegration of the governing party of the USSR. Long ago they foresaw and spoke of the theoretical possibility of this development. Let us remember the prognosis of the Bolsheviks, not only on the eve of the October Revolution but years before. The specific alignment of forces in the national and international field can enable the proletariat to seize power first in a backward country such as Russia. But the same alignment of forces proves beforehand that without a more or less rapid victory of the proletariat in the advanced countries the worker’s government in Russia will not survive. Left to itself the Soviet regime must either fall or degenerate. More exactly; it will first degenerate and then fall. I myself have written about this more than once, beginning in 1905. In my History of the Russian Revolution (cf. Appendix to the last volume: Socialism in One Country) are collected all the statements on the question made by the Bolshevik leaders from 1917 until 1923. They all amount to the following: without a revolution in the West, Bolshevism will be liquidated either by internal counter-revolution or by external intervention, or by a combination of both. Lenin stressed again and again that the bureaucratisation of the Soviet regime was not a technical question, but the potential beginning of the degeneration of the worker’s state.

At the eleventh party congress in March, 1922, Lenin spoke of the support offered to Soviet Russia at the time of the NEP by certain bourgeois politicians, particularly the liberal professor Ustrialov. “I am for the support of the Soviet power in Russia” said Ustrialov, although he was a Cadet, a bourgeois, a supporter of intervention – “because it has taken the road that will lead it back to an ordinary bourgeois state”. Lenin prefers the cynical voice of the enemy to “sugary communistic nonsense”. Soberly and harshly he warns the party of danger: “We must say frankly that the things Ustrialov speaks about are possible. History knows all sorts of metamorphoses. Relying on firmness of convictions, loyalty and other splendid moral qualities is anything but a serious attitude in politics. A few people may be endowed with splendid moral qualities, but historical issues are decided by vast masses, which, if the few don’t suit them, may at times, treat them none too politely.” In a word, the party is not the only factor of development and on a larger historical scale is not the decisive one.

“One nation conquers another” continued Lenin at the same congress, the last in which he participated ... “this is simple and intelligible to all. But what happens to the culture of these nations? Here things are not so simple. If the conquering nation is more cultured than the vanquished nation, the former imposes its culture on the latter, but if the opposite is the case, the vanquished nation imposes its culture on the conqueror. Has not something like this happened in the capital of the RSFSR? Have the 4700 Communists (nearly a whole army division, and all of them the very best) come under the influence of an alien culture?”. This was said in 1922, and not for the first time. History is not made by a few people, even “the best”; and not only that: these “best” can degenerate in the spirit of an alien, that is, a bourgeois culture. Not only can the Soviet state abandon the way of socialism, but the Bolshevik party can, under unfavourable historic conditions, lose its Bolshevism.

From the clear understanding of this danger issued the Left Opposition, definitely formed in 1923. Recording day by day the symptoms of degeneration, it tried to oppose to the growing Thermidor the conscious will of the proletarian vanguard. However, this subjective factor proved to be insufficient. The “gigantic masses” which, according to Lenin, decide the outcome of the struggle, become tired of internal privations and of waiting too long for the world revolution. The mood of the masses declined. The bureaucracy won the upper hand. It cowed the revolutionary vanguard, trampled upon Marxism, prostituted the Bolshevik party. Stalinism conquered. In the form of the Left Opposition, Bolshevism broke with the Soviet bureaucracy and its Comintern. This was the real course of development.

To be sure, in a formal sense Stalinism did issue from Bolshevism. Even today the Moscow bureaucracy continues to call itself the Bolshevik party. It is simply using the old label of Bolshevism the better to fool the masses. So much the more pitiful are those theoreticians who take the shell for the kernel and appearance for reality. In the identification of Bolshevism and Stalinism they render the best possible service to the Thermidorians and precisely thereby play a clearly reactionary role.

In view of the elimination of all other parties from the political field the antagonistic interests and tendencies of the various strata of the population, to a greater of less degree, had to find their expression in the governing party, To the extent that the political centre of gravity has shifted form the proletarian vanguard to the bureaucracy, the party has changed its social structure as well as its ideology. Owing to the tempestuous course of development, it has suffered in the last 15 years a far more radical degeneration than did the social democracy in half a century. The present purge draws between Bolshevism and Stalinism not simply a bloody line but a whole river of blood. The annihilation of all the older generation of Bolsheviks, an important part of the middle generation which participated in the civil war, and that part of the youth that took up most seriously the Bolshevik traditions, shows not only a political but a thoroughly physical incompatibility between Bolshevism and Stalinism. How can this not be seen?

Stalinism and “State Socialism”

The anarchists, for their part, try to see in Stalinism the organic product, not only of Bolshevism and Marxism but of “state socialism” in general. They are willing to replace Bakunin’s patriarchal “federation of free communes” by the modern federation of free Soviets. But, as formerly, they are against centralised state power. Indeed, one branch of “state” Marxism, social democracy, after coming to power became an open agent of capitalism. The other gave birth to a new privileged caste. It is obvious that the source of evil lies in the state. From a wide historical viewpoint, there is a grain of truth in this reasoning. The state as an apparatus of coercion is an undoubted source of political and moral infection. This also applies, as experience has shown, to the workers’ state. Consequently it can be said that Stalinism is a product of a condition of society in which society was still unable to tear itself out of the strait-jacket of the state. But this position, contributing nothing to the elevation of Bolshevism and Marxism, characterises only the general level of mankind, and above all – the relation of forces between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Having agreed with the anarchists that the state, even the workers’ state, is the offspring of class barbarism and that real human history will begin with the abolition of the state, we have still before us in full force the question: what ways and methods will lead, ultimately, to the abolition of the state? Recent experience bears witness that they are anyway not the methods of anarchism.

The leaders of the Spanish Federation of Labour (CNT), the only important anarchist organisation in the world, became, in the critical hour, bourgeois ministers. They explained their open betrayal of the theory of anarchism by the pressure of “exceptional circumstances”. But did not the leaders of German social democracy produce, in their time, the same excuse? Naturally, civil war is not peaceful and ordinary but an “exceptional circumstance”. Every serious revolutionary organisation, however, prepares precisely for “exceptional circumstances”. The experience of Spain has shown once again that the state can be “denied” in booklets published in “normal circumstances” by permission of the bourgeois state, but the conditions of revolution leave no room for the denial of the state: they demand, on the contrary, the conquest of the state. We have not the slightest intention of blaming the anarchists for not having liquidated the state with the mere stroke of a pen. A revolutionary party , even having seized power (of which the anarchist leaders were incapable in spite of the heroism of the anarchist workers), is still by no means the sovereign ruler of society. But all the more severely do we blame the anarchist theory, which seemed to be wholly suitable for times of peace, but which had to be dropped rapidly as soon as the “exceptional circumstances” of the ... revolution had begun. In the old days there were certain generals – and probably are now – who considered that the most harmful thing for an army was war. Little better are those revolutionaries who complain that revolution destroys their doctrine.

Marxists are wholly in agreement with the anarchists in regard to the final goal: the liquidation of the state. Marxists are “state-ist” only to the extent that one cannot achieve the liquidation of the state simply by ignoring it. The experience of Stalinism does not refute the teaching of Marxism but confirms it by inversion. The revolutionary doctrine which teaches the proletariat to orient itself correctly in situations and to profit actively by them, contains of course no automatic guarantee of victory. But victory is possible only through the application of this doctrine. Moreover, the victory must not be though of as a single event. It must be considered in the perspective of an historical epoch. The workers’ state – on a lower economic basis and surrounded by imperialism – was transformed into the gendarmerie of Stalinism. But genuine Bolshevism launched a life and death struggle against the gendarmerie. To maintain itself Stalinism is now forced to conduct a direct civil war against Bolshevism under the name of “Trotskyism”, not only in the USSR but also in Spain. The old Bolshevik party is dead but Bolshevism is raising its head everywhere.

To deduce Stalinism form Bolshevism or from Marxism is the same as to deduce, in a larger sense, counter-revolution from revolution. Liberal-conservative and later reformist thinking has always been characterised by this cliche. Due to the class structure of society, revolutions have always produced counter-revolutions. Does not this indicate, asks the logician, that there is some inner flaw in the revolutionary method? However, neither the liberals nor reformists have succeeded, as yet, in inventing a more “economical” method. But if it is not easy to rationalise the living historic process, it is not at all difficult to give a rational interpretation of the alternation of its waves, and thus by pure logic to deduce Stalinism from “state socialism”, fascism from Marxism, reaction from revolution, in a word, the antithesis from the thesis. In this domain as in many others anarchist thought is the prisoner of liberal rationalism. Real revolutionary thinking is not possible without dialectics.

The Political “Sins” of Bolshevism as the Source of Stalinism

The arguments of the rationalists assume at times, at least in their outer form, a more concrete character. They do not deduce Stalinism from Bolshevism as a whole but from its political sins. the Bolsheviks – according to Gorter, Pannekoek, certain German “Spartacists” and others – replaced the dictatorship of the proletariat with the dictatorship of the party; Stalin replaced the dictatorship of the party with the dictatorship of the bureaucracy, the Bolsheviks destroyed all parties except their own; Stalin strangled the Bolshevik party in the interests of a Bonapartist clique. The Bolsheviks compromised with the bourgeoisie; Stalin became its ally and support. The Bolsheviks recognised the necessity of participation in the old trade unions and in the bourgeois parliament; Stalin made friends with the trade union bureaucracy and bourgeois democracy. One can make such comparisons at will. For all their apparent effectiveness they are entirely empty.

The proletariat can take power only through its vanguard. In itself the necessity for state power arises from the insufficient cultural level of the masses and their heterogeneity. In the revolutionary vanguard, organised in a party, is crystallised the aspiration of the masses to obtain their freedom. Without the confidence of the class in the vanguard, without support of the vanguard by the class, there can be no talk of the conquest of power. In this sense the proletarian revolution and dictatorship are the work of the whole class, but only under the leadership of the vanguard. The Soviets are the only organised form of the tie between the vanguard and the class. A revolutionary content can be given this form only by the party. This is proved by the positive experience of the October Revolution and by the negative experience of other countries (Germany, Austria, finally, Spain). No one has either shown in practice or tried to explain articulately on paper how the proletariat can seize power without the political leadership of a party that knows what it wants. the fact that this party subordinates the Soviets politically to its leaders has, in itself, abolished the Soviet system no more than the domination of the conservative majority has abolished the British parliamentary system.

As far as the prohibition of other Soviet parties is concerned, it did not flow from any “theory” of Bolshevism but was a measure of defence of the dictatorship on a backward and devastated country, surrounded by enemies on all sides. For the Bolsheviks it was clear from the beginning that this measure, later completed by the prohibition of factions inside the governing party itself, signalised a tremendous danger. However, the root of the danger lay not in the doctrine or the tactics but in the material weakness of the dictatorship, ion the difficulties of its internal and international situation. If the revolution had triumphed, even if only in Germany, the need of prohibiting the other Soviet parties would have immediately fallen away. It is absolutely indisputable that the domination of a single party served as the juridical point of departure for the Stalinist totalitarian regime. The reason for this development lies neither in Bolshevism nor in the prohibition of other parties as a temporary war measure, but in the number of defeats of the proletariat in Europe and Asia.

The same applies to the struggle with anarchism. In the heroic epoch of the revolution the Bolsheviks went hand in hand with genuinely revolutionary anarchists. Many of them were drawn into the ranks of the party. The author of these lines discussed with Lenin more then once the possibility of allotting the anarchists certain territories where, with the consent of the local population, they would carry out their stateless experiment. But civil war, blockade and hunger left no room for such plans. The Kronstadt insurrection? But the revolutionary government could naturally not “present” to the insurrectionary sailors the fortress which protected the capital only because the reactionary peasant-soldier rebellion was joined by a few doubtful anarchists. The concrete historical analysis of the events leaves not the slightest room for legends, built up on ignorance and sentimentality, concerning Kronstadt, Makhno and other episodes of the revolution.

There remains only the fact that the Bolsheviks from the beginning applied not only conviction but also compulsion, often to a most severe degree. It is also indisputable that later the bureaucracy which grew out of the revolution monopolised the system of compulsions in its own hands. Every stage of development, even such catastrophic stages as revolution and counter-revolution, flows from the preceding stage, is rooted in it and carries over some of its features. Liberals, including the Webbs, have always maintained that the Bolshevik dictatorship represented only a new edition of Tsarism. they close their eyes to such “details” as the abolition of the monarchy and the nobility, the handing over of the land to the peasants, the expropriation of capital, the introduction of the planned economy, atheist education, and so on. In exactly the same way liberal- anarchist thought closes its eyes to the fact that the Bolshevik revolution, with all its repressions, meant an upheaval of social relations in the interests of the masses, whereas Stalin’s Thermidorian upheaval accompanies the reconstruction of Soviet society in the interest of a privileged minority. It is clear that in the identification of Stalinism with Bolshevism there is not a trace of socialist criteria.

Questions of Theory

One of the most outstanding features of Bolshevism has been its severe, exacting, even quarrelsome attitude towards the question of doctrine. The 26 volumes of Lenin’s works will remain forever a model of the highest theoretical conscientiousness. Without this fundamental quality Bolshevism would never have fulfilled its historic role. In this regard Stalinism, coarse, ignorant and thoroughly empirical, is its complete opposite.

The Opposition declared more than 10 years ago in its programme: “Since Lenin’s death a whole set of new theories has been created, whose only purpose is to justify the Stalin group’s sliding off the path of the international proletarian revolution.” Only a few days ago an American writer, Liston M. Oak, who has participated in the Spanish revolution, wrote: “The Stalinists are in fact today the foremost revisionists of Marx and Lenin – Bernstein did not dare go half as far as Stalin in revising Marx.” This is absolutely true. One must add only that Bernstein actually felt certain theoretical needs: he tried conscientiously to establish a correspondence between the reformist practices of social democracy and its programme. The Stalinist bureaucracy, however, not only had nothing in common with Marxism but is in general foreign to any doctrine or system whatsoever. Its “ideology” is thoroughly permeated with police subjectivism, its practice is the empiricism of crude violence. In keeping with its essential interests the caste of usurpers is hostile to any theory: it can give an account of its social role neither to itself nor to anyone else. Stalin revises Marx and Lenin not with the theoreticians pen but with the heel of the GPU.

Questions of Morals

Complaints of the “immorality” of Bolshevism come particularly from those boastful nonentities whose cheap masks were torn away by Bolshevism. In petit-bourgeois, intellectual, democratic, “socialist”, literary, parliamentary and other circles, conventional values prevail, or a conventional language to cover their lack of values. This large and motley society for mutual protection – “live and let live” – cannot bear the touch of the Marxist lancet on its sensitive skin. The theoreticians, writers and moralists, hesitating between different camps, thought and continue to think that the Bolsheviks maliciously exaggerate differences, are incapable of “loyal” collaboration and by their “intrigues” disrupt the unity of the workers’ movement. Moreover, the sensitive and touchy centrist has always thought that the Bolsheviks were “calumniating” him – simply because they carried through to the end for him his half-developed thoughts: he himself was never able to. But the fact remains that only that precious quality, an uncompromising attitude towards all quibbling and evasion, can educate a revolutionary party which will not be taken unawares by “exceptional circumstances”.

The moral qualities of every party flow, in the last analysis, from the historical interests that it represents. the moral qualities of Bolshevism self-renunciation, disinterestedness, audacity and contempt for every kind of tinsel and falsehood – the highest qualities of human nature! – flow from revolutionary intransigence in the service of the oppressed. The Stalinist bureaucracy imitates also in this domain the words and gestures of Bolshevism. But when “intransigence” and “flexibility” are applied by a police apparatus in the service of a privileged minority they become a force of demoralisation and gangsterism. One can feel only contempt for these gentlemen who identify the revolutionary heroism of the Bolsheviks with the bureaucratic cynicism of the Thermidorians.

Even now, in spite of the dramatic events in the recent period, the average philistine prefers to believe that the struggle between Bolshevism (“Trotskyism”) and Stalinism concerns a clash of personal ambitions, or, at best, a conflict between two “shades ” of Bolshevism. The crudest expression of this opinion is given by Norman Thomas, leader of the American Socialist Party: “There is little reason to believe”. he writes (Socialist Review, September 1937, p.6), “that if Trotsky had won (!) instead of Stalin, there would be an end of intrigue, plots, and a reign of fear in Russia”. And this man considers himself ... a Marxist. One would have the same right to say: “There is little reason to believe that if instead of Pius XI, the Holy See were occupied by Norman I, the Catholic Church would have been transformed into a bulwark of socialism”. Thomas fails to understand that it is not a question of antagonism between Stalin and Trotsky, but of an antagonism between the bureaucracy and the proletariat. To be sure, the governing stratum of the USSR is forced even now to adapt itself to the still not wholly liquidated heritage of revolution, while preparing at the same time through direct civil war (bloody “purge” – mass annihilation of the discontented) a change of the social regime. But in Spain the Stalinist clique is already acting openly as a bulwark of the bourgeois order against socialism. The struggle against the Bonapartist bureaucracy is turning before our eyes into class struggle: two worlds, two programmes, two moralities. If Thomas thinks that the victory of the socialist proletariat over the infamous caste of oppressors would not politically and morally regenerate the Soviet regime, he proves only that for all his reservations, shufflings and pious sighs he is far nearer to the Stalinist bureaucracy than to the workers. Like other exposers of Bolshevik “immorality”, Thomas has simply not grown to the level of revolutionary morality.

The Traditions of Bolshevism and the Fourth International

The “lefts” who tried to skip Bolshevism in their return to Marxism generally confined themselves to isolated panaceas: boycott of parliament, creation of “genuine” Soviets. All this could still seem extremely profound in the heat of the first days after the war. But now, in the light of most recent experience, such “infantile diseases” have no longer even the interest of a curiosity. The Dutchmen Gorter and Pannekoek, the German “Spartakists”, the Italian Bordigists, showed their independence from Bolshevism only by artificially inflating one of its features and opposing it to the rest. But nothing has remained either in practice or in theory of these “left” tendencies: an indirect but important proof that Bolshevism is the only possible form of Marxism for this epoch.

The Bolshevik party has shown in action a combination of the highest revolutionary audacity and political realism. It established for the first time the correspondence between the vanguard and the class which alone is capable of securing victory. It has p roved by experience that the alliance between the proletariat and the oppressed masses of the rural and urban petit bourgeoisie is possible only through the political overthrow of the traditional petit-bourgeois parties. The Bolshevik party has shown the entire world how to carry out armed insurrection and the seizure of power. Those who propose the abstraction of the Soviets from the party dictatorship should understand that only thanks to the party dictatorship were the Soviets able to lift themselves out of the mud of reformism and attain the state form of the proletariat. The Bolshevik party achieved in the civil war the correct combination of military art and Marxist politics. Even if the Stalinist bureaucracy should succeed in destroying the economic foundations of the new society, the experience of planned economy under the leadership of the Bolshevik party will have entered history for all time as one of the greatest teachings of mankind. This can be ignored only by sectarians who, offended by the bruises they have received, turn their backs on the process of history.

But his is not all. The Bolshevik party was able to carry on its magnificent “practical” work only because it illuminated all its steps with theory. Bolshevism did not create this theory: it was furnished by Marxism. But Marxism is a theory of movement, not of stagnation. Only events on such a tremendous historical scale could enrich the theory itself. Bolshevism brought an invaluable contribution to Marxism in its analysis of the imperialist epoch as an epoch of wars and revolutions; of bourgeois democracy in the era of decaying capitalism; of the correlation between the general strike and the insurrection; of the role of the party, Soviets and trade unions in the period of proletarian revolution; in its theory of the Soviet state, of the economy of transition, of fascism and Bonapartism in the epoch of capitalist decline; finally in its analysis of the degeneration of the Bolshevik party itself and of the Soviet state. Let any other tendency be named that has added anything essential to the conclusions and generalisations of Bolshevism. Theoretically and politically Vandervilde, De Brouckere, Hilferding, Otto Bauer, Leon Blum, Zyromski, not to mention Major Attlee and Norman Thomas, live on the tattered leftovers of the past. The degeneration of the Comintern is most crudely expressed by the fact that it has dropped to the theoretical level of the Second International. All the varieties of intermediary groups (Independent Labour Party of Great Britain, POUM and their like) adapt every week new haphazard fragments of Marx and Lenin to their current needs. Workers can learn nothing from these people.

Only the founders of the Fourth International, who have made their own the whole tradition of Marx and Lenin, take a serious attitude towards theory. Philistines may jeer that 20 years after the October victory the revolutionaries are again thrown back to modest propagandist preparation. The big capitalists are, in this question as in many others, far more penetrating than the petit bourgeois who imagine themselves “socialists” or “communists”. It is no accident that the subject of the Fourth International does not leave the columns of the world press. The burning historical need for revolutionary leadership promises to the Fourth International an exceptionally rapid tempo of growth. The greatest guarantee of its further success lies in the fact that it has not arisen away from the great historical road, but has organically grown out of Bolshevism.

28 August 1937

Online version: Reprinted in the magazine Living Marxism (No. 18, April 1990.)
Transcribed for the Internet by Mike Griffin for the Trotsky Internet Archive, now a subset of the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Reproduced with thanks from the Marxists' Internet Archive

Notes on recent developments in the European radical Left


Daniel Bensaïd

 

The recent elections in Germany and Portugal have confirmed the emergence of a new radical Left in a number of countries across Europe. In Germany, Die Linke won 11.9 percent of the vote and 76 seats in the Bundestag. In Portugal, the Left Bloc received 9.86 percent of the vote and doubled its number of seats to 16.

This new Left emerged toward the end of the 1990s with the renewal of social movements and the rise of the anti-globalization movement. What we are now seeing for the first time is an electoral breakthrough that is not limited to one or two countries and which has now become a Europe-wide trend – illustrated by, among others, the examples of the Red-Green Alliance in Denmark, Syriza in Greece and the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) in France. The trend is still fragile and uneven, and is conditioned to a great degree by the different electoral systems that exist from one country to the next.

In France, for example, the NPA and the Left Front (FG) have a joint potential of about 12 percent. But neither has a single parliamentary seat due to a single-member runoff system that has no proportional representation and encourages “strategic voting” as a lesser evil. This new Left has arisen for a number of reasons. First comes the retreat or collapse of the Social Democratic and Communist parties that have shaped the traditional Left for the past 50 years. The Communist parties that had identified with the “socialist camp” and the Soviet Union have disappeared or have seen their social base melt away, with the partial exceptions of Greece and Portugal. As for Social Democracy, by supporting or actively implementing neoliberal policies within the framework of European Union treaties, it has actively contributed to the dismantling of the welfare state from which it drew its legitimacy. As a result, under the moniker of “renewal”, the “third way” or the “new centre”, it has metamorphosed into a formation of the centre-Left along the lines of the Democratic Party in Italy. As its ties to working-class voters have weakened, so its fusion with business circles has accelerated. Schroder’s appointment to Gazprom’s board of directors and the promotion of two French “socialists” (Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Pascal Lamy) to the head of the IMF and WTO symbolize this transformation of leading Socialist Party figures into right-hand men of big capital. Stalwart of the “social market economy” and of social compromise, German Social Democracy are now paying the price: in the 27 September elections it lost 10 million voters compared to its results 10 years earlier.

While this centre-Left has become increasingly indistinguishable from the centre-Right, a new generation has grown up after the fall of the Berlin Wall and has known only imperialist hot wars, environmental and social crisis, unemployment and insecurity.

An active minority from this generation of young people has taken an interest in struggle and politics, but it is wary of electoral games and dishonest compromise at the institutional level. Hostile to the squalid state of the world, but unable to determine what the necessary “other world” would look like, this new radicalism can go in diametrically opposite directions – that of a clearly anti-capitalist alternative; that of a nationalist and xenophobic populism (such as the Front National in France or the BNP in Britain); or even that of a new brand of nihilism. It is nonetheless encouraging to note that young and precariously employed workers made up a proportionally larger share of the electorate for Die Linke, and for Olivier Besancenot in the 2007 presidential elections, than they did for any of the other parties.

For all that, the new Left is not a homogeneous current united by a common strategic project. Rather, it is part of a range of forces polarized between resistance and the social movements, on the one hand, and the temptation of institutional respectability, on the other. This has made the question of parliamentary and governmental alliances a real acid test. Until quite recently, Rifondazione Comunista was the crown jewel of this new European Left; but it committed suicide by participating in the Prodi government, a move which in any case didn’t even prevent Berlusconi from returning to power. Beyond the debate on electoral tactics, such an approach reveals an orientation accurately summarized by Die Linke leader Oskar Lafontaine: “Apply pressure to restore the welfare state”. It is therefore not a matter of patiently building an anti-capitalist alternative, but of “applying pressure” on Social Democracy in order to save it from its centrist demons and take it back to classic reformist politics within the framework of the established order. As for “restoring the welfare state,” one would first have to make a break with the Stability Pact and Lisbon Treaty, rebuild European public services, and submit the European Central Bank to democratically elected bodies – in other words, one would have to do exactly the opposite of what Left governments have done for the past 20 years and continue to do when they are in power. Social Democracy’s moderate stance in the face of the economic crisis and its common manifesto for the recent European elections indicate that its submission to market demands is now irreversible.

In contrast, in the wake of the Portuguese elections Left Bloc leader Francisco Louça rejected calls to support the Social Democratic government of José Socrates. He declared that the Left Bloc would be “in the opposition” against planned privatizations, against the dismantling of public services, against the new labour code, and therefore in opposition to the government. This is also the bone of contention between Olivier Besancenot’s NPA — which rejects any kind of governmental alliance with the Socialist Party — and the Communist Party, which is clearly working towards a new “plural Left” alliance with the Socialists and Greens. This is in spite of the disastrous record of the previous “plural Left” government, which led to a second-round runoff in the 2002 presidential elections between the far-Right Le Pen and right-wing Chirac. This debate is no doubt present in all the parties of the new Left — and especially in Die Linke given that its alliance with the social-democratic SPD in Berlin is already very controversial and may become the party’s general policy, as its recent alliance in the state of Brandenburg appears to indicate.

This gives us a clear idea of the strategic choices with which the new Left is going to be confronted. Either it makes a priority of the institutional sphere and resigns itself to playing the role of counterweight to the traditional Left; or it prioritizes struggles and social movements as the cornerstone for the patient building of a new political force of the exploited and oppressed. This in no way excludes looking for the broadest unity of action with the traditional Left against privatization and outsourcing, in defence of public services and social programs, for democratic freedoms and in solidarity with immigrant and undocumented workers.

But it requires strict independence from a Left that loyally manages capital’s affairs — to ensure that the new emerging forces are not totally put off politics.

The social and environmental crisis is just beginning. Whatever possible recoveries and upturns there may be, unemployment and insecurity will continue at very high levels; and the effects of climate change will continue to worsen. We are not dealing with the type of crisis that capitalism periodically goes through, but rather a crisis of the outrageousness of a system that seeks to quantify the unquantifiable and provide a common measure for the incommensurable.

It is therefore probable that we are only at the beginning of a huge upheaval from which the political landscape – through a process of recomposition and redefinition – will emerge drastically overhauled a few years from now. This is what we have to prepare for. We cannot sacrifice the emergence of a medium-term alternative for the sake of petty parliamentary jockeying and hypothetical immediate gains that lead to bitter disillusionment.

1 December 2009

From issue 4 of Contretemps (new series), December 2009, pp. 7-9.

Translation from French: Nathan Rao

Daniel Bensaïd is one of France’s most prominent Marxist philosophers and has written extensively on that and other subjects. He was for many years a leading member of the LCR (French section of the Fourth International) and is today a member of the NPA

Copenhagen 2009: the predictable failure


Michael Lowy

We – I mean the Marxists, the Ecosocialists, the radical climate justice activists – were quite pessimistic about the so-called United Nations Conference on Climate Change and had predicted that Copenhagen would end in a failure. We argued that the capitalist system doesn’t know any criteria other than more accumulation, greater expansion and higher profits, and therefore is unable to take the minimal measures necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change. And since we knew that the vast majority of the “world leaders” present in Copenhagen are nothing but faithful servants of the capitalist’s interests, we thought that the Conference would limit itself to vague promises about a 50% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2050. In one word, we believed that the Copenhagen mountain would give birth to a mouse.

Well, I must admit that we were wrong. We were not pessimistic enough. The Copenhagen conference did not give birth to a mouse but to a cockroach. Kyoto was already a big failure, since its aims were ridiculously low – a reduction in 5% until 2012 – and the methods used, such as the “market of pollutions rights”, absolutely unable to achieve any significant progress. But Copenhagen is much, much less than Kyoto, which at least acknowledged the need for internationally agreed commitments.

What happened ? China accused the US of not committing itself to any meaningful measures to reduce emissions; the US accused China of not accepting any international commitment to reduce emissions; and Europe explained that they couldn’t take any initiatives without the US and China. The only thing they all agreed, and happily so, is on the urgent need to do nothing.

So we have got only an ugly cockroach, called “The Agreement of Copenhagen”, concocted by the “world leaders” before hurriedly leaving the Conference by the back door. It is a completely void document saying that, as everybody knows, one should prevent temperature of raising beyond 2°C. Not a word about limitations of gas emissions, no percentages of reduction mentioned, not even as a wishful thinking, not even in a very far future. Nothing. Nihil. Zero content.

So, where is hope ? The only hope that exists is in the 100 thousand people that demonstrated in the streets of Copenhagen, coming from Denmark, Scandinavia, Germany, Europe and the whole world, asking for radical measures, denouncing the irresponsibility of the “responsible leaders”, claiming for climate justice, and proposing to “Change the system, not the climate”. Or, in the thousands who peacefully marched till the doors of the Conference, trying to open a dialogue with the “official” representatives, but were received by tear gas and police clubs, and saw their spokesmen – like Tadzo Müller - arrested for “incitation to violence”. Or in the thousands who took part in the discussions of the alternative KlimaForum, which adopted a resolution denouncing the pseudo-solutions of the system (“carbon trade”, etc). There is also hope in political leaders like the Bolivian President Evo Morales – among the very few exceptions – that showed solidarity with the Climate Justice movement, and denounced capitalism as the system responsible for disastrous global warming.

Conclusion : many years ago, the famous poet and singer Joe Hill, from the American International Workers of the World ( IWW) said, just before being shot by the authorities on fake accusations : “Don’t mourn, organize”. We must return to our countries, and organize people, in the fields, in the factories, in the schools, in the streets, to build a large international movement fighing against the system, to impose radical change, to save, not “the planet” – it is not in danger – but life on this planet from destruction.

 

From Eeurope Solidaire Sans Frontieres

Speech in support of Irom Sharmila's epic Struggle


(This speech was delivered by the Radical Socialist representative at the meeting in solidarity with Irom Sharmila organised by the Nari Nirjatan Pratirodh Mancha on 7 December 2009 at Hazra Park, Calcutta)

Irom_Sharmila_Protest_Meeting_7_Dec_09_025

Sushovan Dhar


Irom Sharmila Chanu civil rights activist, political activist, journalist and poet from Manipur, is on a hunger-strike since November 4, 2000, demanding the Government of India to withdraw the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, also otherwise known as AFSPA; from Manipur and other areas of India’s north east. This unparallel political protest started after the Assam Rifles gunned down ten innocent people who were waiting for their buses at a bus stand in Malom, Manipur on November 1, 2000. The incident, which is also known as the Malom Massacre, was a sequel to endless killings by the Indian armed forces in Manipur and also in many other parts of the North-East.
On November 4, Sharmila launched a political fast against the widespread repression unleashed against the people of Manipur by the Indian state. She had initially started the hunger-strike demanding the repeal of this draconian act in Manipur and has later extended the scope of her demand to all regions of India's north east where AFSPA has been imposed.
Three days after she started the hunger-strike, on 6 November 2000, she was arrested by the police and charged with “attempt to commit suicide”, which is illegitimate under section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. She was later transferred to judicial custody. With her determination not to take food nor water, her health deteriorated tremendously and the police forcibly used nasogastric intubation in order to keep her alive while under arrest. Since then Irom Sharmila has been under a ritual of release and arrest every year because under IPC section 309, a person who "attempt to commit suicide" is punishable ““with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year [or with fine, or with both]".
Sharmila’s hunger strike has inspired a lot of protests from Manipur, North-East and other parts of India against the AFSPA and the military highhandedness. Irom Sharmila’s legendary struggle for human rights has become an important symbol of the resistance of the Manipuri people who are fighting against their present day suffering at the hands of the Indian State. This has also meant extreme militarisation of the region and the promulgations of many a black law like AFSPA at the cost of the life and liberty of the people of this region.
It is stunning to see the silence of the mainstream Indian media about these issues of atrocities by the Indian state. Perhaps, they don’t find objects of ‘sensation’ in the pain and the distress of the people of Manipur as well as of North-East in the hands of Indian military and other security forces. It is in stark contrast to the coverage received by “terrorist acts”, in the mainstream media.  Possibly another consideration could be the questions of ‘national security’ and ‘sovereignty’, both of which are covert & user-friendly terms for Indian expansionism of which the Indian media is a powerful advocate and a vociferous proponent. The conspiracy of silence which had surrounded Iron Sharmila's struggle is not an exception. It is part of a general silence which surrounds developments in North-East which for all practical purposes exists beyond the ‘borders of our consciousnesses’.
The parliament of the “world's largest democracy” decided to enact the most draconian law, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in 1958. Ever since, it has been an unending story of massacres, rapes, torture and extra-judicial killings resorted to by the Indian Armed Forces against the people of the North-East in the name of counter-insurgency operations. This act is a naked imitation of the inhuman Armed Forces Special Ordinance in 1942 to crush the Indian freedom movement by the British imperialists. It is indeed a shame that the constitution of India, the “largest democracy” has been violated by AFSPA. The military budget has been increased every year and the government is keen to keep military-political apparatus over civilian rule in North-East denying all basic human rights. It is indeed a shameful truth for all of us calling ourselves citizens of the world’s largest democracy.
Section 4 of the AFSPA says “Special powers of the armed forces – any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or any other person of equivalent rank in the armed forces may, in a disturbed area – (a) If he is of opinion that it is necessary so to do for the maintenance of public order, after giving such due warning as he may consider necessary fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons or of things capable of being used as weapons or of firearms, ammunition or explosive substances.” This section can be termed as a “statutory obscenity”. It occurs in no statute anywhere in any democracy and has been aptly called a “license to kill”. Not only does it not enjoin restraint explicitly, but says that the powers may be used “even to the causing of death”. It ignores the officer’s duty to respect the life of the citizen, omits this vital injunction and contains instead a carte blanche unheard of in any other statute in any other democracy – “even to the causing of death”.
AFSPA is such a dreadful creation that it makes an ordinary sepoy or a havildar of CRPF an all powerful demon. All rights, liberties, and constitutional safeguards given to all the citizens of India without any discrimination on the basis of caste, race, and place of birth, language and religion are severely violated and negated by the sections given in the AFSA, 1958. The existence of this law on the statue books has thus meant disallowing the people the right to protest, the right to legal redress or right of any lawful democratic activity. Ordinary people, who want to live a life of peace and tranquility, can thus easily be framed as ‘terrorists’ and ‘suspects’ linking them to banned organisations. Democratic and human rights activists who merely document the excesses by the Army or demand an end to army rule have also been picked up, tortured and killed. The continuation of this law in the last 51 years has effectively meant that under a formal democratic set up 39 million people residing in north east are forced to live under an undeclared emergency or a military rule to all intents and purposes.
It is therefore, not surprising that the people of Manipur summarily rejected the proposals by Justice Jeevan Reddy committee - appointed by the Prime Minister in 2004 in the aftermath of the militant protests in Manipur – as they feel that the Jeevan Reddy panel merely wanted the prerogatives of the armed forces transferred across-the-board onto another law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. If this holds true, then we will have a situation where the dreaded black law AFPSA which is basically applicable to North East and Jammu-Kashmir may be scrapped forthwith while the revised ULP act 1967 which incorporates all the necessary provisions of AFPSA would come into force. It would mean the whole of India may come under the ambit of a substitute of AFPSA.
I would like to conclude in support of the valiant struggle by the people of Manipur and North-East epitomized by none other than Irom Sharmila. Her grit and determination makes our struggle stronger and the demand to repeal Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958. In expressing our solidarity with her, we demand the immediate repeal of the AFSPA without its reintroduction under any other name, the removal of the military from playing a governing role in the area and the prosecution of army personnel for all cases of murder, rape, sexual violence and torture, and the punishment of all the guilty.
Long live the struggle of the people of Manipur!

Contribution from Argentina


Eduardo Lucita / Guillermo Almeyra
Sergio M y Pablo( Coordinadora Barrial Moreno) / Sergio, Damian y Gustavo (Puma Merlo) / Santiago y Mirian (Univ lujan) / Carlos ( CPSRC ) (on behalf of the sections).

The documents Report on the International Situation and Role and Tasks (we still haven’t been able to deal with Climate Change) have, from our point of view, a strong European content, something understandable given the weight of the sections and that the crisis is much stronger there than in other regions, but at the same time the documents point out that Latin America “is the region of greatest social conflict” and that “there are countries which are developing processes of partial breaks with imperialism.”

We share these characterizations, and we add that Latin America has been the center of resistances to neoliberalism, but we believe it appropriate to take into account in the final version of the documents that, under the pressure of the systematic world crisis, if there were to be an advance in anticapitalism in some region of the world, it would probably be in Latin America, and more precisely in the countries of the South.

So, for this reason we think it is necessary that the documents dedicate more space to Latin America, that they reflect a little more the situation in the region, not only because of the high level of conflict that exists, but also because of the orientation which it is taking.

Resolution Project Role and Tasks

Amendments and additions that we propose:

Point 1. paragraph “In conclusion…” replace with:

“In conclusion the crisis expresses the failure of the neoliberal phase of capital to reactivate the development of the productive forces at a world level, nor has it been able to impose a relationship of forces favorable to capital. As an ideology, it shows itself incapable of offering a socluation, which is why the G-20 proposals are a return to the past that blew up with the crisis, wrote an end to the Washington Consensus, but placed the IMF in the decision-making center with its clearly neoliberal priorities.” “All of the contradictions inherent in this social system are going to explode” should be replaced with “are going to come under stress.”

Point 2: paragraph “Latin America” replace with:

“Latin America has been the center of resitances to neoliberalism and cointinues being the continent with the most explosive social situations, eventhough among the countries these are unevn. There is a bloc of countrie that brings together processes of greater radicalization and patrial reputures with imperialism, which in their development can advance to decidedly anti-capitalist positions, such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, and others still hard to predict such as Paraguay and El Salvador, all of which find a reference point in Cuba. Other countries maintain post-neoliberal politices such as Chile, or the neo-developmentalist variante such as Argentina, or the social-liberals such as Uruguay and Brasil. This latter, despite its strong differences with the United States—above all in its defense policies, in its membership in UNASUR and in its agreements with Venezuela—still collaborates in fundamental policies of Washington and hopes to achieve regional leadership with the its help. While Colombia, Peru and Mexico remain decidedly neoliberal.

“The declaration of the Assembly of Social Movements which took place in the FSM-Belem and the recent Assembly of ALBA-TCP, which in its final declaration condemned capitalism calling for going beyond it, as well as the First Multinational Summit of Social Movements, are a sample of the radical potential of the southern region of Latin America.”

“The new situation presented by the renewed imperialist aggresivity in the region—Fourth Fleet, coup in Honduras, new military bases in Colombia, direct intervention of the American embassy in themost important union conflict in years in Argentina—indicate an intention to break with the current policies of equilibrium and [show] the necessity of elaborating an international response.”

“The activity of the sections and group of the Fourth International in Latin America shoud take these tendencies into account and define a tactic of intervention in a process which is characterized by the sometimes converging and sometimes contradictory interrelations between the governments that make up ALBA and the social movements with important experiences of self-organization and self-management.”

Continuing: “In a series of emerging capitalist countries…” It may be that in Europe this characterization has been assimilated and forms part of common usage, but in Latin America it is closely linked to neoliberalism, we propose that it be replaced with “…dependent capitalist countries of greater industrial development” as the expression that best characterizes the situation but dest not use terminology quite linked to the neoliberal ideology.

Point 4.

Subpoint 4: “A left which is conscious…..and that therefore cannot govern…” add “with the political representations” of that with which it desires to break.

Subpoint 7 “A left that integrates new social movements……..and above all new generations.” This may be a translation problem but it would be good to eliminate “…because they cannot do new things with old material.” Take into account that this is referring to people.

Add a subpoint: “A left that promotes all forms of empowerment by workers and by the popular classes that encourages thinking, deciding, and doing things for itself and on the basis of its own decisions.”

Point 5. then the paragraph that ends “…in Africa and Asia things are heading in the same direction” add “Nevertheless in the countries of the South of Latin America the construction of broad anti-capitalist parties should integrate from its beginnings a clear stand for socialism.” It is by way of this process, add “…complex and diverse…” that we can make new advances. This is the question…

Punto 10. at the end of the first paragraphy and before “The Youth Camp” add:

“The Fourth Internatinoal should make efforts to have a greater presence in Latin America. To look for the forms and means to help groups which in various countries sympathizes with our positions but for the moment don’t have the organizational capacity, nor the finance nor the training and whose weakness is clear when compared to other organized left forces that exist in the different countries.”

Buenos Aires, November 12, 2009.

Contribution to the debate on the Role and Tasks of the FI in the form of amendments



Yvan (France)

These amendments aim to clarify certain points about the role of the Fourth International around the complicated issue of the relationship between our work which necessarily aims at strengthening our influence and our goal to help build new anti-capitalist and revolutionary parties and new regroupings both at European and international levels.

This question cannot be stated in the same terms as in 1992 for two reasons. First, the overall economic, social and political situation is not the same, we must take the measure of the "tipping of the world" to rediscuss our perspectives and our tasks. Then experiences have been made, the results of which oblige us to stress the need for independence from the politics of the old reformist parties and the importance of formulating, advocating and implementing programmatic and strategic orientations in keeping with revolutionary Marxism.

From this perspective, it seems to me that the text does not include the contribution of the battle for the foundation and construction of the NPA enough.

These amendments have no other ambition than to point those questions whose answers can only be written as a collective work, that of the FI through its collaborations, discussions and confrontations as well as with other anti-capitalist and revolutionary currents.

In bold, what is added, italic what is deleted

Part 1. Last paragraph.

In conclusion, the crisis makes obvious the failure of the bourgeois classes, of their neoliberal ideology, incapable of offering a solution. All the contradictions inherent to this social system are going to explode without social democracy and the centre left being able to offer an adequate response. Even neo-Keynesian measures, which have not been adopted anyway, would not be enough to resolve the crisis. Thus, the gap between the rhetoric and pretensions of the ruling classes and the reality of the suffering and tragedies that they impose upon the peoples and workers, the intensification of their pressure on them, create the conditions of exacerbated social tensions and political crisis. Our primary concern is to work for unity to defend the workers’ and peoples’ rights, to build parties acting in that perspective independently from the institutions.

Part 3. Last paragraph.

In the context of the chronic crisis of capitalism, the combination of social resistances and this evolution of the apparatuses of the traditional neoliberal or reformist left open a new space for the radical left make necessary and possible for the revolutionaries to carry out a policy combining the research of unity of the anti-neoliberal and anticapitalist forces and our own perspective of a revolutionary transformation of society. This puts on the agenda the reorganisation and rebuilding of the workers’ movement on a new basis that of anti-capitalism and eco-socialism of class independence around the social, democratic, environmental demands of the workers and the lower classes confronted with the global crisis of capitalism.

Part 5.

This is the aspiration perspective in which the problems of building the question of the place of the Fourth International and in building new anti-capitalist parties and new international currents are is posed. We expressed it in our own way, from 1992 onwards, so in the last two world congresses, with the triptych “New period, new programme, new party”, developed in documents of the International. We confirm the essential of our choices at the last World Congress in 2003 concerning the building of broad anticapitalist parties. The content given to this formula must be enriched by a critical assessment of the different experiences (especially Brazil and Italy) of building broad anti-capitalist parties since our last World Congress in 2003.

The Fourth International is confronted, in an overall way, with a new phase. This implies clarifying and redefining its tasks. Revolutionary Marxist militants, nuclei, currents and organizations must pose the problem of the construction of anti-capitalist, revolutionary political formations, with the perspective of establishing a new independent political representation of the working class in a context where the global crisis of capitalism gives all its relevance to the project of revolutionary transformation of society. That is true on the level of each country scale and at an international level. On the basis of the experience of the class struggle, the development of the global justice movement, defensive struggles and anti-war mobilizations over the last ten years, and in particular the lessons drawn from the evolution of the Brazilian PT and of Communist Refoundation in Italy and from the debates of the French anti-liberal left, revolutionary Marxists have engaged in recent years in the building of the PSOL in Brazil, of Sinistra Critica in Italy, of the new anti-capitalist party in France, Respect in England. In this perspective we have continued to build the experiences of the Bloco de Esquerda in Portugal and the Red Green Alliance in Denmark. The common goal, via different paths, is that of broad anti-capitalist parties. These various attempts to address the crisis of the labor movement can only be successful if we learn the lessons of past failures. Certainly it is not a question of taking up the old formulas of regroupment or revolutionary currents alone. The ambition is to bring together forces beyond simply revolutionary ones. These can be a support in the process of brining forces together as long as they are clearly for building anti-capitalist parties. Although The objective is to give ourselves the means to contribute to the building of mass parties, tools for the workers’ struggles in the perspective of socialism. There is no model, since each process of coming together takes account of national specificities and relationships of forces, our goal must thus be to seek to build broad anti-capitalist political forces, independent of social democracy and the centre left, formations which reject any policy of participation or support to class-collaborationist governments, today government with social-democracy and the centre left. It is on the basis of such a perspective that we must be oriented. What we know of the experiences of differentiation and reorganization in Africa and Asia point in the same direction. It is through this process that we can make new advances. It is this question which must form the framework of the next congress of the FI. but the political and programmatic content of our work and involvement in the various processes must be clearly defined: independence from the Social Democrats and the center-left, rejection of any political involvement or support to governments of class collaboration, independence from bourgeois institutions, defence of a policy to respond to the crisis of capitalism challenging capitalist private property and putting forward the nationalization of the financial system under the control of the workers and the population. The reconstruction of the labor movement can only be done by breaking with the policy of class collaboration and compromise of the old reformist parties, the Social Democrats and Stalinists. By participating fully in the various current processes, the sections and activists of the FI give themselves the objective of formulating, both in their daily militant practice and in their political work, the political basis of regrouping in the perspective of building broad parties for the revolutionary transformation of society. It is this question that should be at the heart of the next congress of the Fourth International.

Part 6. End of paragraph:

These few elements show the type of orientation that we want to implement: to seize every opportunity to carry out the debate, to defend an independent perspective from that of the old left politics, a perspective built on the development of class struggle. The different conferences this year such as those in Paris or Belem show the necessity and the possibility of joint action and discussion by a large number of organizations and currents of the anti-capitalist left in Europe. It is now necessary to continue a policy of open meetings and conferences on topics of strategic and programmatic thinking and joint action through campaigns and initiatives of international mobilization.

Part 7. Paragraph 1.

The Fourth International and its sections have played and still play a vital road in defending, promoting and implementing an anticapitalist programme combining a social, democratic and environmental plan to meet the needs of the working class confronted with the crisis, a programme that raises the question of power in a socialist perspective, of demands that are both immediate and transitional towards socialism; a united-front policy that aims for mass mobilization of workers and their organizations; a policy of working-class unity and independence against any type of strategic alliance with the national bourgeoisie; opposition to any participation in governments in the advanced-capitalist countries that merely manage the State and the capitalist economy having abandoned all internationalism.

Part 7. End of paragraph 2.

Let us note, nevertheless, a major difference between the FI and all these tendencies, over and above political positions, and which is the credit of the International is that it is based on a democratic coordination of sections and militants, whereas the other international tendencies are “international-factions” or coordinations based on “party-factions” which do not respect rules of democratic functioning, in particular the right of tendency. The historical limits of these international “Trotskyist” currents “, like other ex-Maoist or ex-Communist currents, are as many difficulties we must try to overcome to advance prevent us today from advancing in the crystallization of new international convergences. Their conceptions do not meet the needs of the new revolutionary movement; they are inevitably confronted with their own limitations and experience a crisis. One of our concerns must be to help surpass the old Trotskyist movement by fighting against the sectarianism engendered by past struggles.

Part 7. End of part.

In the present relationship of forces, the policy for advancing towards a mass International must rather take the road of open and periodic conferences on central political questions – activity, specific themes or discussions - which make possible the convergence and the emergence of anti-capitalist and revolutionary poles. Through these joint activities, we have the desire to build links that can only be fruitful if, step by step, political, strategic and programmatic agreements emerge. In the new anti-capitalist parties which may be formed in the years to come, and which express the current stage of combativeness, experience and consciousness of the sectors that are the most committed to the search for an anti-capitalist alternative, the question of international links or even a new International is and will be posed today. We act and we will continue to act so that it is not posed in terms of ideological or historical choices, which are likely to lead to divisions and splits. The emergence of a new International will necessarily stand in the continuation of the attempts to regroup on an international level that are at the heart of the labor movement. This does not mean that references to the past may suffice to provide the political and programmatic foundations of a new International. It must be posed on a double level, on the one hand Conversely, the search for real political convergence on tasks of international intervention, on the other the pluralism of the new formations, which must bring together currents of various origins: Trotskyists of different kinds, libertarians, revolutionary syndicalists, revolutionary nationalists, left reformists, does not spare us the defence of Marxism. Quite the contrary, it stresses its necessity, its urgency because we are convinced that to be able to reappropriate the best in the history of the struggles for emancipation, we require the theoretical framework of critical and revolutionary Marxism.

The practical and concrete forms of this work must be defined according to each situation. So in general, when there have been concrete steps towards new parties, we have proposed that the new broad anti-capitalist party functions with the right of tendency or currents, and that the supporters of the Fourth International in these new parties organize themselves in ways to be decided, according to the specific situation of each party. Our Portuguese comrades in the Left Bloc, our Danish comrades in the Red-Green Alliance, our Brazilian comrades in the PSOL, are organized, in particular forms, as a Fourth International current or in class struggle currents with other political tendencies.

But this is not necessarily the rule. Thus, within the NPA the members of the FI did not consider it necessary to organize as a current. The fertility and the contribution of Marxism in the construction of new workers’ parties can be demonstrated through achieving the tasks of the party at all levels of responsibility and activity.

Part 9.

We have, in fact, a particular role that is recognized by a series of political currents: We may be the only ones who can to be able to make political forces of various origins converge. This is for example, what in Latin America the Venezuelans comrades of left currents of the Bolivarian process say to us. It is also the case in Europe, in the framework of the relations of the EACL and of other currents. So, the next world congress must be an important step for the meeting of all these forces. This Congress will be a congress of the FI and there will be no organisational growing over at this stage. But we want the FI to play the role of a “facilitator” of convergences in the perspective of new international groupings.

Reject the draft “Role and Tasks of the FI”


Brown (USA), Jette (Denmark), Andreas (Greece), Konstanitin (Germany)

[Introductory note: The authors of this call are asking all delegates at the 2010 world congress, no matter what position they might take on the document titled “Role and Tasks of the Fourth International,” to vote in favor of the specific motion below. Developing the discussion projected in that motion should be a common task for our entire world movement. And it should be accepted as such by supporters of the RTFI document as well as those of us who disagree with this text. We are also, however, hoping that others who, like ourselves, consider the resolution presented by the IC to be irreparably flawed will join us in voting against it. Ordinarily, under such circumstances, a minority current would submit a counter-draft. We choose not to do so. We do not believe that a counterposed text, drafted by a small minority representing comrades in only a handful of countries, can possibly treat this subject adequately. For that we need a much greater base of experience and collaboration. In addition, we need a counterposed framework within which a new RTFI text can be constructed. We submit the following text to the International Discussion Bulletin, therefore, in an attempt to explain what that alternative framework might be and why it is needed. We hope that a vote rejecting the present draft will then lay the basis for moving forward in order to develop an alternative document that can meet our collective needs.]

* Draft Motion (for the agenda item “Role and Tasks of the Fourth International”): “The World Congress establishes a commission to draft a document outlining the ‘shared strategic vision’ of the Fourth International, plus the impact of this vision on any broader process of building revolutionary organizations on a national and international level today. The IC meeting in 2011 will hold an initial discussion, putting in place a process that encourages section leaderships to contribute comments based on circulation of the relevant texts plus discussions within their organizations.”

* * * * *

We will vote against the text “Role and Tasks of the Fourth International” and urge others to reject it as well. The document fails to pose the critical questions facing the FI today in a manner that will allow us to really resolve them. It reflects an incorrect understanding of what the FI is and what it ought to be, thereby opening the door to building a second-and-a-half international instead of the revolutionary world movement we so desperately need. In this way, the text before us calls into question the very existence of the FI itself.

The motion we have submitted (see above) attempts to address what is, perhaps, the most glaring flaw in this document which declares: “We expressed it in our own way, from 1992 onwards, in other words in the last two world congresses, with the triptych ‘new period, new program, new party.’ ” There is, however, no discussion in the text, nor in the general discourse of the FI and its leadership in recent years, about what the limits and contradictions are of this “new” process. Nor is there any consideration about what the implications might be, for all that is new, of that which is not so new, what is described in point 6 of the document as our “shared strategic vision.” What is that vision? How do we work toward and apply it today?

If we cannot formulate a set of ideas, and put them down on paper, explaining what we mean by “our shared strategic vision,” then any reference to such a vision in a document like RTFI is meaningless. In our judgment, serious reference to our “shared strategic vision” requires that we collectively affirm a set of core principles, including at least:

1) We stand for the continued possibility of world socialist revolution and the centrality of the working class in that revolutionary process, along with the need for active alliances between the working class, the specially oppressed, and other groups that are victimized by capitalist society.

2) We affirm the need for the working class and oppressed to maintain their political independence from the exploiting classes.

3) We advocate and organize to bring about a revolutionary government in which the self-organization of the oppressed can exercise hegemony, with a goal of breaking definitively with the old bourgeois state and constructing a new state based on working-class power. This is counterposed to the idea of a “broad front” of “progressive” forces in which other class interests are allowed to dominate, leaning on the old bourgeois state rather than breaking with it (what the term “Popular Front” correctly refers to).

4) We recognize the absolute necessity of cohering a revolutionary cadre with sufficient understanding of the essential programmatic elements (using this as part of an active political toolbox) and with a sufficient social weight so that when revolution does become an objective possibility the mass energy that is unleashed in society at large can break out of safe channels, leading to the necessary overthrow of the old state power.

5) We attempt to work out an anti-capitalist strategy based on transitional demands and the transitional method.

In addition to these essential programmatic elements that are not discussed in the RTFI document (what is their relationship to the “new program”?), other points need to be included in any text which attempts to develop a serious appreciation of the FI’s role and tasks today:

* There is no discussion in the IC draft of the difference between revolutionary organizations and “anti-capitalist” formations understood more broadly, not to mention blocs or parties that we might characterize as “centrist” or “left-reformist.” All these quite different kinds of parties or fronts are treated as if the problems posed for revolutionaries are essentially the same when working within them.

* Even if this resolution developed an orientation toward involvement in some kind of regroupment or recomposition process that was appropriately nuanced, taking into account the programmatic elements posed above and other problems that we note here, such an orientation remains an active possibility for only a minority of FI sections today. Most organizations affiliated to the FI are engaged in building independent organizations, and this is, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the appropriate orientation for revolutionary Marxists in these specific countries. RTFI has nothing to say, however, about the importance of this task or how we orient to it.

* Even in cases where we are actually participating in a broader formation of some kind, or have the potential to do so, the uniform evolution of such an organization toward a genuinely revolutionary perspective is hardly guaranteed (and that is an understatement). The political independence of our cadre—and, to the extent required in order to maintain that political independence, some kind of separate organizational formation as well—must be maintained. How else do we prepare for the possibility, even the likelihood judging from recent experiences in Italy and Brazil, of a crisis that results from reformist or centrist elements choosing to support, join, or form a capitalist government? Even in the event of a crisis that is less severe, the existence of a programmatic/organizational pole within the broader anti-capitalist formation, actively organizing around the “shared strategic vision” of the FI is likely to prove decisive. FI sections in country after country have stumbled in recent decades because of a lack of attention to this question. And yet the RTFI text has nothing whatsoever to say about it. We recognize that the answers are rarely simple or easy in such situations, but precisely for that reason the question must be posed and alternative possibilities seriously considered.

* Today we confront the problem of how to maintain our political/organizational independence once again as a result of the formation of the NPA in France. As in other cases, we do not pretend that the answer is simple or easy here. But some answer has to be consciously developed. The authors of these lines are open to hearing a discussion where a range of perspectives might be considered. But we find ourselves unable to conceive of an alternative that fails to include some kind of current or structure, actively seeking to maintain and develop that cadre, within the NPA, that is committed to the politics of the Fourth international and therefore to the political identity of the French section.

* Generally speaking, then, whether engaged in building our own sections as independent organizations or in some kind of broader formation, the first and most important duty of the FI and its sections is to maintain and expand a revolutionary cadre based on our “shared strategic vision.” This means paying attention to building actual sections of the FI. We are in favor of participating in broader anti-capitalist poles, parties and/or alliances. But this is not a goal in and of itself. It has to be understood as a means toward a far more fundamental goal: building genuinely revolutionary mass parties that can, in turn, be part of a revolutionary mass international. There is no substitute for this as our broad strategic objective. We will never ride the coattails of other forces to the kind of influence within the movements of the oppressed that we hope to achieve. We must work toward that goal based on our own political strength, as a specific current of revolutionaries with our own unique, and essential, contribution to make.

* The same kinds of problems that we note above in terms of national parties also haunts this text in relation to its vision of a “new International,” presumably to replace the FI. Here, too, the distinction between revolutionary, anti-capitalist, centrist, and reformist formations is ignored, as are question related to building a revolutionary-Marxist programmatic pole in the context of such a formation. We are in favor of a vision that is broader than simply the FI as it now stands. We are not, however, in favor of a vision that negates the FI as it now stands, or the programmatic continuity which the FI represents. RTFI is simply open to too many diverse possibilities from this point of view. It is, therefore, totally inadequate as a guide for action.

* There is, finally, no consideration of the role FI groups can and should play in helping to resolve the acute crisis of leadership that confronts partial struggles today—in the labor movement, around questions of racism and national oppression, gender oppression, equality for women, and/or the rise of overtly fascist movements—as well as in building the cadres of the FI and the critical mass of its sections. No other political tendency has given any indication that it can become a substitute for the crucial programmatic role revolutionary Marxism has consistently attempted to play, working thereby to solve the crisis of leadership that has plagued the working class and its allies over the last eight decades. This crisis continues to be a key obstacle in the struggles for social change, up to and including the struggle for socialist revolution in today’s world.

All of these deficiencies, taken together, compel us to cast a vote against this text and call on the incoming leadership of the FI to launch a broad discussion that can involve our entire world movement in order to generate a better document. Such a conversation on the real role and tasks of the Fourth International will have to take into account the multiple errors and mistakes that have occurred since 1985 and led, for example, to the disasters of the Mexican section in the 1990s and the Brazilian after 2000. On the basis of such a broad conversation within our ranks, a new document should be developed over the next several years which can chart a road forward for our international and its sections.

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