Joseph Hansen

Pablo Approves “New” Economic Policy of Malenkov Regime

(Spring 1954)

Source: Fourth International, Vol.15 No.2, Spring 1954, pp.67-71.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2006 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Public Domain: Joseph Hansen Internet Archive 2006; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.

IF WE are to believe Churchill, Tory war dog of the British Empire, and Pablo, leader of a revisionist faction in the Fourth International, a relaxation of the rule of the Stalinist bureaucracy has occurred in the Soviet Union, a relaxation that holds out great promise.

This common view stems, of course, from opposite grounds. Churchill’s calculations are based on the unpreparedness of the British bourgeoisie for the armed assault planned by Wall Street on the Soviet bloc. Churchill finds Wall Street’s timetable for World War III a bit too strenuous for the aged lungs and legs of British capitailism. He is therefore inclined to welcome the overtures of the Malenkov regime for an extension of the period of “peaceful co-existence” between world capitalism and the Soviet bloc.

Churchill even hopes that by proper diplomacy some kind of deal can be reached that will include lowering of trade barriers and other concessions to Moscow in return for an alliance against the independence movements of the colonies and the socialist revolution, particularly in Western Europe. To him, therefore, the “relaxation” of the Malenkov regime signifies the marked readiness of the bureaucracy’s representatives to reach a counter-revolutionary understanding mutually advantageous to British capitalism and the parasitic ruling caste of the USSR.

Churchill can scarcely be accused of impressionism or naivete in reaching such views. He is in direct diplomatic touch with Moscow’s rulers and has available the vast secret information services of Anglo-American imperialism. His judgment is based on some 37 years’ solid experience in leading the counter-revolutionary struggle of world imperialism against the Soviet Union, the colonial sphere, and the world socialist movement.

In contrast to Churchill, Pablo sees in the “relaxation” of the Malenkov regime a sign full of hope for world Trotskyism. Pablo even maintains that the Malenkov regime has undertaken “a new economic course which appears generally to adopt the main lines of the economic thought of the Left Opposition and of L. Trotsky in particular.”

This course, he tells us, “cannot but favor a more normal evolution of Soviet economy” and – believe it or not – lower the “social tension” in the USSR. (See the April 19 Militant for an analysis of Pablo’s position.)

From these promising straws in the wind, it follows, of course, that a proper attitude toward the Malenkov regime by the world Trotskyist movement can assist the Stalinist bureaucracy to reform itself by structural assimilation of other “main lines” of the thought of the Left Opposition and of L. Trotsky in particular.

Thus, . locking little fingers with Churchill, Pablo – like the official head of British imperialism – takes a conciliatory attitude toward the Malenkov regime and the new economic policy it has promised. How did Pablo happen to find himself in this, let us say – extraordinary position? His approval of Malenkov’s promised new economic policy enables us now to determine fairly definitely what was really behind many of the cryptic utterances that began to arouse uneasiness several years ago among the ranks of the world Trotskyist movement as to what was actually going on in Pablo’s head.

“Centuries” of Deformed Workers’ States

In the fall of 1949 in an article On the Class Nature of Yugoslavia, Pablo casually indicated that he saw a period ahead “which can extend for centuries” of “workers’ states that are not normal hut necessarily quite deformed.” (International Information Bulletin. Dec. 1949, p.3.)

Some thought at first that this might be a slip of the pen, as it flew directly in the face of the teachings of Marxism. However, Pablo did not correct himself.

“As for us,” he said, “we reaffirm what we wrote ... this transformation will probably take an entire historical period of several centuries ... We are aware that this statement has shocked certain comrades and served others as a springboard to attack our ‘revisionism.’ But we do not disarm.” (Ibid., March 1951, p.13.)

That was no empty boast. He set about organizing a secret personal faction in the world Trotskyist movement.

Although in his first statement Pablo had declared that the “centuries” meant “a much more tortuous and complicated development of the revolution than our teachers foresaw,” under fire of criticism he sought theoretical sanction from Marx, Lenin and Trotsky.

This required considerable juggling of words and stretching of meanings. Thus, in the case of Trotsky, he held that the perspective of “centuries” of deformed workers’ states “conforms to Trotsky’s spirit (if not to the very letter of his writings).” Trotsky’s “spirit” was then converted within a few paragraphs into the “real views of Trotsky on these questions.” (Ibid., July 1951, pp.11-12.)

For Pablo, this was no measuring of hairs with a micrometer.

“And what is the practical importance of insisting so much on the probable duration and the character of the transitional period?” he asked. “It appears considerable to us. It is first of all a question of arming the communist cadres of our movement with a historical perspective and with clear notions of the aims to be attained so that they can master whatever is conjunctural and avoid any activist impatience or impressionism. It is also a question of rendering them capable of grasping the development of the Revolution in our epoch in its real and concrete manifestation unhampered by any formalistic thinking.” (Ibid., pp.12-13. Pablo’s emphasis.)

Taking it at face value, who can object to being armed with a “historical perspective” and “clear notions”? Who doesn’t want to avoid “activist impatience” or “impressionism”? Who is not interested in grasping “the real and concrete” development of the revolution “in our epoch”? Who doesn’t want to be unhampered by “formalistic thinking”?

What It Really Means

It is now possible in the light of Pablo’s recent course, and particularly in the light of his approval of Malenkov’s promised new economic policy, to get an idea of the Pabloite content that fits these abstract desiderata.

“Formalistic thinking” turns out 1o be the formulas of Trotsky, including his Transitional Program. “Junk the old Trotskyism!” cries Clarke, one of Pablo’s American disciples, pressing for all Trotskyists to unhamper if not unhinge their thinking.

“The real and concrete development of the revolution” turns out to be the postwar extension of the sphere of Soviet influence and the indefinite delay of the revolution in the advanced countries because of the backward (counter-revolutionary?) character of the mass of workers in these lands.

“Impressionism” turns out to be the Trotskyist impression that Stalinism is counter-revolutionary to the core.

“Activist impatience” turns out to be the program of patiently constructing independent revolutionary socialist parties to win power in the Soviet Union and in the advanced capitalist countries.

“Mastering whatever is conjunctural” proves to be the ability to leave Trotskyism behind bag and baggage, in return for whatever might turn up in the Stalinist “milieu.”

“Clear notions” includes the revisionist notion of Clarke that the Stalinist bureaucracy may share power with the Soviet masses.

“Historical perspective” signifies giving up any idea of socialist revolution, especially in the USA, for generations to come.

Piecing together the evidence, we may now surmise that Pablo holds to a theory somewhat as follows:

The real course of the proletarian revolution is proceeding in a geographical spiral from the Soviet Union through the backward countries. Eventually it will include the advanced countries, but perhaps not for centuries because the workers there are unable to overcome the anti-Soviet poisoning their minds have been subjected to.

In its real and concrete development, if we read Pablo’s thoughts correctly, the revolution is proceeding without benefit of a party such as Lenin and Trotsky thought necessary. A military-bureaucratic leadership is replacing it; the revolution in fact is being led by Stalinism. This reduces the revolutionary socialists to the role of simply advocating better methods that could shorten the process and make it less costly and more palatable. Recognizing what the real historical perspective is, revolutionary socialists must take part in this “new reality” as advocates of the best possible transitional measures and as leaders in the struggle to reform the inevitable bureaucracy or at least to temper its excesses.

“Will Right Itself”

This perspective must not be judged as one of darkest pessimism, if we are to believe Pablo’s repeated assurances about the golden opportunities now opening up for Trotskyist ideas; for the Stalinist bureaucracy, passively reflecting the interests of the working class, is amenable to suggestion and modification. The revolution “will right itself.” Germain, who seems to be seeking a niche in history as attorney and counsellor-in-orthodox-phraseology for Pablo, is even so optimistic as to divide Pablo’s perspective by twenty – where the Stalin era lasted thirty years, “the Malenkov era,” he promises us, “will not even last ten.” Ten, the man said. (Quatrième Internationale, January-February 1954, p.15.)

It is worth noting in passing that in face of the widespread opposition to his “centuries” theory, Pablo quietly put it back in his brief-case. In place of it he substituted the prognosis of an early outbreak of World War III. By “early,” Pablo really meant early. He converted the Marxist concept of the speeding up of all tempos in this epoch of wars and revolutions into a lopsided caricature. Discounting the possibility of effective resistance to war in the advanced countries, he predicted war in several years from 1951.

From this, Pablo drew extreme conclusions. The war, he held, would occur so early as to leave the working class insufficient time to construct mass parties capable of staying the war-makers. Whatever moves the workers did make would go into Stalinist and Social Democratic channels. But fortunately, the mounting threat of war would inevitably impel Stalinism in particular toward revolutionary actions in defense of the Soviet Union.

The deferment of the outbreak of World War III, and – more important – the continued counter-revolutionary politics of Stalinism despite the threat of war, have done this theory no good. In capitulating to Malenkov’s alleged new economic course, Pablo does not mention the prognosis of World War III in “several years” from 1951.

Instead, he has taken the “several centuries” theory out of his brief-case, modifying the “centuries” to the more timeless phrase, “long period.” “Several centuries ... several years” turn out to be two sides of the same street. The course indicated for the Trotskyist movement remains the same – a turn toward Stalinism – just different reasons for taking it.

The “several centuries” theory, which appears to be at the heart of Pabloism, as a revisionist structure is symmetrical to “bureaucratic collectivism” (the theory of the appearance of a new, unforeseen type of exploiting class in the USSR). The adherents to the “several centuries” theory do not see the bureaucracy as a new exploiting class, and they also differ from the bureaucratic collectivists in placing a plus rather than a minus sign on the bureaucracy. And where the bureaucratic collectivists attempted to work out a novel terminology, the Pabloites cling to Trotskyist terminology, gutting it of its content so that it becomes nothing but a shell for the new revisionism. However, fundamentally both theories are the product of petty-bourgeois impressionism.

The theory of bureaucratic collectivism constituted a bridge from Trotskyism to the Social Democracy. In perfect symmetry, the theory of “centuries” of deformed workers’ states constitutes a bridge from Trotskyism to Stalinism.

Some Consequences

Various positions taken by the Pabloites derive a certain consistency, on the basis of these assumptions, that is otherwise lacking.

For example, if for generations to come the problem, is to “build socialism” in backward countries in isolation from the advanced centers of the world, then Pablo’s scholastic dissertation on getting a “Correct Comprehension of the NEP” of 1921 (see the April 19 Militant), which constitutes the theoretical underpinning for his support to Malenkov, becomes understandable as a timely and politically important contribution.

In the light of the “several centuries” theory, an economic course such as Malenkov promises is simply a general requirement of all transitional regimes yet to be born. It is therefore perfectly normal in this particular instance and must be supported. Q.E.D.

Hence Pablo’s acclamation of Malenkov’s new economic policy and also his strained ‘efforts to find a theoretical rationalization for his capitulation to Malenkov by “correctly understanding” Trotsky’s views on the New Economic Policy of 1921.

Hence also Pablo’s belief that Malenkov’s promised new economic course can lead to a lowering of the “social tension” in the Soviet Union. Less social tension is required if the Soviet Union is to hold out during the “centuries” to come, as visualized in the Pabloite schema. Under this perspective, lowering of the social tension is an objective requirement that the bureaucracy, as a passive reflection of the working class, is bound to respond to sooner or later. Pablo sees it responding now. The revolution will “right itself.”

In line with this, Germain tries to convince us that the Stalinist bureaucracy is giving up some of its privileges:

“... the economic reforms introduced the past year are all in the direction of a diminution of the share of the bureaucracy in the division of the national income.” (Quatrième Internationale, January-February 1954, p.10. Germain’s emphasis.)

These revisionist views provide the foundation in economic theory for Clarke’s revisionist political theory projecting the “sharing of power” between the Stalinist bureaucracy and the Soviet masses in place of Trotsky’s projection of the overthrow of the bureaucracy by the Soviet masses.

When Clarke was called to account for publishing such a brazen revision of Trotskyism in Fourth International (January-February 1953, p.13) Pablo came to Clarke’s defense. He did not explain at the time why he thought Clarke was correct; but in the light of the above analysis it is quite obvious that Clarke was simply offering a perfectly logical extension of Pablo’s basic revisionist theory.

As a variation on the same theme, Germain, in the article cited above, speaks of the “enfeeblement” of the bureaucracy. His principal evidence is his own impression that the bureaucracy is really sharing its income on a more equitable basis with the masses it has by the throat. It apparently does not occur to Germain, in his concern about providing Pablo with a protective Trotskyist coloration, that the Stalinist bureaucracy also appreciates in a tight spot the value of protective coloration – such as promises of concessions to the masses and even a posture of “enfeeblement.” A wounded wolf likewise displays enfeeblement but is all the more dangerous for that.

Germain’s economic confidence in the bureaucracy’s sharing its pilfered income with the masses is obviously the crystal twin to Clarke’s political confidence in the bureaucracy’s sharing its usurped power with the masses.

Political Implications

In his article pronouncing benediction on the new economic policy of the counter-revolutionary Stalinist bureaucracy, Pablo refrains from discussing the political consequences of his capitulation. However, since economics is not divided from politics by an impassable sound barrier, particularly in the Soviet Union, it is not difficult to work out the implications of Pablo’s revisionist views.

If the revolution is confined to the backward countries and is not expected to succeed for generations to come in the advanced countries, then it follows that the demand for “peaceful co-existence” between the Soviet bloc and the imperialist powers moves into the front rank of slogans of the world revolution, coinciding happily with the counter-revolutionary needs of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Even the pacific diplomatic gestures of a Churchill or Daladier must be duly appreciated.

This is not exactly new. It has been the Stalinist view since 1924. The conciliatory attitude of the Pabloites toward Moscow’s reactionary diplomacy, noted early in the factional struggle with them, is evidence enough of the drift of their thinking on this issue.

Similarly, if the socialist revolution in the advanced countries is a song of the distant future, the proper role of the vanguard of the present generation, and probably their offspring for five or six generations to come, is not to try to build an independent party, but to avoid such Utopian nonsense – “crackpot antics” is the apt phrase chosen by Pabloite spokesman Cochran – and organize a border guard for the Kremlin.

This too has been the Stalinist view and practice since the bureaucracy usurped power. Pablo’s rejection of the independent role and policy of the Socialist Workers Party in the United States fits in perfectly here, as does his warm approval of the split his American ideological followers engineered in the SWP in their turn toward the Stalinist “milieu.”

Such revisionist views monstrously contradict everything Trotsky taught and stood for. The Pabloite awareness of this is perfectly expressed in the gross slogan voiced by Clarke: “Junk the old Trotskyism!”

Pabloite revisionism requires the junking of Trotsky’s theory of the incompatibility of the Stalinist bureaucracy with the planned economy of the Soviet Union. Pablo, acting on the concept he has put in place of this decisive contribution by Trotsky to the correct understanding of Soviet reality, publicly proclaims that Malenkov, whose hands drip with the blood of murdered Trotskyists in the Soviet Union, has adopted “the main lines of the economic thought of the Left Opposition and of L. Trotsky in particular.” Germain sees the bureaucratic gangsters sharing their take more equitably with their victims. Clarke projects the possibility of the same totalitarian thugs sharing their stolen power with those they oppress.

Objectively, such declamations serve as nothing but Stalinist lures to get Trotskyist babes into the back seat of the car.

If the Stalinist bureaucracy is compatible with the planned economy for an indefinite period to come, then another far-reaching consequence follows. Pabloite revisionism, requires the junking of Trotsky’s theory of the counter-revolutionary character of Stalinism. As a matter of fact, the unpleasant characterization, “counterrevolutionary,” cannot be found in Pablo’s article capitulating to Malenkov. We had already been tipped off about this side of Pabloite theory by some of his rank and file ideological adherents in the USA who stoutly argued early in the faction struggle that “Stalinism can no longer betray”; it can move “only to the left.”

But this is only the beginning. Pabloite revisionism requires junking Trotsky’s view of the impossibility of reforming the Stalinist regime and of the need to overthrow it. That means junking the task of constructing an independent revolutionary party in the Soviet Union, just as it means in the advanced countries junking the program of constructing independent revolutionary parties aiming at power.

Along with this it requires junking Trotsky’s analysis of the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers’ state – for how can you call a state degenerated where the bureaucracy adopts the main lines of L. Trotsky’s economic thought, is willing to share its income more equitably with the masses and even share state power? This conclusion, startling as it may seem at first sight, follows strictly from Pablo’s thesis of “centuries” of deformed workers’ states: since such states can be expected for centuries, they no longer constitute deformations. As “the new reality,” they have become the norm.

And as a matter of fact, the word “deformed” cannot be found in Pablo’s article capitulating to Malenkov. He uses throughout simply the blanket term, “proletarian state,” in speaking of the Soviet Union, its satellites, and future satellites to come.

Defense of the Soviet Union

I have room to mention only some of the major items that go into the ash can under Clarke’s all-inclusive slogan. One, of exceptional importance, is currently being given the broom treatment by the Pabloites: Trotsky’s concept of the defense of the Soviet Union.

The Trotskyist defense of the degenerated workers’ state stands in revolutionary opposition to that of the Stalinists. Trotsky’s program calls for defense of the conquests of the October Revolution as part of the overall struggle for the world socialist revolution – and that is all. It specifically excludes defense of the counter-revolution headed by the Stalinist bureaucracy.

Against the imperialist foe, it signifies defense of the Soviet Union as a whole; that is, “unconditional” defense. This defense is not conditioned on the policies of the bureaucracy or its preliminary overthrow, but at the same time it is inseparable from organizing for the revolutionary overthrow of the counter-revolutionary bureaucracy.

Above the Soviet Union in priority stands the world revolution. In no case can the needs of the world revolution be subordinated to defense of the Soviet Union. This means consistent, stubborn efforts to build independent revolutionary parties in every capitalist power, parties that aim at establishing Workers and Farmers Governments. In the final analysis this course offers the Soviet Union not only the best possible defense but the only realistic one.

According to this concept, to approve the economic policies of the bureaucracy, even to paint up the bureaucracy or foster illusions in it, constitutes betrayal of the defense of the Soviet Union.

Similarly, to give up the struggle for an independent party, besides everything else it betrays, constitutes betrayal of the defense of the Soviet Union.

It is precisely because the Pabloites have a guilty conscience about this that they now accuse the Socialist Workers Party of giving up the defense of the Soviet Union. But the SWP has not altered its long-standing position on this question by one iota.

The truth is that the Pabloites have junked Trotsky’s concept of the defense of the Soviet Union in accordance with their general slogan, “Junk the old Trotskyismi!” In place of Trotsky’s emphasis on the contradiction between the counter-revolutionary bureaucracy and the conquest of the October Revolution, they have substituted an identity of interests. From this it follows that defense of the bureaucracy equates to defense of the Soviet Union, a view long maintained by Stalinism, The mere fact that the Pabloites dared accuse the SWP of giving up the defense of the Soviet Union is sufficient indication of how far their revisionist theories have taken them into the camp of Stalinism, for their accusation is nothing but an echo of an old Stalinist slander against the American Trotskyists.

What they really mean by their slander is that the SWP continues to follow Trotsky’s “outmoded schema” of defense, which they as “realists” have junked in favor of a “new” schema that corresponds more closely to the “new reality” Pablo has found in the Malenkov regime.

In its Open Letter to Trotskyists throughout the world (Militant, Nov. 16, 1953), the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party charged the Pabloite faction with having “abandoned the basic program of Trotskyism.” It charged Pablo with “conciliation to Stalinism.” These charges were fully documented. Pablo’s latest article, publicly placing his rubber-stamp of approval on Malenkov’s new economic policy, in outrageous violation of the Trotskyist program of revolutionary opposition to Stalinism, shows how far Pablo is prepared to go. His latest move, I venture to predict, will prove to be only the beginning.


Last updated on: 22.2.2006