IV. THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL
XLVIII. THE STRATEGY OF THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL
THE stirring events in France and Spain have done positively what the collapse of the Third International affirmed negatively; namely, they have brought forth the urgent need for a new, a Fourth International. It is inconceivable that the workers in Spain or in any other Western European country can take power under the banner of “Socialism in One Country.” Nor would they be willing to sacrifice their welfare for the transient diplomatic ends of Russia. In self-preservation, they will have to extend their struggle internationally. Unless the fascist forces are powerful enough to crush the present movement—and, in that case, a new world war would be the result—the ferment in Spain and France must result in a new international organization more truly representative of communism.
Such an international will have to work out a real strategy for the world revolution. Today, what the workers of the world lack is not so much a program of socialism or a knowledge of how to fight the day-to-day tactical battles, as a strategy of action that will link up the tactics to the program and help to realize the goal in the quickest possible time. In military terms, we have to deal not so much with problems of the deployment of troops as with questions of logistics and strategies.
The general program of communism has become reasonably well known to large numbers of conscious workers. The theories of Marx and Engels regarding dialectical and historical materialism, value, surplus value, the accumulation of capital, and, finally, the class struggle, and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, all have become the common property of the advanced representatives of the proletariat the world over. Furthermore, these programmatic views of the founders of scientific socialism, especially adapted to the period of the nineteenth-century competitive capitalism, found their supplementation in the work of Lenin, who carried forward the work to meet the new conditions of the twentieth century era of monopoly capitalism. In economics, Lenin elaborated the theory of super-profits which involved the relation of imperialist to colonial countries, the uneven development of capitalism, and the antagonisms between the skilled and the unskilled workers, and between the working class and the peasantry. The theory of super-profits elucidated the workings of the permanent revolution. In politics, Lenin contributed the analysis of the era of imperialism, with its wars and revolutions.
Lenin’s work marked a great turning point in scientific socialism, since it brought the workers face to face with the actual achievement on a large scale of a Dictatorship of the Proletariat in alliance with the poor peasantry in one country alone. There had then to be developed the scientific principles of the relation of such a country to the rest of the capitalist world, as well as of the internal social laws of such a country. The study of the concrete working of this proletarian dictatorship, the examination of its effects upon world capitalism, especially with the advent of fascism, all such analysis must be made part of the communist program of today and must be embraced within the general principles of scientific socialism.
Leon Trotsky, more than anyone else up to the time of the victory of fascism and the collapse of the Third International, contributed to an advancement of understanding of these problems and made the best critique of the Third International. Trotsky, however, has not been able to form the Fourth International. This task will have to be completed by others who have obtained their experience in the struggles of the masses since the time of the Russian Revolution.
The communist programs as they have been laid out by Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky also have had to consider in general outline the social laws of the coming socialist society. This phase of the program became richly concreatized with the advent of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat in the Soviet Union.
The program of communism generally had little to do with the laws governing the actual mobilization of the masses and the rules of revolutionary struggle. The program merely represented the end, the goal, the objective of the movement but hardly dealt with the means, the instruments, the actual process by which the aim was to be attained. Such laws are in the realm of strategy, tactics, and organization, rather than part of the program. Strategy, as distinct from program, takes into intimate account and presupposes an organization of men and a platform of action. If the program represents the general principles of socialism and the objective to be achieved, strategy and tactics represent the totality of the rules of practice by which this program is to be realized.
Of course, there is a great difference between strategy and tactics. Tactical questions are those that have to do with problems pertaining to the mobilization, deployment, and maneuvering of men on any single part of the battle front. They have to do with day-to-day, relatively petty, problems. Strategy on the other hand, includes the general principles underlying the whole system or series of tactical operations. Strategy is the thread that ties up the tactical questions and holds them together along some definite, purposeful line. Without strategy, there is no alignment of the battle front, there is no co-ordination of the various fields of battle, there is no general direction given to the struggle. Strategy has to do with the attaining of the victory in the least possible time and with the smallest amount of energy. It deals with the orientation and general direction of the line of march, and is not concerned with the mass of details necessary to keep the entire force in that direction. Strategy has to do with collation of material, with evaluation and estimation of the relative importance of various actions.
In short, the principles of strategy lie somewhat between the rules of tactics and the standards and norms of the program. Strategy ties up the every day practice with a purpose and, on the other hand, is able to realize the generalities of the program in life. It is concerned both with the practical matters of every day affairs and with the strategic objective striven for; strategy co-ordinates both and is the temporal link that connects the present with the future.
Tactics are the means by which the strategical aim is attained, just as strategy is the means by which the program is realized. To the soldiers who are digging into a shell hole in order to hold a hill, the strategical aim of keeping the hill is the highest goal of their endeavor. To the general, who has a clearer picture of the relation of each tactical part to the strategical whole, the holding of the hill is but a means to the end of smashing the enemy and winning the programmatic objective. Tactics, therefore, represent secondary actions, maneuvers, methods. The system of strategy works out the primary means by which the programmatic ends may be reached.
This does not at all mean that tactics is unimportant or less vital than strategy or program, in accomplishing the mission of the proletariat. On the contrary, program alone, that is, a general body of ideas, can accomplish nothing unless there is an army imbued with the ambition to make this program a reality. Such an army functions only according to the rules of tactics and strategy. To imagine that the program will be realized of itself, and that all that is necessary is to state the desirability of the goal, is pure idealism. Behind every right is the might necessary to establish it as a right.
Also, within the realm of practice, it is not true that tactics is unimportant, or that questions of tactics are but secondary matters. Unless the tactics are appropriate, unless the proper means are used realistically, the whole strategy is doomed to failure. Very often differences in tactics reveal differences in strategy and in program as well. Again, people willing to accept the phrases of the program may secretly give them different interpretations, which differences come out, not in the debates on the program, but only in the course of the concrete actions to realize the programs. Then the differences first appear as differences in tactics, when in reality, behind these differences on small questions, there are revealed truly gigantic disagreements that place the contestant parties on opposite sides of the barricades.
Amateurs in the revolutionary movement often express an opinion as follows: disagreements on matters of tactics are always secondary disagreements and do not lead to splits in the movement; splits are justified only when the disagreements are programmatic. This is a typical student formulation, having nothing to do with the real revolutionary movement. Outside of the fact that all differences, even in tactics, if pursued long enough, must become differences in direction and in purpose, that is differences in strategy and program, it is, of course, ridiculous to assume that the only time men can disobey their orders is when they have abstract differences concerning the kind of society they want to build or in the general principles of their movement.
The true situation is not that tactics are secondary to strategy or that differences on tactics are picayune and must not cause too great dissensions in the ranks of the revolutionary proletariat, but rather that the workers must fight about every question, whether program, strategy, or tactics, which is really vital and which can lead to defeat or to victory. Splits not only can occur but must occur on questions of tactics and organization, wherever such questions involve the life and death of the whole movement at the given moment.
Let us pause to give various illustrations of this general principle just enunciated. In the revolutionary movement it can be said that, ordinarily, tactics would include the following type of questions:
1. Types of demonstrations—Should the demonstrations be indoors or outdoors? What should be its size, character, and tone? What should be the slogans, etc.? These matters pertain to tactics, and yet they can be absolutely vital to the welfare of the movement at any given time.
2. Questions of dates—What should be the date for a given strike or insurrection? It might seem that the matter of date is such a trifling circumstance in relation to the vast problems of socialism that comrades could well disagree with certain dates set for action and still remain comrades. And yet, behind the question of dates might stand the whole welfare and future of the revolution itself. Those merely opposing a given date might be postponing the day until it becomes too late for victory and leads to a terrible blood bath for the workers. Here, again, behind the question of the trifling matter of date might be a whole analysis of the situation of the world and the relation of forces. Certainly it might be correct for splits to occur in a revolutionary party on the question of setting the date for the insurrection, just as, under some circumstances, splits could occur in unions on the question of setting the date for a strike.
3. Demands—A third matter of tactics is the question of what demands to bring forward in the interests of the workers and toilers. The formulation of these demands truly belongs in the domain of tactics, and yet how many times movements have failed completely because of unrealistic demands which in turn exposed the false strategy and orientation of the entire movement.
Just as splits can occur on questions of tactics, so can they occur on questions of organization as well. For the problem of organization is only another method of presenting problems of program, strategy, and tactics. The organization must be the instrument to accomplish the goal set, and those who build organizational structures obviously unfit to accomplish the goal have in reality changed the goal and the aim of the movement.
The program of communism was enunciated before there existed a great body of proletarians in every important country of Europe and America. Naturally, in the days of the beginnings of the movement, the question of program played the most important part. The Communist League of Karl Marx has gone down in history primarily because of the Marxist program enunciated by that organization.
This is not to say that strategy did not exist, even in those early days. On the contrary, the Communist League participated actively in all the revolutionary events of 1848, undertook to organize unions, and, as an organization of action, had to deal with problems of strategy, tactics, and organization, as well as with the general questions of program.
The strategy of the Communist League was not so much concerned, however, with the question of the establishment of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat as it was with the question of the overthrow of the ancien regime and the clearing of the decks for action for the proletariat later. It was not a matter of defeating the enemies of the workers, the bourgeoisie, so much as defeating the enemy of their enemies, the feudalists. The strategy of the Communist League was the strategy of how the proletarian forces could work with the democratic forces of capitalism to overthrow the old order, winning as many concessions for the workers as possible, casting off the illusions among the proletarians, and preparing them and strengthening them for future struggles for socialism.
The strategy of the Communist League was primarily one of permanent revolution, that is, how to start the revolution forward and to keep it moving at the most rapid tempo until the victory of the proletariat, when the revolution should come to an end and become permanent. Together with this strategy went all the principles of how to work with those going along the same road as the proletariat up to the time when the quondam allies would break apart and face each other as mortal enemies.
The strategy of the Communist league, carried forward later by the First International, then, involved the following questions:
1. The matter of overthrowing reaction, the old order, the absolute monarchies and the feudalistic landlords, especially entrenched in Prussia, Austria, and Russia. Here is the key to understanding the Marxists’ reactions to the Crimean War, to the American Civil War, to the Revolutions of 1848, and similar events.
2. The question of pushing the bourgeois republic forward to the adoption of the utmost democratic forms and social reforms which would allow the proletariat free play to organize and to mobilize its strength and to develop generally.
3. The question of alliances of the proletariat with the peasantry and other masses of toilers against the ruling groups of the country. With this went the problem of the separation of the petty bourgeoisie from the bourgeois rulers, the problems of the united front with petty bourgeois elements to win them towards favorable action with the working class.
Although, even from the earliest days, the Marxists insisted on combining theory with practice and uniting their program to whatever actions of the day promised to realize it even in part, nevertheless, the Communist League is known not so much for its practical action as for its theoretical achievements in advancing scientific socialism. The immature modern proletariat then was groping about trying to find its way.
A similar situation existed with the First International organized later, in 1864. The First International, too, is known by its programmatic contributions, by its propaganda rather than by its practice, even though it did enter into revolutionary events. Indeed, the bourgeoisie made the First International responsible for the actions of the Paris Commune. But the action of the First International was spasmodic and ephemeral. What was lasting, what was the most important part of the First International’s life, was the programmatic line of action that it laid down for the workers for all time to come in the struggle against capital.
By the time of the foundation of the Second International, in 1889, the situation had changed. The grandiose plans and schemes had given way to prosaic day-to-day interests. The labor movement was growing up and becoming realistic and practical. It was winning various concessions for the skilled and bribed imperialistic workers from the bosses, and was quite content to avoid the abstract questions of revolution and to pay attention to the immediate bread and butter problems of the day.
The Second International was interested neither in the program of socialism nor in the strategy of revolution, but concentrated almost entirely in its real life upon the tactics of the moment. Viewing the period in question (1889-1914) from the broad historical perspective, we can say truly that the Second International in reality lived up to what the workers could have achieved and no more. The workers could win reform; they were too weak to accomplish the revolution. The task then was to organize, to form mass organizations, teaching the workers the rudiments of discipline and organizational solidarity.
The mass organizations of the proletariat could be erected then only on the most primitive base, and on questions of immediate practical interest. This was the period of trade union building, of co-operative formations, of all sorts of associative effort among the workers to ameliorate their lot concretely. It was not the period of revolutionary activity of the masses throughout the important industrial countries of Europe and America.
Not that the Second International did not carry on abstract discussions on the program of socialism and did not help to disseminate in its own fashion the revolutionary views of Marx and Engels. But it did not understand these revolutionary views which it was so diligently disseminating and, in real life, it betrayed them again and again. Program entirely was divorced from tactics, theory from practice. While, abstractly, these people called themselves socialists, they believed that socialism was far away, and that many hundreds of years of education would be necessary, perhaps, before the world would be ready for the new social order.
Separating their practical activity from their general socialist program as they did, the members of the Second International became either crass opportunists and narrow and provincial organizers living only from moment to moment, or they became Leftist sectarians, immersed in a world of words and abstract ideas of Marxist terms. All that one side could see was the matter of a few cents an hour increase for a small number of workers; all for which the other could call was the unconditional surrender of capitalism, otherwise they would not participate. As the practice of both sides became non-revolutionary, their program became eclectic, vague, ambiguous, loose, and non-revolutionary as well. One may sum up the matter with the statement that the First International was an International of Program; the Second International was an International of Tactics.
With the Third International we find at last a definite effort made to link up the day-to-day life of the masses and their immediate problems with the general program of socialism. By 1919, the world proletariat was faced with entirely different problems. It was now a period of action, not of molecular tiny action for a small handful of the workers in a few exceptional countries, but molar action of large bodies. Capitalism definitely was on the decline, bringing in its wake mighty convulsions that shook all the nations of the world, throwing them into one crisis after another.
Now that action was indicated, and the workers must fight or perish, now that there was no other way out of the concrete practical dilemmas facing the masses except revolution and the overthrow of capitalism, there developed a strategy of revolution. Under the guidance of Lenin, the gap between theory and practice began to close, tactics and program became tightly connected. It would be totally wrong to say, as, for example, Max Eastman does (*1) that Marx was the theoretician and Lenin the practitioner, or rather that Marx was the abstruse dialectician and Lenin the great revolutionary technician or engineer. Marx and Engels also engaged in the action of their time, but their time did not permit much steady revolutionary street action, and they were confined to working out the general laws of socialism and spreading the propaganda of their science. On the other hand, Lenin contributed much to political science, but his life, to a very considerable extent, was overwhelmed with the practical activity of the revolutionary movements. As Lenin wrote in his State and Revolution: “It is more pleasant and more useful to go through the ‘experience of a revolution’ than to write about it.” (*2)
If the Second International could be said to have had a strategy at all, then in fact it was a strategy of no independent strategy, that is to say it was a strategy of following the bourgeoisie and working for democratic and social reforms. The strategy of the Second International consisted in being the tail end of the bourgeois Liberals and to carry out their wishes in the ranks of the proletariat.
The strategy of the Third International, in an era of wars and revolutions, was an entirely different one; it was a strategy of making a definite bid for power. To turn imperialist war into civil war, to organize instruments of struggle of the masses, such as soviets, by which workers and peasants could unite for the conquest of power under the leadership of the industrial workers, to connect the revolutionary movement with the colonial uprisings and agrarian problems of the oppressed sections of the countryside, to conduct an organized uprising and insurrection, and to defend the revolution on the battlefield of world counter-revolutionary intervention, these were the contributions of Leninism in the field of strategy.
Among the many strategical problems confronting the Fourth International for solution, including the theory of the permanent revolution, the united front, the attitude towards the Soviet Union, the policy on the war danger, and others, we shall take up here in detail merely the following: 1. Workers’ control over production; 2. Direct action; 3. Strategy of insurrection, and 4. Arming of the proletariat.
The Fourth International will have to make the most careful study of the question of workers’ control over production. Under some circumstances, where there is no revolutionary situation, and the capitalist order is relatively stable, the slogan “Workers’ Control over Production” may be used in an opportunist and reformist sense, providing a theoretical basis for all sorts of schemes of collaboration with the employers. Communists must beware that revolutionary phrases do not in fact cover up counter-revolutionary policies.
Even fascists have formed their organizations with the specious plea that they are going to give the workers some control over industry. Very often company unions are built by employers with the slogan that they believe in industrial democracy and the right of the workers to have a say in the business. Again, it is possible for labor leaders, like Sydney Hillman of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, demagogically to declare that “the industry has responsibility to the workers” only in order to work out some joint action with the manufacturers’ association or to help the employers “put order” into the industry by collaborating with them in the introduction of machinery, in speed-up and rationalization plans, etc. Most often, the idea that the workers should control their jobs is used by the trade union bureaucrats to obtain the check-off system, whereby the dues to the union are taken out of the wage envelopes by the employers and handed over to the union officials. On the surface, it seems that this measure compels the capitalist to work for the union; in reality it results in the employers’ and union officials’ working hand in hand, while the union members have little to say about finances. Also, the idea of workers’ control can be interpreted to mean that the union bureaucracy should control the right to hire and to fire.
Similarly, the term “Workers’ Control” has been abused by the functionaries of the opportunist labor parties. When a labor party secures government offices, at once the officials begin to explain to the workers in industry that strikes would embarrass the labor government, and that the workers are really controlling the factories and industries through their parliamentary labor party. The elections of the labor party are run on the assumption that labor party victories would mean workers’ control over the resources of the nation. As a matter of fact, everywhere we see these labor parties defending capitalism and preventing the workers from moving towards socialism through genuine workers’ control.
An interesting variation of the labor party use of the term “Workers’ Control” is the phrase “Industrial Democracy.” In the United States, the Railroad Brotherhoods in 1921 indorsed the Plumb Plan of operation of the railroads, which plan had as its features the nationalization of the railroads, with full compensation, and their operation by a board composed of workers, management, and government. This class-collaboration scheme was called “Industrial Democracy” or “Workers’ Control over Production.” A similar proposal was made by John L. Lewis and the United Mine Workers after the War in reference to the coal mines. Behind the phrases that sounded as though labor was advancing its interests was the attempt of the union officials to link up the unions with the government in order to speed up production and to prevent strikes.
It can be seen from the very terms that the idea of workers’ taking control over industrial production does not mean that they dispossess the owners and take over the property themselves. This is far from the case. The employer still owns the factory; he is still nominally the possessor and the proprietor. Only he now loses the right to close down the plant, the right to hire and to fire workers as he pleases, the right to dictate the working conditions. In his plant there is now elected a committee of workers that goes over his books, limits his profits, sets up its own control, prevents sabotage or lock-down of the works. Naturally, then, we have a situation of dual power that can be only temporary.
No employer is going to allow the intolerable situation of workers taking control of his factory without putting up a battle. On the other hand, the invasion of his plant by the workers means that they are preparing to establish their own ownership and rule, shortly, and that the control is only a stepping stone on the way. Thus, when properly used, the slogan “Workers’ Control over Production” is adopted by the proletariat, on the one hand, when the capitalists are losing control of the situation or have provoked the masses into action without having the strength to stop them, and on the other hand, when the workers are ready to establish the dictatorship and to take full possession but are not as yet able to do so.
Every revolution has this sort of transition period and, since the factual situation is inevitable, it is necessary for revolutionists to examine it from all points of view. A revolutionary organization cannot issue the slogan “Workers’ Control over Production” if it is meant to be carried out during periods of capitalist stability, when it can only imply wholesale collaboration of the workers with the employers, in which the workers consider the production problems of the capitalists and introduce measures to increase the latter’s profits. A Communist Party can issue the demand for workers’ control only in periods which are becoming revolutionary, when the masses are in action, and the demand of workers’ control will unleash the energy of the toilers still farther, will bring matters to a head-on collision, and will impel the proletariat to take the necessary steps for the conquest of power.
The socialists have the idea that the workers must be trained, not in destructive operations, but in constructive work, and part of that constructive work is to learn how to manage and to operate the factories so that, when socialism comes, the working class already will be trained by the bourgeoisie so that everything will work smoothly without a hitch. The revolutionist, on the other hand, understands very well that the slogan “Workers’ Control” can be used only in a revolutionary situation, when the destructive factors of social evolution are reaching their highest level, when the employer is trying to lock out the workers and to throw them out on the street, so that pitched battles with the military can be provoked, and the workers either can be shot down or starved into submission. “Workers’ Control over Production” is used in a period when such control will not be accomplished by more production, but by more revolutionary activity of all sorts. It is to be accomplished, not in order to teach the workers management, but in order to build up the fighting forces, and to realize the objectives of the revolutionary movement.
It is paradoxical, but true, that “Workers’ Control” is introduced precisely at a time when all social control is being lost; when society is in chaos, when civil war is imminent. Herein ties also the difference between “Workers’ Control” and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Under the Dictatorship, there is internal cohesion, order, discipline, there is a party with acknowledged authority; the capitalists are out of the factories, completely ousted, and the workers are running their own affairs. Under the transition regime of workers’ control, on the other hand, everything is sporadic, confused, haphazard. The actions are not planned or controlled; there can be no centralized planned economy, no real utilization of the national resources. It is fantastic to imagine that under such circumstances production can be increased.
It is true that the workers undertake to control the plants under the pressure of the lock-outs and sabotage of the capitalists and the need for continued production. But it is also true that, once they take over the factories, even though ownership nominally is retained by the capitalists, they will have to fight to maintain their control and must enter into the destructive aspects of civil war.
In Hungary, in 1919, and in Italy, in 1921, the workers took over the factories and ran them themselves, but they soon found out that they had to confront the world subdivision of labor; their raw materials ran out, they had to get into communication with the outside capitalist world that refused to aid them in any way. Thus, the workers’ control must have an extremely limited character until the proletariat is able to conquer not only the power in its own State, but to extend the proletarian revolution, in most cases, beyond the boundaries of one nation.
An important question to be discussed is: what is the relation of workers’ control to the political movement and to the Dictatorship of the Proletariat? In Russia there was no intensive workers’ control until the proletariat took over power through the soviets, and then they went through the process of workers’ control for almost a year before they decided to go the whole way and to socialize industry outright. Thus, in Russia, workers’ control went hand in hand with the period of the democratic-dictatorship of the workers and peasants expressed through the soviets. Only by taking over political power was the workers’ control made effective by the workers.
In Germany, the workers attempted to institute a workers’ control over production in 1918-1919 through their factory Councils, but they did not seize power. The socialists in the government were holding the power, not for the workers, but for the bourgeoisie and, at the first opportunity, crushed the workers. In the interim, while they were stalling for time, the socialists established futile “Commissions on Socialization” to study the question and to report back to parliament. On their part, instead of taking over the industries, the Workers Councils waited for the Socialist Party to nationalize the industries.
Workers’ control, as such, has absolutely nothing to do with the nationalization of industries. The socialists like to substitute one for the other. They are generally opposed to workers’ councils or soviets in the factories. The reformists would like the workers to trust to the socialist politicians to bring the factories under workers’ influence. Workers’ control, to the socialists and opportunists of all stripes, means simply workers’ participation in a government that controls the industries and runs them.
Nothing could be farther from the correct policy than this. If the workers wait for no government, if they take the factories themselves and run them, these actions alone will be guarantees that the government will begin to correspond to the needs of the workers, and not vice versa. In Germany, the workers waited for the government to act; the result was, they could not control industry at all. On the other hand, workers’ control should be the economic phase of the movement of the proletariat, the political aspect of which is the conquest of power.
In and of itself, nationalization of industry means simply State capitalism. (*3) The workers have no control whatsoever. This is true, even when a labor party or a socialist party is in the government. The government is still a government over the workers and in favor of the bourgeoisie in all these cases. Where the workers take over control of the factories, they must strive to take over power and thus not so much to nationalize the factories as to socialize them. In this way, the proletariat can legalize its factual control and can go farther and dispossess the capitalists.
In Italy, the masses took control over the factories, but could not take political control. In the end, they lost the economic control as well. In Germany, they waited to take political control before they took economic control. They lost both. In Russia, the movement for workers’ control went concomitant with the movement for power, and each buttressed the other. It was successful. However, it is well to point out that, if workers’ control over the factories goes hand in hand with the movement for Dictatorship of the Proletariat, as we have remarked before, by no means are they identical. Workers’ control has existed without proletarian dictatorship (though not for long) and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat can exist without direct workers’ control. This we have seen in the discussion of the present situation in Russia.
Matters of wages, hours, and working conditions generally are fought for by unions, craft, trade, and industrial. Workers’ control over production can be managed generally only by shop committees, workers’ councils, or such bodies that sometimes cut across craft and even industrial lines. Wherever the workers’ councils or committees have been set up, they have been conceived, not as dual organizations to the industrial unions, but rather as organs for sharper forms of struggle, for the taking over of the factories. Of late, however, the industrial union is being created on the basis of the shop council itself, and thus both forms are combined. In the past, however, the industrial union has been the instrument for fighting economic battles, the workers’ councils for workers’ control, and the Soviets for the conquest of power.
In Spain, at the present time, the syndicalists in control of the National Confederation of Labor have refused to turn over the factories to the control of the State or Soviets, even though the State may be run by Soviets, and the Soviets run by the workers. Here, the arguments of the Workers Opposition in Russia of 1922 are being realized, and the unions themselves are undertaking to run production, to centralize it, and to work out any plan that will have to be made. The workers refuse to lose control over their factories directly, even though the Dictatorship of the Proletariat is being established. Whether this duality between the trade unions and the soviets which take in the broader masses of toilers, including the agricultural laborers and the peasantry, will remain practical, is yet to be seen.
The problem of direct action is another matter of strategy which must engross the attention of the Fourth International. The present period offers a different background than ever before for a consideration of this problem. Previously, it was warmly debated whether there was not a better way than physical action in the streets for a solution of the contradictions facing the masses. The liberal era offered the method of mutual tolerance, of rational discussion, culminating in parliamentarism. Today, these solutions are plainly inadequate. The contradictions of capitalism have made the system one of violence and brutal action in every phase of life. One must be prepared at every turn to back up one’s opinions with one’s life. The question whether to participate in parliament has faded in importance in the light of the fact that parliament is now fast becoming a lost and forgotten institution.
Incidentally, the present age reminds intellectuals that the best method of pedagogy is the one in which practice is the teacher. Today, opinions literally must be fought for. This means that the days of hyperbolic polemics are over. Opinions will be restricted to those which are important, and over which the protagonist is deadly in earnest. This alone will spell the death knell of the dilettante intellectual from Hobohemia or Sexopathia who has inhabited the fringe of the proletarian movement. Fascism has a way of driving the chatterbox out of the movement and of allowing only those who are sincere to remain. This is another guarantee that the proletarian movement will be placed on the tracks of direct action. Action and theory will tend to become more united within the revolutionary movement; democracy and free speech will be for the doers only.
Direct action in the past has taken either economic or political forms, of a reformistic or revolutionary character. Heretofore there has been ample room between the rehearsal and the final act of the drama, between the period of preparation and the actual insurrection. The present period, however, is distinguished by the fact that the struggle for reform in many instances leads directly and immediately to the struggle for power. Under fascism, even the reform demonstration is not permitted, and one takes his life in his hands when proposing even the most moderate improvements for the masses. Since every action of the masses becomes fraught with such serious consequences, the organization of these actions must be studied carefully in every instance.
If the present epoch is one of direct action, it is another sign that the revolutionary movement must shift farther from the idea that the gyration of the representative or of the delegate can be substituted for the action of the mass itself. Direct action places before every participant the full consequences of his activity. He himself must fight out all the doubtful questions that besiege him before entering into the battle. In representative action, the masses remain passive; the field is open for bureaucracy. In direct action, the masses themselves live; the representative is merely the leader, and that leader is best who knows how to train others for leadership. In a period of direct action, the units of the revolutionary party must be small, and each member must be capable of standing on his own feet. Responsibility and capability become tested and developed.
Direct action of an economic, secondary nature may occur in the industries, among the unemployed and among the mass of consumers. With the producers, it takes the form of strikes which, in the present period, tend to lose their simple economic character, even where the strikes have purely economic aims, and to take on important political consequences. In Germany today, any large strike would be bound to have violent political repercussions. The very raison d’etre of fascism is its ability to crush all organization and united action of the working class. The mere fact of a united strike under fascism would be a complete challenge to the entire regime, no matter what the aims of the strike. Under fascism, every strike quickly would have to turn into insurrection. For that reason, the workers are slow to strike, knowing well the consequences of their actions.
In all countries, of course, it is the strategy of the communists to widen and to deepen every physical demonstration of the workers, to raise its political level, to connect the strike with the issue of workers’ power. Where the strike becomes a general strike, there the question of power becomes a pressing one on the immediate order of the day.
The question of strike intimately is connected with the active boycott as a weapon of direct action. The boycott can transform a local action to a widespread general struggle, tying up both consumers and producers, and uniting the working class as a whole. Connected with the boycott is the question of mass retaliation for injuries and mass sabotage. Revenge is not an inconsequential motive here, and the communists will not generally restrain the spontaneity of the mass, even though spontaneity is not enough for victory.
If it is true that we live in an anti-reform period, then every struggle for reform must meet the sternest resistance. Thus, even the organization of new trade unions embodying layers of unskilled workers will meet the fiercest opposition. For this reason, we can predict that the American Federation of Labor, with its liberal hesitating policies, never will be able to organize the mass of Negroes, or the unskilled workers in the South. Those who go out to win reforms today must be made of the hard fiber of revolutionists’ It is not peaceful persuasion that will accomplish the job, at a time when capitalism is on the down-grade, but only hard struggle. The organization of the unorganized and the building up of unions for struggle, more and more belong to the revolutionary elements. Only the revolutionist can be even a successful reformist.
In the unemployed field the genuine revolutionary communist will tend to make the unemployed organization rely entirely upon direct action to improve conditions. Adequate unemployment insurance is impossible today, when the armies of unemployed are so enormous. The unemployed, therefore, must be taught to help themselves. Communists and unemployed will not spend much time in legislatures, petitioning, but rather will mobilize their forces in militant demonstrations and will concentrate their attention on the places where food is stored, where fuel and clothing may be obtained. Whole neighborhoods can be aroused over the question of evictions in order to make every eviction as costly as possible for the landlords. The general idea is that the wealthy must find it more costly to make conditions worse than to maintain them to remain as they are.
Today, direct action can be not only a weapon to remedy conditions, but a preventative force. The proletariat, knowing the menace of fascism, physically can annihilate the fascist movement at the very start. After all, in some countries the organized labor movement is well entrenched. If it knows that the days of liberalism are numbered and must give way to fascist violence, then it will be forewarned enough to make it impossible for the fascist forces to appear in workers’ quarters.
The strategy of the communists in this period must be to make the demonstrations as brutal and as powerful as possible. In every case where the workers have been defeated sentimentality and liberal illusions have played far too great a part. The more firm and positive the action, the better the demonstration.
In the United States, the question of the fight against lynching’s of the Negro, the labor organizer, and the poor white toiler, furnishes a good illustration of the correct method. The communist will not bewail the institution of lynching, but will try to use that institution against the instigators of lynching. The slogan “Lynch the lynchers of the Negroes and poor toilers” will mark the adoption of American methods to terminate the slaughter of innocent workers. As part of this policy, everywhere the Negroes should be induced to organize white and black physical defense bodies to protect the poor masses and to build up the power of the lowest strata of the population.
Direct action logically leads to insurrection. The strike, the boycott, the demonstration, all have this as their ultimate objective and goal.
On the road to insurrection for every class striving for power lies the problem of disarming the rulers and of arming their own cohorts. This question is not peculiar to the proletariat alone, and it is interesting to note how the bourgeoisie solved the problem of the disarming of the ancien regime and of the arming of its own forces. Generally speaking, the nascent capitalist class accomplished its task, first by winning over the biggest baron or prince to its side, and making him supreme through its monetary and material support. The reliance of the military upon gunpowder, cannon, and manufactured instruments naturally gave the advantage to the manufacturers of these articles or to those with the money to purchase them. As the capitalists’ enemies, the feudal lords and knights, became reduced in power, they gradually disarmed; their old retainers were disbanded, they themselves becoming bedroom courtiers, knights of the bath or of the garter.
The next task of the bourgeoisie was to take command of the apparatus of the State, and, in particular, of certain key sections of the armed forces. Generally, the capitalists managed to obtain important posts, such as Ministers of Finance, so that at critical moments in the struggle they could entirely disorganize their opponent in power. Then, too, they managed in Britain to control the vital forces of the navy. In America, they trained themselves through the French and Indian wars. Everywhere they endeavored to influence certain corps of the army, especially the artillery department, where the needed engineers and scientists were located. If the cavalry often belonged to the royalists, the artillery frequently followed the capitalists. Once the bourgeoisie found themselves with fetters unbound or in control of the State, they quickly formed their own special forces, such as the Garde Mobile in France. Sometimes they used these special forces to crack the regular army of the old regime and to win it over to their cause.
The proletariat has had a more difficult time than the bourgeoisie in disarming the forces of the State and in arming itself. Let us remember that the bourgeoisie seized power in most cases long after it had become the dominating factor in production; hence it had money and other material means at its disposal. The proletariat, on the other hand, must seize power in order to make certain its possession of the means of production; it must make the struggle for power as a dispossessed, oppressed class. Hence the weapons it needs—unless it is armed by the bourgeoisie for war purposes—must be taken from the bourgeoisie by force. This arming of itself is an inevitable process, and the Fourth International will have to take cognizance of the tasks to be performed. First of all there is the fact that proletarian revolutions today do not need to wait for world wars to break out. They can mature, as China, Cuba, and Spain have shown, even where there is no war to throw all antagonisms into sharp relief.
In considering the armed forces of the State, many distinctions must be drawn. First, it must be determined whether the army is a mercenary volunteer one or a conscript army. Naturally the approach will be different and the possibilities for work vary in each case. Then there are the questions pertaining to each branch of the service. In general, it will be found that the artillery and aviation corps will be firmly under the control of the capitalists, the cavalry in charge of the agrarian element, and the infantry made up of both workers and farmers or peasants. Each branch of the armed forces will offer special problems. This does not mean that the proletariat will not be able to get a foothold in all these divisions. In the aviation corps, for example, much depends upon the aviation mechanic who is closely bound to the working class and who can be unionized and induced to strike in solidarity with his brethren. As the armed forces become increasingly motorized and mechanized, the number of plain workmen attached to the army increases. The proletariat enters into the heart of even the most mercenary armed force today.
Then there are the other divisions of the armed forces, such special, super-loyal groups as the United States Marines, who act as police over the army and navy, such groups as the National Guard or State militia, which are in between the regular army and the police and which offer diverse problems. In the United States, these groups are often filled with working class and farmer elements who are sympathetic to strikers. The National Guard and State Militia, however, are intended to be particularly loyal to the bourgeoisie and to be used for internal work, against the enemy at home. Therefore, the effort to crack this particular body of men becomes especially important to revolutionists in ordinary times of strike, or where insurrection is not yet imminent enough to warrant the use of the regular army. In the European countries, special Mobile Guards, or National Guards, are formed for this sole purpose of domestic action.
Besides this group, some countries have special nationalized and centralized police forces, like the French gendarmerie, who are highly paid and removed from the local influence of the people. Further down the line there are the specialized and permanent forces of the police, such as the “Industrial squads,” the detective force, etc. In all countries, a sharp line has been drawn between the regular army and the police, the proletariat abandoning all hope of winning the police over to their side, but concentrating instead upon the regular soldiers, with whom they have a better chance. In America there is still another division, the posse of the sheriff. This is made up of citizens, most often of citizens completely controlled by the capitalists.
Around the armed forces are to be found large numbers of proletarians who are part of the civilian population needed to sustain the soldiers. As a general rule, the advance of capitalism increasingly has intertwined the army with industry, and while war has become the greatest industry of modern times, tending completely to subordinate all other branches to itself, simultaneously the military machine has been forced to rely increasingly upon the factories and the productive processes of the country. Thus strikes, boycotts, sabotage, can become increasingly powerful weapons to demoralize and crack the armed forces by removing material support from them at critical moments. But beyond that, there are the armories and arsenals filled with weapons, which these workers can take over at the right time. This is highly important, since to control the armory or arsenal means to secure the means of arming the masses directly and to remove the guns and other armament from the regular forces of the State. Besides these depots, there are the camps and cantonments of all sorts which have large numbers of workmen attached to them, workmen who, if properly organized and directed, could do inestimable damage in winning the soldiery to the cause of the revolution. Finally, of course, there is the method of direct and indirect fraternization between the members of the army and the ordinary working population. Wherever these soldiers go in the cities, during recreation periods or otherwise, they are bound to come in contact with the mass of people and to become infected with the prevailing social views.
Extremely important, and often furnishing an invaluable link in reaching the military ranks, are the social-military reserves which the capitalist State is forced to maintain. These reserves are of various sorts; conscripts who are liable to be called back to the colors, officers who are on call, veteran organizations, military training groups, and such bodies as in America are represented by the Reserve Officers Training Corps, the Citizens Military Training Camps, the various rifle clubs authorized by the government, military schools, and similar institutions.
The attitude of the communist must change according to the specific character and purpose of each body. As much as possible, these social organizations should be utilized to penetrate both into the regular armed forces and into the ranks of the lines next in reserve.
Part of the strategy of the disarming of the bourgeoisie is the dissolution of the capitalist armies in times of war. The line of Lenin was the defeatist line, that is, the policy whereby the communists worked for the defeat of their own ruling class and did their best to win the workers and conscripts in the army to their cause by denouncing the war and organizing mutinies to subdue the officers and transform imperialist war to civil war. Of course, the communists have to work differently than the agents of foreign governments at war with one another. Not every form of defeatism is revolutionary defeatism; the mere fact that the troops are defeated does not necessarily mean a strengthening of the workers’ forces. In times of war, capitalists always try to make the communists into agents provocateurs or spies for the enemy ruling class; this is a great danger that must be avoided. The defeatism of the Leninist takes the form of accentuating the class struggle in all its ramifications; by no means can it take the form of consciously favoring the capitalist class of the hostile country. (*4) Naturally, these precautions do not hold so far as contacting the workers of the other belligerent countries are concerned, and every effort must be made at fraternization with the workers and soldiers of the opposing armies, so as to break down capitalist and imperialist divisions.
The defeatism of the proletariat cannot take only the form of strikes at home and of mutinies in the army, but also must make use of the pacifistic tendencies in the ranks of the petty bourgeoisie. Pacifism can be used to demoralize the ranks of the supporters of the capitalist class just as it is normally used to demoralize the ranks of the workers. The militant sections of the advanced workers certainly cannot ignore the traditions and sentiments of pacifism which a large number of the petty bourgeoisie hold as their own, but must learn how to use these feelings for a revolutionary purpose. After all, it is not generally the working class that declares wars, but the rulers, and the opposition of pacifism can assume a sincere note that will allow the pacifists to work in alliance with the revolutionists. This was seen in the conference of Zimmerwald, and elsewhere, in the early period of the War.
The bourgeoisie internationally also can become disarmed by divisions in its ranks as well as by exhaustion. Where the workers actually are in charge of a State faced with the possibility of a capitalist united front against it, it is perfectly proper for that workers’ State to try to prevent the consolidation of the hostile capitalist world. It has the duty of making alliances that will split up the opposing forces as much as possible. Furthermore, if the war must break out, it would be better for it to break out in the capitalist world than against the country which temporarily is controlled by the workers. But there must be no illusions that the capitalist classes of the world also do not appreciate this danger and will not ultimately unite their forces against the country won by the workers. What is wrong with the Franco-Soviet pact is not that the Soviet Union has tried to make alliances with capitalist countries, but rather that, in order to make that alliance, it has sacrificed the interests of the world revolution, preventing the French Revolution from breaking out, and thus further isolating the Soviet Union itself.
Where colonial countries like Morocco, under Abd-El-Krim, and Ethiopia, under Haile Selassie, revolt against imperialism, it is the duty of the communists to support the colonial forces in revolt, even where there is no possibility of introducing communism in those countries. The storming of the main fortress of capitalism in Europe and America can be accomplished only by making use of the vast guerrilla fighting that breaks out in colonial countries, from Asia to Latin America. Colonial warfare, if it does nothing else, at least weakens the forces of imperialism, and permits the workers better to attack in the industrial countries.
Hand in hand with the question of disarming the bourgeoisie goes the problem of the arming of the class that is coming to power, the proletariat. The general tendency of capitalism is to arm the entire people and to mobilize it for war. It is clear that an oppressed class that has never used arms cannot conquer power. Therefore, the strategy of the communists must be to train as many of the working class population as possible in fighting and in the use of arms. As in the slogan, “Lynch the lynchers of the Negroes and of poor toilers,” it is not the action of fighting that is condemned, but the direction that the fighting takes. In the case of the armed forces, what the communists try to do is to turn the army against its own officers and to throw the armed people against the bourgeois state.
In the nineteenth century, when many States maintained standing armies of mercenary soldiers, the Marxist predicted that, following the French Revolution, the inevitable tendency would be for universal military training and conscription; to this change they were opposed. Today, however, the attitude of the communists towards universal military training cannot be confined to generalities, but must be entirely concrete and specific. The world can be divided into three principal sections, in this respect.
In Europe, where universal military training has existed for a long time, where the devastating World War brought home the meaning of revolution to the entire population, and where the mass of workers have been in the trenches and already know the use of arms, here the communists no longer can support the demand for universal military training, although not necessarily must they be in opposition to it. The demand in Europe today must be for a People’s or for a Workers’ Militia. Especially appropriate is this in countries where the “People’s Front” rules. It can be demonstrated that, only when the entire people are armed is peace assured, as evidenced by the fact that the first country to stop fighting in the World War, was precisely that country that dissolved its regular army and armed the people—Russia.
In the colonial and semi-colonial countries, however, a entirely different situation prevails. In such cases as China, India, Nicaragua, or the Philippines, the imperialists rule through mercenary armies separate and apart from the people. In such countries the demand for universal military training would arouse the masses to the highest pitch of enthusiasm and would fill the rulers with dread. One of the great signs of hope in China today is the fact that the old traditions of Confucius, which looked askance at military training, are rapidly disappearing. If the incessant fighting in China has accomplished nothing else, it has at least been a great training school for the masses to learn the use of arms. This is the beginning of the end for imperialism.
In such countries as the United States, Canada, Australia, and similar regions where the masses are not trained in the use of arms and have never had conscription for any length of time, universal military training can serve a decidedly useful purpose for the communists. In such countries, then, it is the duty of the communists not to oppose universal military training, but rather to favor it, although they may not always be in the position openly to demand it, since traditions of pacifism in a given country might make the general labor movement misinterpret this demand. Yet there is no other way in which to arm the masses. In this category of countries, the time is not ripe to raise the slogan, “Workers’ Militia.” It is significant that in the United States the ruling class itself is not in a hurry to introduce universal military training.
In the United States, the communists will have to take a clear position in regard to the special militarist groups, such as the Reserve Officers Training Corps, the Citizens Military Training Camps, the National Guard, and so forth. In regard to the first, the communists have advanced steady opposition, since this body is for the training only of bourgeois cadres. All work that communists do within this body is work to destroy and nullify its activity. In regard to the Citizens Military Training Camps, a different position might be taken. On the one hand, these camps embrace wide numbers of workers and train them in the use of arms. On the other hand, the workers are partially selected and given a thorough bourgeois patriotic training that puts them in an entirely different environment than a universally conscripted army would engender. Under such circumstances, it would seem that the communists cannot oppose nor raise the cry of boycott of the C.M.T.C.’s, nor yet can they advocate such selected camps, but rather must work within them to raise the political level of their members and to win them for communism.
In regard to the National Guard, the workers must do everything in their power to break up and to destroy this specialized armed force of the bourgeoisie whose purpose is strike-breaking and the smashing of workers’ demonstrations. This does not, however, preclude work within this guard, slogans to favor the rank and file against the officers, agitation for the election of officers, and similar measures.
Wherever other bodies exist, such as the Citizens Conservation Corps, the Boy Scouts, and various sports and drill societies, the action of the communists depends upon the composition and the function of the group. Where the group is thoroughly selected and under careful bourgeois guidance, but made up of plain working class elements, there the policy will be similar to that of the C.M.T.C. On the other hand, as much as possible the workers must build up their own sports and drill clubs, their own defense corps. This is the best answer that labor can make to the Ku Klux Klan, the Black Legion, or similar organizations potentially of great menace to the labor movement in the United States.
The arming of the proletariat has now reached a new stage in the world’s history, with the conquest of power by the workers of one part of the world. For the first time, the workers have a vast army and incalculable resources at their disposal. Within the Soviet Union, everything that is done to strengthen the armed might of the people strengthens the entire working class. What is wrong with Stalinism is that it has disarmed the people by replacing their creative will by the initiative and power of a bureaucracy. Stalinism cannot defend the Soviet Union adequately and, in the course of the coming war, when this becomes known, the proletariat soon enough will be forced to take action to remove the bureaucracy and to reinstitute its direct rule.
However, so long as the Soviet Union remains a Workers State, then every advance that it wins in the form of recognition or credits and supplies from a capitalist world goes to strengthen the world proletariat, provided, of course, the price is not so great that the workers lose more than they gain. And it is precisely the crime of Stalinism that it pays much more than it gets in return; the advantage to the Soviet Union is counterbalanced by the defeat of the world revolution which the policies of the leaders help to bring about.
The Soviet Union cannot be neutral in any war of a major character that should break out. Even should the capitalists not drag Russia into the war, it would be the duty of the Soviet Union at critical moments to throw the vast weight of its economic and military forces into the struggle, but only in such a way as to further the emancipation of the workers of the belligerent countries and to spread the world revolution. It would be criminal for the Soviet Union to take sides in any war so as to help one set of capitalists against the other. This is exactly what Stalinism intends to do. In this event, the Russian official will have to reckon with the soldiers and workers in his own country, who also will have something to say, and who, once the war breaks out, will be in a better position to speak to the bureaucracy.
On the other hand, the proletariat of the world cannot be neutral in any war against the Soviet Union. It is not only a matter of aiding the Soviet Union, and cannot be done by proving to the capitalists of other countries how much they will gain by aiding the Soviet Union. Aid to the Soviet Union can be given only by the workers of other countries’ overthrowing their capitalists and then bringing the full force of their Workers State to help in the conflict. Stalinism, however, would have the workers serve the interests of the capitalists by inducing the rulers to take the side of the Soviet Union as a perfectly safe one for capitalism. This policy would spell the doom of both the working class movement of that country and of the Soviet Union as a Workers State as well.
It is also a question of struggling against any capitalist country at war with Soviet Russia. The workers of the countries at war with Russia of course have to follow the line of revolutionary defeatism, fraternization with the Russian forces, and insurrection at home. The workers of the still neutral countries have another task; they have the task of mobilizing their nation for war against the enemies of the Workers State, since a war against a country warring against the Workers State is historically a progressive war. War credits to the Workers State, complete embargo of materials and trade to the opposing capitalist countries, active proletarian demonstrations, are only part of the preliminary tasks of the proletariat in this connection throughout the world.
In almost all cases, the capitalists of the neutral countries will oppose any declaration of war against the capitalist opponents of Soviet Russia. But it may happen that, under given conditions, the capitalists of a particular country may find themselves impelled or compelled to declare war against an active enemy of the Soviet Union. For example, it might be that the United States would have to declare war against Japan while the latter was fighting Russia. Or, it might be that, Germany and Japan being on the verge of crushing Russia and yet having about exhausted their strength in the process, France and England might intervene to prevent the victors from taking advantage of their victory. Yet even in these cases, it cannot mean the surcease of the civil war at home, in the given industrial capitalist countries mentioned.
Naturally, if the imperialism’s of America, England, and France enter on the side of Russia, it can only be with their own imperialist and capitalist aims in view—namely to increase their power and to add their pressure to the forces tending to change the Russian regime into a capitalist one. Thus, if the war is to be conducted on behalf of Russia against world imperialism, it becomes imperative to remove the imperialist government at home that is feigning to be amicable to the cause of Russia and to place instead a truly friendly regime—a workers’ regime, that will do everywhere what the workers have attempted to do in Russia.
Thus the line of the Fourth International on this question can be summed up as follows. (*5) Under no circumstances, whether the workers are for or against the war itself, can they postpone for one moment the struggle against Wall Street and the other capitalist governments that enter the war for their own imperialist purposes and would use the working class as their cannon fodder.
Where the war occurs between imperialist countries only, for instance, where democratic United States is fighting another imperialist nation, the main revolutionary tasks of the American workers will be (a) to organize strikes and physical demonstrations of every sort for the termination of the war, the strikes to culminate in general strikes and struggles of a nature that will paralyze entirely the capitalist system; (b) to organize mutinies and rebellions in the armed forces of the capitalist state to fraternize with the workers and soldiers of the belligerent country and to transform imperialist war to civil war; (c) to organize struggles against conscription and mobilization for the imperialist war; (d) to organize armed labor defense corps against the fascist or vigilante groups that would terrify the working class into submission.
Where America is fighting a war historically progressive, as where it is supporting the Soviet Union (still a Workers State today, despite Stalinism), against such a country as Japan, here the tasks of the revolutionary forces are different. They will include: (a) the abolition of the standing or conscript army, and the arming of the entire people into a huge Workers’ Militia or Army, with its own control and elected officers; (b) the seizure of the factories under the control of the workers, the complete abolition of the profits of the capitalist class of the country, the entire industrial machinery of the country to be put at the disposal of the toilers and the Workers’ Militia and Army formed; (c) the organization of soviets as the best form for the mobilization of the whole people for the carrying out of the war and to insure that the war will be an anti-imperialist war in which the workers will smash capitalism throughout the world; (d) proletarian support for this war, but only when the war is under its own control; never does it co-operate with the bourgeoisie. Relentless struggle against the bourgeoisie, whether this struggle interferes with the war or not, must be waged.
In short, where America is conducting a war on the side of the Soviet Union, a war which is historically progressive in spite of the aims of the American capitalists, here it is the duty of the workers not to oppose the war as such, but to fight the method of conducting the war. The workers must take control of the war and make it really their own. Through strikes and physical demonstrations of every sort, the working class must compel the turning over of the war to the proletariat so as to make it a war for socialism and for the abolition of the capitalist system throughout the world. In other words, the class struggle is in every case paramount.
The strategy of the Fourth International will have to deal extensively with the question of the strategy of insurrection. And for this it will have to make a thorough examination of all the revolutions that have taken place, from the time of the Peasants Wars of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to the present. So far as modern times are concerned, there will have to be a distinction made between various stages of the movement. There is first the period before the revolutionary situation has arisen and when the fight is one for preparation of the struggle through the battle for secondary reforms. Secondly, there is the phase just prior to the actual insurrection, where the situation has become revolutionary and the proletarian vanguard is thoroughly prepared and organized for the seizure of power. Finally, there is the moment of insurrection itself.
That every social revolution will have to culminate in a period of actual insurrection is now commonplace among advanced workers. That this insurrection must not just “happen” haphazardly, but can be planned by the vanguard, is also a truism since the days of Lenin. What is not sufficiently recognized, however, is the decisive character of the subjective factor, the Party, in the present period, and the possibilities of the communists themselves changing the level of development from one plane to another. Especially will this be true in highly industrialized regions, where the very organization of the working class even for reforms may lead at once to the question of power. While it is hard to start the revolution in those countries, once the situation is ripe, the revolutionary movement can run with tremendous speed and directness through all its phases.
The periods through which a people’s revolution generally has traveled in modern times are mainly the spontaneous outburst, the “honeymoon” stage, the “July Days,” the counter-revolt, the further revolutionary advance leading to the victory of the proletariat, the period of civil war, and then retreat. Together with this is the study of the mutual relationship of limited democracy, broad democracy, democratic-dictatorship, and Dictatorship of the Proletariat, both direct and indirect. The evolution of the Party from the sectarian stage, to the mass stage, to the heroic period, and to degeneration via the route of Thermidor, the Directorate, the Consulate, and Bonapartism, all must be given careful study.
Revolutions have their own evolution and laws of development, but these laws are laws of social explosions. The revolutionary movement often goes far beyond the point where it can maintain itself; it then is driven backward far beyond the point necessary. Thus it is only as a resultant of the most violent swings in first one direction and then the other that the revolution finally comes to rest at the spot commensurate with the relationship of social forces at the time. It is necessary to study not only the law of the zig-zag, but also the laws by which the zig-zags become exaggerated and extreme. The laws of revolutions contain also within themselves the laws regulating the tempo and form of mutation movements, of sympodial developments.
Having studied the laws of social action and reaction, both in their exaggerated and normal aspects, within the general movement known as revolution, the revolutionists then can be prepared to take up the various instruments which they can use to test out in what moment of the social revolution they find themselves. Here we find ourselves not in the realm of social statics but of social dynamics, and the ordinary instruments and barometers are not sufficient. The communists can use the barometer of parliamentary elections in these periods, the amount of votes being a rough indication of the stage of the movement; or he can use the method of direct actions on a secondary scale. In all cases, his demands must be timed to meet the actual situation. But these mechanical instruments are not sufficient. The Communist Party must use far more delicate dials. It must be intimately bound up with the toilers, so that there is a constant transfusion of blood between the two. It must make use of those fine, electrical devices which can measure the temper, the feelings, the electrical irradiation of the masses from moment to moment. This can be done only by a Party that truly springs from the bowels of the class striving for power and that represents its very soul. Feelings, passions, moods, psychological irradiations of the mass, the Party so must be attuned to them by intimate personal contact with the people that it can sway the masses through the mechanism of politics to usher in revolutionary results. A bureaucracy in the party is fatal to such machinery of adjustment. If it is capable of understanding the rough laws of gravitation, it can never understand the laws of electro-dynamics.
The Fourth International will have to make a scientific study of the proper organs of insurrection. There is no parliament which can become an effective revolutionary medium of the mass struggle, as Spain shows today, and as the French, English, and American Revolutions showed long ago. The modifications that parliament undergoes during the struggle, and its limitation as an effective organ of proletarian struggle, has to be understood in all its aspects. Then there are the economic bodies of the workers, the shop committees, the trade union councils and similar groups. Finally, there are the soviets, either in the shape developed by the Russian Revolution or in some modified form. Concrete circumstances may demand specific adaptations of the organs of insurrection.
In regard to the insurrection itself, there is always to be considered the dictum of Marx that insurrection is an art, the essence of which lies in the audacious offensive and the determination to carry through to the end what is once started. Since the Party will have to form its Military-Insurrectionary Committee, the experiences of such committees as have been formed in the past thoroughly must be digested. The question of the element of surprise in the seizure of key places, such as radio stations, means of communication and, transportation, public places, stores of arms, factories, and so forth, becomes part of the problem. Hand in hand with this problem is the one of the organization of the armed forces responsible for the insurrection.
Insurrectionary strategy will have to take into account the lessons of barricade fighting of the past, the Paris Commune, the 1905 experience, the fighting in Vienna, in 1934, and similar occasions. In such a country as the United States, for example, where there are over twenty-five million automobiles, the question of barricading streets becomes of special importance, since these automobiles can make mobile and easily constructed barricades even for the broadest highways. It is no longer necessary to rip up the streets or to throw down furniture from the houses to form barricades in such a country.
Finally, it must be considered that the insurrection is not the culmination of the social revolution, but its true beginning. While the workers may seize power, they will have to hold it against desperate resistance. Insurrection is followed by civil war. The Fourth International must draw the military technical lessons from the civil wars fought by the proletariat in the past. The question of the value of airplanes, small arms, cannon, tanks, mines, grenades and gas, in relation both to guerrilla warfare of the peasantry dispersed over a large territory and to masses of workers congested in large cities, must play an important role in this respect.
From all this, it can be seen what an entirely different body the Fourth International must be, compared with its predecessors. It will be a body which will recognize that the peaceful period of capitalism is over, that riots, bloodshed, violence, insurrection, revolution, war, civil war, comprise the normal atmosphere in which we must live and in which we must work. It will also recognize that there has been a tremendous gap between the general theoretical knowledge of the workers and the strategy of what is to be done to make communism a reality. The Fourth International will concentrate entirely upon the strategy of the world revolution.
1. See his Marx and Lenin: The Science of Revolution.
2. Postscript to State and Revolution.
3. There is a school of socialists which calls nationalization of industries “State Socialism.” If the capitalist system remains, nationalization is a form of State capitalism. Under socialism, the State withers away. The only form of State Socialism known is the transition regime of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
4. This was the form taken by the ill-fated Irish Rebellion of 1916.
In many places the bourgeoisie has co-operated with the ruling classes of opposing countries, but this cannot be the policy of the working class.
5. Compare A. Weisbord: “What Will I Do When America Goes to War?” Modern Monthly magazine, Vol. IX, No. 5. (September, 1935.)