From New International, Vol.4 No.1, January 1938, pp.3-4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
IT IS INCREASINGLY clear that the center of gravity of the revolutionary labor movement is shifting Westward. The birthplace of the scientific socialist movement is now a fascist shambles. In Russia, the vanguard movement has felt the cruel, prostrating blows of a nationalist ruling clique which has become a vast international machine for falsifying the Marxism which the 1917 revolution retrieved from the mud. Wherever the labor movement still exists as a force in Europe, it is in the paralyzing grip of either or both the Second and Third Internationals.
In the United States, however, the labor movement is experiencing a sweeping upsurge. Almost overnight, the trade unions have swelled with hundreds of thousands and millions of new members. In the mass economic struggles that accompanied this trend the new trade unionists, with that aggressiveness characteristic of the American worker in a fight, spontaneously adopted the most militant and advanced forms of struggle. The sit-down strikes which upset the equanimity of the American ruling class are the first minatory, if unconscious, declaration by the working class that it does not have too much awesome respect for capitalist property rights and claims. They foreshadow the revolutionary tomorrow when the toilers will permanently occupy, manage and own the industries which will be the property of organized society.
Despite its tumultuous rise, however, the workers’ movement in the United States lacks consciousness, crystallized in a program and a scientific doctrine, and implemented by a revolutionary political party. Where is the scientific doctrine to come from? The radical American intelligentsia, like the intellectuals as a whole, has no roots in the masses, to whom it has nothing to offer and who, for that reason, ask nothing of it. The intelligentsia, which has abandoned the traditional prejudices of “Americanism” and is seeking a new orientation, considers that it has found one in an uncritical acceptance of the “Russian experiment”. In actuality, it means that, having no doctrine and no social support, the intelligentsia finds nothing better than to sink to its knees before the Soviet bureaucracy. Hardly has it half-liberated itself from prevailing bourgeois ideology than it falls victim to a consuming spiritual Inquisition. For the Kremlin bureaucracy, and its spiritless tool, the Communist International, are not the banner-bearers of revolutionary science but its fiercest antagonists.
The havoc wrought in the labor movement by the social-democracy is second only to the devastation of its principal present collaborator, Stalinism. In the Soviet Union, not only politics but also science, literature and art are impressed into service to justify, consolidate and glorify the Bonapartist dictatorship. All independent thinking is hounded and persecuted as a mortal danger. Creation is permitted only as a command performance. It is not surprising that the sources of spiritual creation opened up by the revolution have dried up so quickly. Not a single work of economics, politics or sociology has been produced that might take its place in the library of humanity. Philosophy has degenerated into shameful scholasticism. Literature, painting, architecture, music, which might have attained new heights in the service of socialism, are tainted with sterility.
The pestilence is not confined to the borders of the Soviet Union. Throughout the Communist International and its affiliates, every means is used to humiliate, emasculate and enslave the progressive movement in all countries. The authority of the October revolution is replaced by the authority of the infallible Leader, and supplemented by a system of bribery without precedent in history. A drill-sergeant spirit, Byzantinism, bigotry, Jesuitry, lies and calumny poison the atmosphere breathed by the advanced workers as well as by the radical intellectuals. This work of demoralization on a world scale is cloaked under the banner of the “defense of the Soviet Union”.
Our aim is to help break down the demoralizing and reactionary influence of Stalinism and its newly acquired ally, social reformism of the old school. We have no other weapon at our disposal save the ideas of revolutionary Marxism. All the events since the outbreak of the last world war have only confirmed our belief that unless the labor movement is built upon these ideas, it not only cannot liberate itself from capitalism, but it cannot even, exist under capitalism as an independent force. All that the innovations and the “practical” substitutes have yielded in the last quarter of a century has been one defeat after another.
The review does not propose merely to defend ideas and theories. It takes upon itself the militant advocacy of the Fourth International, which is the world movement of revolutionary Marxism, and of its section in the United States. The decisive factor in the historic future of this country, as well as all others, will be the revolutionary proletarian party. We intend to proclaim its ideas, above all in the general political and theoretical fields, and thereby to build and strengthen it.
To defend the ideas of Marxism, we must first tear it from the claws of the Inquisition, from its traducers and distorters wherever they may be. We intend to re-conquer the freedom of criticism and creation. We seek to restore honesty, sincerity and truth to their full rights, to restore independence, dignity and self-confidence to revolutionary thought. A genuine Marxian review is bound by no obligations other than those of honesty in matters of theory. Marxism, by its very nature, is not a dogma, but a guide to action; it is criticism which stops before no taboo. It is alien to idolatry. It imposes the necessity of sharpening all the fine-edged and incisive instruments of thought.
Marxism means the analysis of the living historical process. Unfettered analysis presupposes the inevitability of differences on the basis of Marxism itself. For this reason we intend to throw open the pages of our review to a greater extent than ever before to a discussion of those problems which concern the living revolutionary movement. The editors do not propose to act as mute spectators at a forum, but as active participants who have a standpoint to present and who do not fear to confront discussion or debate.
We make no pretensions to that hypocritical impartiality which more often than not conceals a fear to express a firm opinion. We are the staunch partisans of the doctrines of revolutionary Marxism. We regard this science of the proletariat as one that gives us the keenest instruments with which to analyze problems and events. The function of a Marxian review is not fulfilled by translating the latest ukase of the Moscow bureaucracy. Nor is its obligation at an end when, every month or every quarter, it analyzes the revolution of 1776, or the Civil War, or the position of agricultural labor under Mussolini, or the intricacies of nominalism, but flees from the very thought of uttering a word on such burning questions as the crisis of the Russian revolution, the People’s
Front, or the proletarian attitude towards the coming war. Our conception of the defense of Marxism does not include flight from the problems of the day; it presupposes a serious attempt to answer the questions posed by the class struggle.
An answer to the questions of the day implies very often the most vigorous polemical manner. We are mindful of the fact that the best-organized enemy of revolutionary Marxism in the ranks of the labor movement, is the international Stalinist machine. The most dangerous enemy calls for the heaviest blows.
The alarmed courtiers will of course reply that we are destroying the foundations of the Soviet Union, weakening the united front of the democracy, and serving fascism. We reply in advance to these outcries with contempt, which will easily arm itself with irony and sarcasm when a simple boot is not enough. All living things are consumed and rejuvenated. The ossified revolution, before all else, has need of rejuvenation. We have nothing in common with the high-class concentration camp of the “Friends of the Soviet Union”. We base ourselves entirely on the revolutionary foundations of the Soviet regime. We hate its exploiters, its parasites, its grave-diggers. In the interests of the Soviet Union and of the world proletarian struggle against capitalism, we declare implacable war on Stalinist Bonapartism and its international lackeys. The Babylonian captivity of revolutionary thought cannot and will not last forever. The frame-ups and purges mark the beginning of the end. We want to hasten the destruction of police-command over the vanguard throughout the world.
We begin our work with modest means and forces but with an unshakable faith in the future. Our tasks are of international significance. That is why we are counting on international collaboration. Over all obstacles and in spite of all difficulties, we shall carry on our work to the end!
Last updated on 4.8.2006