MIA: History: ETOL: Document: Education for Socialist Bulletin: The Wohlforth Way: A Methodological Mutation!

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line

—Socialist Workers Party [US] Education for Socialist Bulletins—

Class, Party, and, State and The Eastern European Revolution

The Wohlforth Way: A Methodological Mutation!

By Tom Kerry


It was a foregone conclusion that the fallout from the methodological pyrotechnics of the Slaughter-Healy faction would produce some startling theoretical mutations among their offspring in the SWP. Not one to dally on the launching pad, Comrade Tim Wohlforth has gone into orbit with a novel variation of a concept that figured in the discussion on the class character of the East European states among allsections of the world Trotskyist movement in the period 1945-51: structural assimilation.

A Model Discussion

The discussion on the evolution of the East European states, which concluded with the adoption in 1951 of the Third World Congress resolution on the “Class Nature of Eastern Europe,” was one of the most fruitful and rewarding in our history. Comrades can learn a great deal from a study of that discussion. Conducted over a span of six years the discussion on China, although an extension of the East Europe discussion, came later the discussion was distinguished by its high theoretical level, the absence of factionalism and the virtual unanimous agreement reached at its conclusion.

It was a model discussion. It demonstrated the capacity of the Trotskyist movement to apply its collective thought through the process of democratic discussion and arrive at a correct solution to what was, admittedly, a new historical phenomenon of an exceedingly complicated character. I strongly urge the comrades to study the material of that discussion. Some of it is still available in discussion bulletins and some is scattered through the various issues of the magazine, Fourth International , coveringthe period in question. For an excellent historical outline of the development of the dispute I strongly recommend the report to the Third World Congress on the Evolution of Eastern Europe by Comrade Pierre Frank in the special 64 page issue of Fourth International , November-December, 1951.

Search for Factional Club!

Unfortunately, in his perusal of the material, Comrade Wohlforth wasn’t interested in learning—his sole concern was to search for a factional stick with which to beat Pablo over the head and, by association, the “Pabloite” SWP majority. To Wohlforth and his “co-thinkers,” at home and abroad, “Pabloism” is synonymous with original sin. And one cannot be too choosy about one’s methods in fighting the devil! In his anxiety to tweak the devil’s tail, Wohlforth accords his “Satanic Majesty” credit where no credit is due.

The criteria established by the Trotskyist movement to define the class character of the state, according to Wohlforth, originated with Pablo and were smuggled into our movement in a typically sneaky and underhanded way, fooling everybody including Healy and Lambert. Everyone else, that is, except Wohlforth! He was taken in for a time, but no more, my friends, no more! Let’s hear him out.

Half Theory or Half Theoretician?

In his “Cuban Way” document Wohlforth has a section which he entitles, with inimitable style, “On a Half Theory of the State.” “We must turn briefly,” he says, “to the party majority’s theory of the nature of the Cuban state because, as we shall see, it is intimately linked with Pablo’s new revisionist theory and cannot be logically separated from it. Joe Hansen states time and again in his lengthy ‘Cuba—the Acid Test’ that the party majority is simply utilizing the criteria for determining workers states developed in 1948 and applying it to Cuba today. This is a terrible oversimplification of what actually transpired in the highly important buffer state discussion held in our movement at the time.” After this “brief turn,” in the course of which Wohlforth disposes of Hansen’s “oversimplification,” he proceeds to give us the real score. Here it is:

“The whole truth is that the party majority today is utilizing a method for determining workers states rejected by the party majority at the February, 1950 plenum over the objections of Pablo, Cochran and Hansen at the time. Hansen is thus confusing his own personal political history with that of the party. The two have not always been identical.

“It was Michel Pablo,” Wohlforth contends, “who first introduced into our international movement the now famous method of determining workers states by the simple procedure of finding out whether the basic industry is nationalized, the economy is under the direction of a planning commission, and there is a state monopoly of foreign trade. From the very beginning Pablo met strong resistance to this method of determiningworkers states from Germain and also from the majority of our party’s National Committee. Some of the best comments on the essential method involved in Pablo’s approach were made by the late John G. Wright and by Comrade Stein for the National Committee.” (All emphasis in the original.)

The Wohlforth School of History!

Such is party history a la Wohlforth. His perfervid loyalty to the “majority of our party’s National Committee”—of 1950—is really touching. But has it ever occurred to Wohlforth that the 1950 N.C. majority might have been wrong and later corrected its position? Or did party history stop for Wohlforth with the February 1950 plenum?

Before I go any further, I want to state that Wohlforth’s assertion that the decision of that plenum was taken over the “objections of Pablo” is pure fabrication. What were the actual sequence of events and the real, not fictionalized, positions of the comrades directly involved?

The dispute in the SWP over the class character of the buffer states broke out withthe adoption of a resolution on the “Evolution of the Buffer Countries,” at the April 1949plenum of the International Executive Committee of the Fourth International—“Pablo’s” IEC, as Wohlforth and Company keep insisting. It was published in the International Information Bu1letin by the SWF under date of June 1949.

The resolution elaborated an analysis of the actual development in the buffer countries which was essentially correct in describing the transformations that had taken place since the outbreak of the “cold war” in 1946. However, the resolution stopped short of the logical conclusion of its analysis that these were “deformed” workers states. Yet the authors of the resolution felt compelled to take cognizance of the fact that the previous position adopted stating that—these states were “capitalist states on theroad to structural assimilation” with the Soviet Union, lacked precision. and required amendment.

This the resolution attempted to do by qualifying the position previously held by the international movement as fellows: “The social differences between the USSR and the buffer zone, enumerated above, are of a qualitative nature even though from the quantitative point of view society in the buffer zone approaches more closely Soviet society rather than that of ‘normal’ capitalist countries, in the same sense in which the USSR is quantitatively closer .to capitalism than to socialism. Only in this sense can we continue to define the buffer countries as capitalist countries-on the road toward structural assimilation with the USSR .” (Emphasis in original.)

Contradictory Position Challenged

The amendment was admittedly “awkward” and highly unsatisfactory; it resolved none of the contradictions in the position. This was the position supported by the SWP N.C. majority. In his report to the February 1950 plenum, Comrade Stein stated. “Our preliminary discussions in the Political ‘Committee revealed two positions: (1) that of the majority of the Political Committee which bases itself in general on the analysis and conclusions of the [2nd] World Congress theses and the IEC resolution [cited above]; and (2) that of the minority which considers that the buffer countries have ceased to be capitalist states and must now be considered as workers states (deformed or degenerated).”—(Discussion Bulletin No. 3, June 1950.)

The comrades who first challenged the position of the IEC-SWP majority were Joe Hansen and = to give another devil his due—Bert Cochran. (See Memorandum on Resolution on ‘The Evolution of the Suffer Countries,” by E. H. Frank (Cochran) in Internal Bulletin , Vol. XI, No. 5, October ‘1949. Also: “The Problem of Eastern Europe,” by Joseph Hansen, Vol. XII, No. 2, February, 1950 and “The’ Kremlin Satellite States in Eastern Europe, Yugoslavia, Marxist Theory end Our Perspective,” by E.H. Prank, Discussion Bulletin , No. 1, April 1950..)

The Search for “Origins!”

If Wohlforth is seeking for the “origin” of our “three criteria” as he calls it, he will find it there and not in his own version of Grimms’ Fairy Tales.It’s hard to make head or tail of what Wohlforth is after. For example, he now claims John G. Wright for his very own and strings together bits and pieces of quotations from Comrade Wright’s article, which he presents as one continuous quotation, to prove that “his [Wright’s] analysis is identical with the analysis we have made in our ‘In Defense Of a Revolutionary Perspective’ and which the British have made in their writings on the basic method of the majority and the Pabloites.”

Poor Usick! Those who knew and loved him can well, imagine with what contempt and scorn he would have rejected Wohlforth’s’ embrace. Comrade Wright never claimed to be infallible and was the first to admit an error when proven wrong. What is the point? In the article referred to,—Comrade Wright endorsed the view thatthe buffer states were “degenerated capitalist states.” Does Wohlforth now support that view? Presumably not. But, you see, he supports the “method” by which such a conclusion was reached. Just as he supports and extols the “method” of Slaughter-Healy, who conclude that: “On all decisive and fundamental questions which impinge upon the power and wealth of the national bourgeoisie as a whole, however, the [Cuban] regime comes down on the side of capitalism.” Wohlforth supports the method but not the conclusions that are derived by the application of the method. Just as he supports the February 1950’ majority but not the 1963 majority. Why? Is it his opinion that the 1950 majority was correct as against Hansen? Let’s pursue the subject, however distasteful, a little further.

Wohlforth Sums Up

After praising Comrade Stein for straightening Hansen out at the February 1950 plenum Wohlforth sums up:

“Thus we see Pablo’s new method of determining workers states was repudiated by our party when it first appeared within our international movement because it was a false, non-dialectical method. In reality, it was no theory of the state at all—it was a half-theory’ of the state, and interestingly enough the second half. As the comrades at the time, noted, a real Marxist theory of-the class nature of the state must begin with an analysis of the process which produced the resultant institutions existing in the state, like nationalized industry, state planning, etc. Obviously the nationalization of the coal industry by agents of the bourgeoisie in England is not the same thing as nationalizationof the coal industry in Russia by agents of the revolutionary proletariat——and the difference is more than quantitative.” How profound! How utterly profound! It just takes your breath away!

It’ a All Done With Mirrors

-Wohlforth too has his method He quotes Stein against Hansen and with a quick flick of the wrist substitutes Pablo for Hansen in order to bolster his fictionalized version of party history. Isn’t it amazing? Pablo’s name isn’t once mentioned in the whole of Comrade Stein’s report. Stein is not one to resort to subterfuge in political polemics. The difference at that time between Pablo and Germain was over the Yugoslav development, not over. The other buffer countries. Both supported the resolution of the7th-plenum of the IEC which was the position supported by Stein and the N.C. majority. So it could not have been “Pablo’s new method of determining workers—states” that “was repudiated by our party, etc,etc.”

There was a change, however, in the basic position of “Pablo’s” International Secretariat which was codified in. resolution form for submission to the Third World Congress. The resolution. was published by the SWP in its International Information Bulletin of July, 1951. Entitled: “Draft Resolution on the Class Character of the’ European Countries in. the Soviet Buffer Zone,” it was adopted by the Third World Congress in 1951 and subsequently its line was approved by a convention. of the SWP. It embodied the position of the party——and, I might add the world Trotskyist movement, on the class character of the buffer states. It was a confirmation of the correctness of the February, 1950 minority in the party. It is worth quoting at length, not only for the position it sets forth, but because it contains a key to the “new”, Wohlforth theory of structural assimilation:

Modified Position of World Movement

“Taking account of all the modifications effected since 1949 in the economy as well as in the state apparatus of the buffer zone countries, within the framework of a new international evolution, it is necessary to state that the structural assimilation of these countries into the USSR has now become essentially accomplished and these countries have ceased to be basically capitalist countries. (Emphasis in original)

“The taking into tow of all these countries after the last war by the Soviet bureaucracy, the influence and decisive control it exercises over these countries, contained the possibility and even in the long run the inevitability of their structural assimilation into the USSR, by virtue of a certain relationship of forces at home and abroad, between the Soviet bureaucracy, the native bourgeoisie, imperialism and the masses.

“For a long period which by and large extended from 1945 to about 1948, the Soviet bureaucracy maintained these countries in an intermediate status of varying degrees because it was not yet ready to consider its break with imperialism as final and because of the necessity arising from its own. nature of eliminating the native bourgeoisie by cold methods, without genuine revolutionary action by the masses over which it tried at the same tine to impose a rigorous control.

“This intermediate status corresponded sociologically more and more to a regime of dual power both on the economic and the political planes, the economic structure remaining fundamentally capitalist. Beginning with 1949 this duality manifestly gave way to regimes which stabilized a structure essentially characterized by property and productive relations qualitatively assimilable to the USSR, that is to say, characteristic of an essentially statized and planned economy (except for the Soviet zone in Austria and Albania, where a regime of dual power still exists).

‘Parallel with this process, the political power, which for a long time had been assumed by different combinations between the Stalinist leaderships and the representatives of the former bourgeois and petty-bourgeois parties, now passed exclusively into the hands of the Stalinists and was thus transformed in its form as well as in its social composition.

“The form of political power still remains marked by important differences from one country to another and in their entirety with that of the USSR, as is likewise the case so far as the form of political power in a capitalist regime is concerned. But it is above all by virtue of their economic base, of the structure essentially common to all the countries of the buffer zone, characterized by new production and property relations belonging to a statized and planned economy, essentially like those of the USSR, that we have to consider these states as being deformed workers states.”

Since 1951 the above position, as elaborated in the resolution adopted by the Third World Congress, has been the methodology of the world Trotskyist movement.—

It is the method we applied to our analysis of the Cuban state. But it was not untilthe unfolding of the Cuban events that we were confronted with a concerted attempt to alter or abandon our criteria and substitute for it the “dialectic” of the Slaughter-Lambert-Wohlforth faction. Slaughter-Healy have attacked our basic criteria without, however, substituting criteria of their own. The French have put a question mark over our criteria by announcing a “reexamination” of the whole buffer state discussion. But Wohlforth is not one to dally—he has plunged in, right over his head, and come up with his own criteria: “structural assimilation.”

Half-and-Half Jargon

Before proceeding to an examination of Wohlforth’s latest brainstorm, let’s finishwith his “half-theory-of-the-state” hogwash. Wohlforth lays the foundation for his “half-theory” structure by falsifying party history in order to make it appear as though Pablo put over a package deal on the party and the international movement. In the Wohlforth schema there were two parts to “Pablo’s” theory of the state. One, the “three criteria,” constituted the “second half” and Pablo’s theory of “centuries of deformed workers states” the first half.

“Pablo,” he asserts, “in reality had a rounded theory of the creation of workersstates which also accounted for the question of origins . His theory of ‘centuries of deformed workers states’ was logically and intimately connected with his theory of the state as a whole. He saw deformed workers states being created as a general, universal phenomenon, as a new stage for all proletarian revolutions for centuries.”

With all due apologies to our latter-day theoretician he is mixing up two differentthings. One involves the criteria for determining the class character of a state in being, and the other a projection of an historical perspective of revolutionary development. Along with the entire world movement we arrived at a common agreement on criteria by the application of the methodology of Marxism. We rejected the perspective of “centuries of deformed” states, primarily because it excluded the perspective of the American revolution, a perspective which was codified in the line of the American Theses adopted by our 1946 convention. Now what did Machiavelli Pablo do to circumvent our opposition?

“This theory,” Wohlforth informs us, “was so repugnant to our movement when it was first introduced that, in order to get it adopted, Pablo put forward the second half of his theory first and independent of the first half—that is his so-called ‘three criteria.’ This combined his political revisions in his ‘centuries’ theory with a methodological revision which has confused our cadres since. Hansen’s ‘Cuba—the Acid Test’ is in reality nothing more than a 52-page compounding of this basic methodological error—it has no other content.” A damn clever fellow, this Pablo, don’t you think? But he’s not pulling the wool over Wohlforth’s eyes, no sir!

For Whom Does Wohlforth Speak?

“So, today,” Wohlforth warns, “we face the same sort of situation. Pablo and his supporters in our party (above all, Comrade Hansen once again) are once again putting forward the second half of their theory and—demanding that one and all ‘label’ the Cuban state by means of their ‘three criteria’ first and discuss all other questions later. Well, we simply reject this method completely and refuse to recognize such a position as a theory at all. ” And that’s that! Who is the “we” Wohlforth continually refers to? His new theory is presented presumably in his own name. Does it include the co-leader of his faction, Albert Phillips, together with his state capitalist position, as “reevaluated” and stashed away in his briefcase? We’ll find out eventually, I suppose. In the meantime, having summarily disposed of Pablo and Hansen and their supporters, and having jettisoned our“three criteria” in the process, let’s examine Wohlforth’ s double-barreled “dialectical”criteria for defining the class character of the state.

“Theory!’ of “Structural Assimilation”

Unlike Pablo, he lets us have both. Barrels at once. According to the Wohlforth theory there can only be two ways in which a workers state can be established. One, by the method of the classic revolutionary overturn exemplified by the Russian October, or, two, by “structural assimilation.”

Wohlforth invests the concept “structural assimilation” with a meaning it has never had in our movement. From the way-he applies it I gather he means structural assimilation in reverse. “The theory of structural assimilation,” he says, “explained a process of the creation of deformed, workers states through the extension. of the degenerated workers state. That is it answered the question of origins without inany sense undermining the revolutionary role of the proletariat. This is especially the case if one realizes that the theory of structural assimilation sees this transformation takingplace only in the buffer regions surrounding the USSR, and as a result of defensive stepstaken by the Stalinist bureaucracy.”

Because it is “defensive” it can only take place. in geographical areas contiguous to the Soviet Union. That would rule-out the process of structural assimilation for more remote areas like Algeria and Cuba—although, according to .Wohlforth, in the case of Cuba it could apply only under exceptional circumstances. What he considers the vital question of “origins” I presume refers to the origin of the Soviet Union in a classic proletarian revolution which, though degenerated, still retained the basic economic conquests of the October Revolution.

Ineluctable Conclusion

-If all of this is true, then we are confronted with the following equation—Stalinism in power in any area bordering the Soviet Union equals structural assimilation equals workers state . From our starting point of structural assimilation in reverse we arrive at the Marcyite theory of the “global class camp,” although I must say the Marcyites had more justification for their “theory” that Stalinism in. power equals workers state than does the Wohlforth theory.

-It is a wholly schematic, anti-Marxist theory which has no basis in reality, either in the fact of the establishment of the buffer states nor in their subsequent evolution. The concept of structural assimilation had its origin in the dispute with the Shachmanites in 1939-40. At one point in the discussion the Shachtmanite pundits characterized wartime Soviet, expansionism as “imperialist exploitation.”

Trotskyist Methodology-

“Let us for a moment concede,” argues Trotsky, “that in accordance ‘with the treaty with Hitler, the Moscow government leaves untouched the right’s of private property in the occupied areas and limits itself to ‘control’ after the fascist pattern. Such a concession would have a deep-going principled character and might become a starting point for a new chapter in the Soviet regime; and consequently a starting point for a new appraisal on our part of the nature of the Soviet state.

“It is more likely however,” Trotsky affirmed, “that in the territories scheduled to become a part of the USSR, the Moscow government will carry through the expropriation of the large landowners and statification of the means of production. This variant is most probable not because the bureaucracy remains true to the socialist program but because it is .neither desirous or capable of sharing the power, and the privileges the latter entails, with the old ruling classes in the occupied territories.(My emphasis)

“Here,” added Trotsky, “an analogy literally offers itself. The first Bonaparte halted the revolution by means of a military dictatorship. However, when the French troops invaded Poland, Napoleon signed a decree: ‘Serfdom is abolished.’ This measure was dictated not by Napoleon’s sympathies for the peasants, nor by democratic principles, but rather by the fact that the Bonapartist dictatorship based itself not on feudal, but on bourgeois property relations. Inasmuch as Stalin’s Bonapartist dictatorship bases itself not on. private but on state property, the invasion of Poland by the Red Armyshould, in the nature. of the case, result in the abolition of private capitalist property, so as thus to bring the regime of the occupied territories into accord with the regime of the USSR.” (In Defense of Marxism , page 18)

Implicit in this analysis of Trotsky’s are the much’ maligned “three criteria” for determining the class character of the state. And thus it transpired with those territories“scheduled to become part of the USSR .” Bits and pieces of real estate together with the three Baltic states, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, were assimilated into the structure of the USSR. But Stalin pursued an altogether different course with the East European buffer countries at the close of the Second.-World War.

The Stalin Line

In the latter countries Stalin first used his military-bureaucratic power to install coalition governments in which representatives of the native bourgeoisie shared the political power with Stalin’s hand-picked henchmen on the basis of the existing capitalist property relations. He followed a policy of pillage and plunder, exacting huge reparations, dismantling plant and equipment for shipment to the Soviet Union, setting up joint stock corporations to exploit the resources of the buffer zone countries, etc., etc. Obviously Stalin did not consider these ‘territories “scheduled to become part of the USSR.”

“Structural assimilation” was the furthest from his thoughts. This was indicated by the “peoples front” label applied to these countries which were designated “peoples democracies.” With. the launching of the cold war in 1946 and especially with the promulgation of the Marshall Plan for Europe, with Poland and Czechoslovakia making a bid for inclusion, Stalin recoiled in alarm. The order went out from Moscow——sharpturn to the left. The bourgeois ministers were unceremoniously booted out of office and there began the process of expropriating bourgeois property and transforming basic property relations.

The Process of Evolution

At the beginning, the comrades in the world movement characterized these states as capitalist for the very obvious reason that capitalist property forms and property relations were left virtually intact. With the turn to the left, bringing in its wake the gradual transformation of all social relations and taking cognizance of the dual character of Stalinism, the comrades cautiously advanced the formula: “capitalist states on the road toward structural assimilation.” This was more an inherent tendency than an actual fact. The fact of Stalin’s determination was highlighted the break with Tito.

The Yugoslavs, who occupied a more independent position in relation to the Kremlin because of the mass upsurge that led to the capture of power under the leadership of the native Stalinist cadre, sought to break out of the narrow national framework imposed by the Balkanized buffer countries. Each of the countries standing alone was completely dependent on the Kremlin for its economic existence. That was the way Stalin wanted it. When the Yugoslavs began advancing the idea of a Balkan-Danube federation, Stalin reacted with savage ferocity. Tito was read out of the buffer zone family and unable to overcome his Stalinist background, failed to advance a revolutionary line, turning instead to western imperialism for economic aid.

A Stalinist purge swept the buffer states. This was Stalin’s answer to anyone attempting to toy with the idea of federation. At the same time he barred the door to structural assimilation of the buffer countries. In retrospect, I believe that the “structural assimilation” concept was a fuzzy hypothesis employed to bridge the theoretical gap in the thinking of the SWP majority and the world movement. Our thinking lagged behind the development. This was not surprising considering the scope and complexity of the new phenomena under consideration. Instead of heaping opprobrium on the heads of those comrades who took the lead in prodding the movement toward a correct solution we should be grateful to them for their persistence in advancing their views in thediscussion.

Something “New” Has Been Added

But I repeat no one during the whole course of the discussion ever conceived theidea of “structural assimilation’ in reverse. That is Wohlforth’s own unique contribution to the theory and practice of Marxism. Although Wohlforth’s document is honeycombed with copious arguments borrowed freely from comrades on the wrong side of the buffer state dispute, reverse assimilation is his very own. Let’s probe this concept a bit further.

The Bolsheviks viewed the October Revolution as the beginning of the European and world revolution. The program called for the establishment of the Socialist United States of Europe as the prelude to the world revolution. In line with this view they designated the first workers state as the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics . The extension of the revolution, especially to one of the advanced capitalist states, would bring powerful economic and political reinforcement through “structural assimilation” based on division of labor under one integrated master plan. That was the programmatic norm of Bolshevism. Historical development proved to be much more complex.

With the victory of Stalinism, the basic policy of the bureaucratic caste was summed up in the theory of building socialism in a single country. This meant subordinating the interests of the world revolution to the fantasy of carving out of the capitalist world a “socialist” utopia in one country. It was from the basic standpoint of building socialism in the Soviet Union that Stalin approached the territorial conquests of World War II. The buffer states were plundered and bled to begin again the process of “building socialism” in the USSR. When Stalin was forced to execute his left turn he did so without any thought of abandoning his basic policy. While the exigencies of the cold war compelled some degree of economic integration and joint planning, it was at the expense of the economic development in the buffer states.

Criteria Projected by Germain

Each of the Balkanized buffer states elaborated its own “plan.” It was preciselythis aspect of the problem that Germain focused attention on in his article in the September 1949 Fourth International entitled, “Whither Eastern Europe: Economic Trends in Stalin’s Buffer Zone.” Germain took as his point of departure the hopelessness of “socialist planning” on the basis of these atomized states.

“Economic planning,” he pointed out, “requires not only nationalization of all means of production and exchange (of which the land remains the most important element in agricultural countries). It also requires the abolition of national frontiers which, along with the private ownership of the means of production, constitutes an absolute brake on any growth of the productive forces. This is not only a Marxist axiom, a general and abstract point of view opposed to the absurd theory of ‘socialism in one country.’ It is also an absolutely basic consideration for the purpose of defining the character and possibility of a given economy. Construction of a socialist economy is possible only on an international plane. With the exception of a few ultralefts, no one in the communist wing of the movement has ever disputed the possibility of making a start in this construction during a transitional period within that concrete national framework established by the victory of the proletarian revolution.

“It was the Left Opposition itself which, toward this end, drafted the first plan in the USSR against the violent resistance of the bureaucracy and of the Stalinist faction. But, it does not at all follow from this that any national framework whatever lends itself to planning on the mere condition that the proletariat had conquered power. It is obvious that a minimum material base is indispensable even to the preparatory work of socialist planning. To make a start to the building of socialism in Rumania, in Luxemburg or in Paraguay is an even more patent absurdity than to pretend that this construction is being completed in the USSR.”

The I.S. Modifies Stand

These were cogent arguments. But they did not stand up in the discussion. Germain was compelled to abandon “socialist planning” and the “abolition of national frontiers” as criteria in the determination of the class character of the buffer states. It was this concept, I believe, that led, first to the formula of “capitalist states on the road toward structural assimilation,” and then later to the erroneous conclusion of the I.S. Draft Resolution submitted to theThird World Congress which asserted:

“Taking account of all the modifications effected since 1949 in the economy as well as in the state apparatus of the buffer zone countries, within the—framework of a new international evolution, it is necessary to state that the structural assimilation of these [buffer] countries into the USSR has now become essentially accomplished and these countries have ceased to be basically capitalist countries.”

Recognizing the obvious contradiction between theory—and fact, the resolution did add: “It has turned out on the other hand that in the same conditions and on the basis of an effective statization of the means of production, it is possible to initiate the process of a planned economy without formal incorporation into the USSR, without formal abolition of the frontiers and despite the special forms of exploitation that the bureaucracy stil1 maintain in these countries and which retains an ever-present obstacle to the planning and free development of their country.”

Even a cursory examination of the buffer zone discussion material should make itobvious to all but the factionally blind that the formula “structural assimilation” meantincorporation within the-structure of the USSR under a single integrated economic plan. While the “tendency toward structural assimilation” holds true in, the historic sense, the fact is that the process has not been completed—far from it—even though some halting steps toward integrated economic planning has taken place with a limited number of the buffer state states through Comecon (Council for Mutual Economic Aid) the Soviet counterpart to the European Economic Community and the Common Market.

Some Pertinent Questions

But is it true of-Yugoslavia , whose economy is more ‘integrated” with the west than with the east? Is it true of China, which from the beginning has had its “own” economic plan and today has been cut off from all significant Soviet, economic aid? And what of Albanian which has been entirely; cut off from Soviet economic aid and with whom Moscow has even broken diplomatic relations? Are these still to be considered “workers stat├Ęs” under the new Wohlforth dispensation of reverse structural assimilation? If so, on the basis of what criteria? We shall see when we come to Wohlforth’s application of his theory to the question of Cuba.

Cuba——the Acid Test!

Here the Wohlforth theory is revealed in all its glory. Cuba again provides the “acid test”!

“Thus we see that the process which has been going on in Cuba,” says Wohlforth, “differs radically from the process which transformed the buffer areas into deformed workers states. The erosion of the former capitalist state apparatus, the destruction of the internal power of the national bourgeoisie, the swing from the international capitalist orbit all these events had occurred in Cuba just as they have occurred in the buffer areas. But the consummation of this process through the creation of a. monolithic Stalinist party and the fusion of this party with the state apparatus has not taken place nor is it likely totake place in the near future. Thus Cuba is more like these states before the structuralprocess was completed—that is like Eastern Europe between 1947-49 and China between 1949 and 1953.”

The Circle is Squared!

Now if this means anything at all, it means that there is just one ingredient—lacking for—Cuba to earn the right to be designated a workers state and that is——Stalinism in power! Here we have Wohlforth-’s “criteria” in all its pristine purity.

To remove all question about what Wohlforth means he elaborates for us on thistheme. “The situation in Cuba by late 1961 and early l962,” he says, “had reached a point where it appeared as if the country was going through the same structural assimilationist process as did Eastern Europe and China. Nationalizations had been carried through, the national bourgeoisie was pretty much routed from the country, economic ties with the Soviet bloc were extremely close, and in addition Stalinism seemed to be on the march throughout Cuba. It seemed as if it would be only a short time before the completion of a formation of a Stalinist-type party and the subordination of the state apparatus to this party would be evident. Some of the minority comrades, reacting to this appearance of reality, declared Cuba to be a deformed workers state at that time.”

Caught Off Base

Presumably these “minority comrades” have now reversed their position. If, instead of purging Escalante, Castro had been purged by the Stalinists, then-the “minority comrades” would have bestowed upon Cuba the accolade of “deformed workers state.” Shouldn’t we then have ranged ourselves on the side of Escalantism against Castroism? I know that the British are much disturbed about Escalante being deprived of his “democratic rights,” but I never dreamed it had gone this far!

Wohlforth goes to great .pains to point out where some of his “minority comrades” went off base. In the process he renders the confusion worse confounded. “The Escalante Affair,” he says, “was soon to show that this was a superficial analysis of the processes going on in Cuba. This was not only because the Stalinists failed to consummate their control of the Cuban state apparatus but also because of a misunderstanding as to the political role of Stalinism within Cuba. It is a great mistaketo identify Stalinist influence within a state as automatically meaning the structural assimilation of that state. While this turned out to be the case in Eastern Europe and China ( My emphasis!) the role of Stalinism in Spain was quite different.”

So… while Stalinist influence in Eastern Europe and China “automatically” meant “structural assimilation” of those states it does not, “automatically” follow that such would be the case in Cuba——where they follow the Spanish pattern. Now can anyone make sense out of this drivel? The Stalinists in Spain, says Wohlforth, were not interested in “structrual assimilation” so they used their “considerable control” to prop up the capitalist system, crush the revolutionary forces, murdering thousands of militants in the process, in the name of peoples frontism and peaceful coexistence with world imperialism.

Doing the Wohlforth Twist

But, Comrade Wohlforth, if I understand the whole thrust of your argument, based on your two criteria,’ there can be no such thing as “structural assimilation” for areas remote from the borders of the Soviet Union. Cuba is ruled out and is placed in the same category as Spain in the 1930’s and Algeria today. Therefore, Stalinism in power in Cuba, following the Spanish example, would lead, not to “structural assimilation” or the establishment of a “deformed workers state,’ but to the crushing of the revolution and the reestablishment of capitalist property forms and property relations. But this would mean the end of Stalinism in Cuba even if——I should say especially if——they succeeded in carrying through such a counterrevolution.

Do you really believe that the Kremlin, even in its maddest moments, would or could countenance such a role for their agents in Cuba? And if they tried it, what do you think the reaction would be in Latin America and China, not to speak of the rest of the world—-including the masses in the Soviet Union itself? Cuba is not Spain. And we live in the year 1963 not 1936-37 when the Soviet Union was isolated after the defeat of the Chinese revolution in 1927, the victories of fascism in Europe, etc., etc. Wohlforth seems to be playing around with some new concept of Stalinism which imparts an infantile fuzziness to all of the ideas which he tries to pass off as some new and unique contribution to Marxist theory.

Something “New” in Sociology

Aside from the question of criteria for the determination of the class character ofthe state, Wohlforth offers something “new” in the realm of “Marxist” sociology that defies understanding.

Again-—the Imperial “We”!

Wohlforth is notably lacking in one trait——a sense of modesty. In his approachto the “class character of the Cuban state,” he avers that his is the exact methodologicalapproach used in ”Trotsky’s pioneering work on the USSR.” And here it is:

“We,” Wohlforth declares, “will approach the process going on in Cuba in the same method (as that of Trotsky, T.K.) noting of course that here we are studying a revolutionary rather than a counterrevolutionary process. Thus the movement of the process is in an opposite direction though its motion must be understood with a common Marxist method. The Cuban Revolution had in its first stage a capitalist apparatus, weakened, yes, but still capitalist. All agree to this. This state apparatus has undergone a deep process of erosion under the impact of profound revolutionary developments. So profound has this process been that Cuba today certainly looks as if it were a workers state. But has the Cuban state changed qualitatively during this period? No, our studyreveals profound social and political changes but no qualitative change either by the method of the transformations of the buffer nor by the method of October itself. (Wohlforth’s two criteria! T.K.) Thus we must characterize this state as a decomposed, partially eroded capitalist state susceptible to the pressure of the working class as well as other social forces but not under the control directly or indirectly of the working class (or as the French have characterized it ‘un etat bourgeois, delabre, decompos, fantomatique’). By the way of analogy we would say that the Cuban state has the sameessential class character as the East European states between l947-49 and the Chinese state between l949-52.”

Our Modern-Day Thor

Then Wohlforth hurls his challenging thunderbolt: “Those who consider such a designation as ‘revisionist’ or absurd had better tell us first how they would characterize the East European and Chinese states during the period in which they were being transformed into deformed workers states.”

Wohlforth imagines he is the first to pose that question. It was posed and answered, not once, but many times during the whole course of the discussion of the buffer states. It was answered, for example, in the section of the I.S. Draft Resolution submitted to the Third World Congress, cited in the early part of this article. Briefly, before they carried through their basic social transformations, the buffer states and China were characterized as regimes of dual power, unstable, temporary and transitional, based upon an “economic structure remaining fundamentally capitalist.” In our view they became deformed workers states when they carried out a fundamental change in the previously existing capitalist property forms and capitalist property relations.

Cuba also went through a stage of dual power which was terminated with the ousting of Urrutia and the expropriations of capitalist property in the fundamental sectors of the economy, followed by nationalization, economic planning and the monopoly of foreign trade. Does Wohlforth contend that a dual power regime exists today in Cuba? And if it does upon what property forms is it based?

Wohlforth has a little explaining to do about how he arrives at the bizarre conclusion that Cuba today is analogous to the East European buffer states of l947-49 and the Chinese state between 1949-52. He has already informed us that in China and the buffer countries “Stalinist influence” had “automatically” meant “structural assimilation.” But Stalinist influence in those states was very much present prior to l947 in the buffer zone and prior to 1952 in China. What has happened to the “automatic” conversion theory? It seems Wohlforth forgets, between one paragraph and another, not only what he has said but what in the blazes he is driving at!

Acrobatic Display of Ignorance

Wohlforth’s display of ignorance of Marxist theory is astounding. He speaks of the Cuban “state apparatus” which has “undergone a deep process of erosion, etc.” Then, he adds, “so profound has this process been that Cuba today certainly looks ” like a workers state. He constantly confuses basic economic structure with political superstructure. The “state apparatus” can apply only to the regime, the administrative apparatus, the government. How can a “deep process of erosion” in the state apparatus make Cuba look like a workers state?

You never know what he’s talking about. For he follows this profound observation with the assertion that no qualitative change has taken place in the Cuban state. Is he referring to the “state apparatus” or the statized economy? He’s wrong, of course, on both counts.

Methodology of a Trapeze Artist

Just one more joust with Wohlforth’s sociology before I conclude. “Castro,” he says, “today remains partially independent, of the Kremlin but the Kremlin also exerts pressure on Castro through the complete dependence of the Cuban economy on the USSR. Castro partially ‘aceeds’ (sic) to this pressure as well. Castro does not represent the rule of Stalinism in Cuba, nor does he represent the rule of the peasantry, nor we are sad to say does he represent the rule of the working class. The state apparatus remains independent of the direct control of any of these three major social forces in Cuba today and under the direct influence of all three forces. (My emphasis, T.K.) In fact, the Castro regime plays an essentially Bonapartist role balancing between these forces and their international allies seeking all the time to maintain its independence from all.”

How about a little of that Trotsky methodology, Comrade Wohlforth? Earlier in this article I cited Trotsky’s reply to the Shachmanites in which he took up the question of Bonapartism. What property forms and property relations does “Bonaparte”Castro defend? Upon what social foundations does his “Bonapartism” rest? Wohlforth advances his “three major social forces” as the tripod upon which Castro is “independently” perched. It is a basic tenet of Marxism that there can be no fundamental social transformation unless the means by which capitalist exploitation exist are radically altered. The nationalization of the means of production and exchange issuing out of a social revolution completely transforms the basic property forms and property relations. This is the basic foundation, without which there can be no talk of socialism. This is what we mean when we speak of economic structure. It is from this basic principle that we derive our criteria for the determination of the class character of the state.

Wohlforth abandons this basic Marxist approach by seeking constantly for his criteria in the superstructure. Thus he has Castro suspended in midair with no visible means of social support. Some trick if you can do it!

Having been deprived of their means of exploitation the bourgeoisie, as a class, has disappeared in Cuba——by Wohlforth’s own admission. As a substitute we have “Stalinism.” But not Stalinism of the Cuban variety. That could scarcely be considered any kind of a “force” in Cuba. No, Stalinism in the form of the Kremlin upon whom the “Cuban economy” is completely dependent.

So we have the following theoretical conclusion: Castro is a “Bonaparte” independent of the “direct or indirect” control of the workers and peasants of Cuba, and completely dependent on the Kremlin to survive. Doesn’t that make Castro a pawn of the Moscow bureaucracy and Cuba therefore eligible for the title of a “structurally assimilated deformed workers state”? Make sense of it those who can! Trying to grapple with Wohlforth’s theoretical lucubrations is like trying to wrestle a greased eel!

In Conclusion

I want to conclude by taking up the note upon which Wohlforth ends his document. “Pabloism,” Wohlforth declares, “is the abandonment of proletarian revolution itself and that is the long and short of it. The deep crisis now going on within the Pabloite ranks is but a reflection of the instability of a petty-bourgeois formation which has abandoned the working class for a ‘middle course.’ The division between Trotskyism and Pabloism is thus clearly a class division. This division cannot be bridged; it can only be deepened. The international cadres of Trotskyism can only be reassembled, strengthened, rebuilt, around a proletarian line. There is no ‘middle course.’”

In line with the “method” of the Slaughter-Healy faction, now so deftly applied by our own minority, the SWP has “capitulated” to “Pabloism” as defined in the purple prose of Wohlforth cited above. If you mean what you say, Comrade Wohlforth, we find ourselves on opposite sides of the barricades, divided by an unbridgeable gulf. Are we to understand your implied threat as an “either/or” declaration of intent? You might as well know right now that we cannot be intimidated into changing a course we consider correct and necessary. We have heard that kind of talk before. It hasn’t fazed us a bit. Others have tried it before you to no avail. Whether you stay with the party or take your departure for parts unknown is a matter which cannot influence us one bit. The door swings both ways——the decision is yours!

Reprinted from SWP Discussion Bulletin Vol. 24, No. 17, May 1963