The Invading Socialist Society. C L R James and Raya Dunayevskaya 1947
One of Trotsky’s last contributions to the Fourth International was a hypothetical prognosis of social development if the world revolution failed to come during or immediately after the war. Contrary to the belief of all the incurable Mensheviks and the panic stricken, this failure of the revolution was not, and could not have been conceived by Trotsky, of all people, metaphysically, as a point in time, one month, six months, two years. It was a dialectical forecast a stage in the development of the international class struggle. If, in the crisis that Trotsky foresaw, the bourgeoisie could restore economic stability and its social domination over the proletariat, then he could not conceive another situation in which the proletariat could conquer.
In 1938 when Trotsky posed the question stated above, he drew the conclusion that, given the failure of the world revolution, the evolution of Russia might prove in retrospect to be the social basis for a new evaluation of the laws of scientific socialism. Russia remains, the world revolution has not conquered, and as a result in every section of the International, from the I.E.C. downwards the process of re-evaluation is taking place.
As far back as 1941 the W.P. Minority (Johnson-Forest), believing with Trotsky that under no circumstances could bourgeois relations of production save society from barbarism after the impending crisis, revised the official Russian position in the light of the present stage of development of capitalism, statification of production, and the consequent deepening of the mass revolutionary struggle. The W.P. Majority, (Shachtmanites), revised the whole Marxist-Leninist-Trotskyist strategy in the light of the Russian degeneration. The official Fourth International, under the blows of the “delayed” revolution, has continued to seek theoretical stability in the “progressive character” of the degenerated workers’ state or to use its recurrent phrase “the dual character of the bureaucracy.” Where the Kremlin and the Red Army advance, there the revolution has advanced. Where they retreat, there the revolution has retreated. Where Trotsky saw the nationalization of production as the last remaining conquest of proletarian power, the Fourth International today accepts nationalization of production as a stage in revolutionary development even if the revolution itself is brutally suppressed. Where Trotsky saw the Russian proletariat as dependent upon the impetus of the revolution from the proletariat outside, the I.E.C. sees as progressive the incorporation of millions from outside Russia into the totalitarian grip of the Russian bureaucracy.
The first thing to be done once and for all is to destroy Germain’s illusion that he is interpreting Trotsky’s positions of 1939. Trotsky in 1939 believed that the bureaucracy of the workers’ state would give an “impulse” to revolutionary action among the oppressed masses in the areas it invaded in order to create a basis for itself. But this achieved, its Bonapartist tendencies would then assert themselves and crush the revolutionary masses. As he proved unmistakably, this is what happened in Poland and was posed in Finland in 1939.
Events at the end of the war took an entirely different course. The Russian Army did not call upon workers and peasants to revolt in order to create a basis for the bureaucracy. For country after country in Eastern Europe, Germain repeats with wearisome insistence: “The approach of the Red Army unloosed a revolutionary upheaval.” Undoubtedly many workers and peasants in Eastern Europe believed that Stalin’s army was revolutionary. But it was the break-down of bourgeois society which unloosed the revolutionary upheaval not only in Poland and Rumania, but in Italy, the Philippines and Paris. In reality, the agents of the bureaucracy carried on a systematic campaign against all the revolutionary elements in Poland before, during and after the uprising. The Russian army, the vanguard of the counter-revolution, in collaboration with British imperialism, took pains to have the Warsaw proletariat, the vanguard of the European revolution, destroyed by the Nazi army. Russia kept Marshal Paulus and the German Junkers in reserve against what it called “a repetition of 1918 in Germany.” Ilya Ehrenberg, special propagandist for the European theatre, led the Stalinist pack in an unprecedented international vilification of the German people, which reached its height in the declaration that if the German workers made a revolution and approached the Red Army as brothers, they would be shot down like dogs.
Despite this, the Russian Army found revolutionary formations in existence, Soviets, factory committees, militias. There was no bourgeoisie and industry was in the hands of the workers. The Russian Army arrested, deported or murdered the revolutionary elements. It destroyed step by step the traditional Polish workers’ parties and created new ones in its own image. It restored remnants of the Polish bourgeoisie to positions of power and created what Germain admits is a bourgeois state. Germain admits that the Russian Army sanctioned nationalization because where it entered, a virtual nationalization had already taken place. Then he coolly informs us, “The activity of the Stalinist bureaucracy inevitably exhibits a double character: on the one hand it has facilitated [facilitated, if you please] in however limited a measure, nationalization, agrarian reform, the establishment of factory committees, etc.,” on the other hand it established the police regime. Then he dares us to deny “the dual character of bureaucratic intervention.” (Fourth International, Feb. 1947.)
Whoever wishes to advance this infatuated inversion of great historical events may do so but he will do so on his own authority and under his own name. He will not in our movement get away with this as “Trotsky’s position.”
We have declared and will declare again our opposition to Trotsky’s policy of 1940. But before attacking a policy, it is necessary to understand it. It is even more necessary to do so when defending it. In 1940 Trotsky argued:
1) that the defeat of Russia could mean the dismemberment of the U.S.S.R., and give imperialism a further long lease of life;
2) that only the defeat of the bureaucracy by the revolution would preserve state property in the U.S.S.R.;
3) that the Stalinist parties abroad would desert the Kremlin regime and capitulate to their own bourgeoisies.
Which of these judgments does Germain still defend? He does not even face them.
1) He and his school are probably the only persons in the world who believe that the imperialism of today, shattered beyond repair, can have a long lease on life by the dismemberment of Russia. This indeed is faith in capitalism.
2) Further, if we understand the 1939 Trotsky at all, if we watch the iron laws of economic development today and observe the barbarism that is eating away at bourgeois society, the patching up of the universal ruin of another war could not reverse but would accelerate the movement to the nationalization not only of national but continental economies. But Germain continues to agitate himself about the prospects of capitalist restoration after a new war by millionaire collective-farmers.
3) Finally, it is clear to all (again except Germain) that the Stalinist parties are tied to the Kremlin by roots far deeper than Trotsky believed. They did not join their national bourgeoisie during the war. They did not collapse and abdicate to the Fourth International the leadership of millions. We thus have today in fact a more complicated relation of fundamental forces and perspectives than those on which Trotsky based his positions.
To these fundamental problems Germain has his answer ready: “planned economy” and the “dual character of the bureaucracy.” There is not a trace, not one drop of Marxism, of the dialectical method, in this.
What is so terrible is that fundamental concepts are being changed, altered, transformed, shifted around, without the theoreticians ever stopping to think of what they are doing. If is proceeding, for the most part, unconsciously and empirically.
It is still our common belief that we subscribe to the Leninist analysis of imperialism, as the struggle of conflicting imperialisms for the re-division of the world. It is obvious that the I.K.D. and Shachtman do not believe this. For them there is only one significant imperialist state in the Leninist sense of the word. That is American imperialism. (It is ridiculous to consider Britain as a serious competitor with the United States.) They call Russia “bureaucratic imperialism” whatever that may mean, but this has no scientific relation to American imperialism, i.e., a relation within the capital-labor antagonism in the context of the world market.
But Germain also has completely reorganized in his own mind the foundation of our period. For him also the world market is similarly destroyed. For him also there is only one imperialist state. Wall Street is engaged in a struggle not with another imperialism but with a degenerated workers’ state that can be transitional to socialism. Thus the one world trust aims at dominating the rest of the world. There is no imperialist rivalry between American imperialism and the U.S.S.R. There is the capitalist enemy and its projected victim.
Thus both Germain and Shachtman destroy all our conceptions of the laws of the world market and the domination of the capital-labor relation by these laws. It is not only possible but perfectly legitimate to take these tremendous theoretical steps. But it is absolutely intolerable that such tremendous theoretical re-evaluations should take place without their being clearly stated and the conclusions drawn.
It is when the normal trade connections of the world-market are destroyed that the law of value imposes itself with unrestrained ferocity. Russia must fight for world domination or perish. It is subjected to all the laws of the world-market. Socialism in a single country is dead even for Stalin. All theories built on this are also dead.
The bourgeoisie sees Stalinist Russia, nationalized property, as “attacking the capitalist world.” Germain sees nationalized property as “defending” itself. Thereby Germain is unable to reaffirm what the bourgeoisie seeks to destroy – the revolutionary unity of the world proletariat, the only solution to the contemporary barbarism.
The greatest enemy of the United States is not Stalinist Russia (this is a purely bourgeois conception). Its greatest enemy is at home, the American proletariat in alliance with the world revolution. But in the new necessity for world rule, equally, the greatest enemy of Russian domination is not American imperialism but the Russian proletariat. As in the moment of victory it collaborated with Hitler to destroy the revolutionary proletariat of Warsaw, so Stalinism will and must collaborate with American imperialism for the maintenance of the condition of their joint existence – the suppression of the world proletarian revolution. It was possible (possible, if wrong) at one time to speculate about the revolutionary aspect of the bureaucracy, its preservation of planned economy to save Russia from dismemberment and ruin and the consequent strengthening of imperialism. Those days are over. Today the task is to save the proletariat from a power which contends with by no means inferior forces for world mastery.
This is not a question of Germany or defense of Russia. Germain, viewing all historical development through the eyes of the theory of the degenerated workers’ state, is eating away at the theoretical foundations of our movement, i.e., the revolutionary mobilization of the proletariat as the sole solution to all the problems of the contemporary barbarism. We join Germain in holding off Shachtman and the other guerrillas in order to face him with the origins and consequences of his utterly false political position.
The struggle for socialism is the struggle for proletarian democracy. Proletarian democracy is not the crown of socialism. It is its basis. Proletarian democracy is not the result of socialism. Socialism is the result of proletarian democracy. To the degree that the proletarian mobilizes itself and the great masses of the people, the socialist revolution is advanced. The proletariat mobilizes itself as a self-acting force through its own committees, unions, parties and other organizations. This is not the “Russian question.” It is Marxism. Lenin based everything, yes, Comrade Germain, everything on this.
“The civil war against the bourgeoisie is a war which is democratically organized and waged by the poor masses against the propertied minority. The civil war is also a war, and consequently must inevitably put ‘force’ in the place of right. But force ... cannot be realized without a democratic organization of the army and the ‘rear.’ The civil war first of all and at once expropriates banks, factories, railways, large agricultural estates, etc. But it is precisely for this very purpose of expropriation that it is imperative to introduce the election by the people of all the officials and the army officers; to accomplish a complete fusion of the army, which wages war against the bourgeoisie, with the masses of the population; to introduce complete democracy in the matter of the control of food supplies, of production and distribution, etc. ... But this aim can be attained neither from a purely military nor economic nor political standpoint without a simultaneous introduction and propagation of democracy among our troops and at our rear – an introduction and propagation which will develop in the course of that war. We tell the masses now . ... ‘You must lead and you will lead a really democratic war against the bourgeoisie and for the purpose of actually carrying out democracy and socialism’.” (Bolsheviks and the World War, pp. 227-228.)
The same principle applies to the self-determination of nations.
“Without actually organizing the relations between the nations on a democratic basis – and hence without granting freedom of secession – there can be no civil war of the workers and the toiling masses of all nations against the bourgeoisie.” (Ibid., p. 228.)
We shall pursue Germain remorselessly until he faces this issue and answers.
The Commune, the first decisively proletarian revolution, nationalized nothing. For Marx, “The great social measure of the Commune was its own working existence,” its democratic mobilization of the masses of the people. In the 1917 revolution, the socialist revolution, we have precisely the same theory and therefore the same practice. In 1917 Lenin attacked mercilessly not merely nationalization but confiscation. “The vital thing will be not so much confiscation of capitalist property as the establishment of universal, all-embracing workers’ control over the capitalists and their possible supporters.” And then, Comrade Germain, note this: “Confiscation alone will lead us nowhere...” Lenin left no room for ambiguity on this question. He declared that the Bolsheviks never used the term “workers’ control” except in association with the dictatorship of the proletariat, “always putting it after the latter (by which) we thereby make plain what state we have in mind.”
State control – that was “a bourgeois-reformist phrase, in essence a purely Cadet formula...” The Junker-capitalist state in Germany during war time was exercising complete class control over the economy and it meant “military penal labor” for the workers. For Marx and Lenin, the regime transitional to socialism was the dictatorship of the proletariat, the power of the working class, not the regime of nationalized property. For Lenin “the fundamental idea which runs like a red thread through all of Marx’s works” is that “the democratic republic is the nearest approach to the dictatorship to the proletariat.” The democratic republic with its opportunity for mass mobilizations, not bourgeois nationalization of property. This explains Lenin’s merciless enmity to the bourgeois regulation of economic life as a whole “according to a certain general plan.” In fact, the leaders of the October Revolution specifically excluded confiscation of property from their immediate program. They were concerned with something else – the democratic, i.e., self-mobilization of the masses.
For Lenin the solution to the economic ills of ruined Russia was not nationalization of property but the release of the energies of the people. This was and is so profoundly revolutionary so opposed to bourgeois conceptions that even today, the words stare us in the face and we cannot understand them.
“In our opinion, in order to mitigate the untold burdens and miseries of the war, in order to heal the terrible wounds inflicted on the people by the war, revolutionary democracy is necessary, revolutionary measures are needed, of the kind described in the example of the allocation of dwellings in the interests of the poor. We must proceed in exactly the same way, in both town and country, with regard to foodstuffs, clothes, boots, and so forth, and in the country with regard to the land, etc. For the administration of the state in this spirit we can immediately set up a state apparatus of about ten million, if not twenty million people – an apparatus unknown to any capitalist country. We alone can create such an apparatus, for we are assured of the complete and devoted sympathy of the vast majority of the population. This apparatus we alone can create, because we have class conscious workers, disciplined by a long capitalist ‘apprenticeship’ (not for naught did we serve apprenticeship to capitalism), workers who are capable of forming a workers’ militia and of gradually enlarging it (beginning to enlarge it immediately) into a people’s militia. The class conscious workers must lead, but they can draw into the work of administration the real masses of the toiling oppressed.” (Selected Works, Vol. VI, p. 274.)
Is Germain prepared to subscribe to this program or not? Is he prepared to tell the French workers today that mere nationalization or even confiscation will solve nothing? He cannot do it because his Russian position Stands over him like a janissary with sword drawn.
For Lenin administration of the state by the proletariat was the same as administration of the economy. Without a break the passage passes on to the solution of economic problems.
“The most important thing is to inspire the oppressed and the toilers with confidence in their own strength, to show them in practice that they can and must themselves undertake a correct, strictly orderly and organized distribution of bread, food, milk, clothing, dwellings, and so forth, in the interests of the poor. Without this, Russia cannot be saved from collapse and ruin; whereas an honest, courageous and universal move to hand over the administration to the proletarians and semi-proletarians will arouse such unprecedented revolutionary enthusiasm among the masses, will so multiply the forces of the people in combating their miseries, that much that seemed impossible to our old, narrow, bureaucratic forces will become practicable for the forces of the millions and millions of the masses when they begin to work for themselves, and not under the whip, for the capitalist, the master, the official.”
The most important thing is to tell the workers what is to be done and that only they can do it. You can see the same in every line of these pamphlets.
“Only then shall we be able to see what untapped forces of resistance to capitalism are latent in the people; only then will what Engels calls ‘latent socialism’ be made apparent; only then shall we find that for every ten thousand open or concealed enemies of the power of the working class, who manifest themselves either by action or by passive resistance, a million new fighters will arise, who until then had been politically dormant, languishing in poverty and despair, having lost faith in themselves as human beings, in their right to live, in the possibility that they too might be served by the whole force of the modern centralized state and that their detachments of proletarian militia might be fully trusted and called upon to take part in the immediate, direct, day-to-day work of administration of the state.” (Selected Works, Vol. VI, p. 287.)
As concrete, revolutionary policy for the masses to act upon, Lenin, with his incomparable concreteness, was placing before them nothing more than the theoretical conclusions of Marx, that the solution to the problems of capital accumulation was the human solution.
“It becomes a question of life and death for society to adapt the mode of production to the normal functioning of this law. Modern industry, indeed, compels society, under penalty of death, to replace the detail-worker of today, crippled by life-long repetition of one and the same trivial operation, and thus reduced to a mere fragment of a man, by the fully-developed individual fit for a variety of labors, ready to face any change of production, and to whom the different social functions he performs are but so many modes of giving free scope to his own natural and acquired powers.” (Capital, Vol. 1, p. 534.)
The whole debate about nationalization should be mercilessly swept aside with the brutality with which Lenin swept it aside.* [*Later we shall take up the question of the actual use of the slogan in 1947.] Today, in 1947, it is no more than a means, and, with bourgeois and Stalinists, a deliberate means of blinding the masses to the need for their own self-mobilization. And Lenin was Lenin and Trotskyism was Bolshevism precisely because it was the ruthless enemy of all that impeded this self-mobilization.
Today we are far, far beyond the stage for which Lenin was writing. The crisis, as Trotsky foresaw it, and as we can see it today, demands that the International speak to the masses in a manner in-finitely surpassing in boldness and range the Lenin of 1917-1918. Where is it? Look at the press of the International. In words and resolutions it attacks the opportunists (and feebly enough); concretely, it cannot demonstrate its difference. Far better if it were, in every country, to do nothing more for three months than reprint week after week the State and Revolution, The Threatening Catastrophe, Will the Bolsheviks Retain State-Power?, The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government, Trotsky’s Transitional Program and above all the discussions that preceded it. The masses would learn more than we have taught them for the past year and we would also. And yet today even these are inadequate.
Under our eyes, the masses, the fountain of all Marxist theory, are creating the basis of the Fourth International. But to see this, Germain will have to tear himself from his mesmerized contemplation of degeneration in Russia and grapple with the regeneration of the proletariat, with the stages of development of our movement and its present situation, shaped not by Russian degeneration but by world capitalism.
In 1942 the reactionary laws of the American bourgeoisie made it necessary for Trotskyist tendencies in the United States to disaffiliate organizationally from the Fourth International. That, however, cannot prevent our subscription to political ideas and an interest in their expression in organizations and tendencies. It is in this sense -that we write here of the Fourth International.
Germain, secure, in his exposition of “Trotsky’s positions,” has no need to show in precise terms what organic changes, if any, have taken place in world imperialism since Trotsky wrote in 1940. Exactly similar is his method with the laws of political development. The Fourth Inter-national was small in 1939. It is still small in 1947. The masses are more (or less) revolutionary as the case may be, etc. We must redouble our energies, etc., etc. But how exactly does the Fourth International in 1947 differ from the Fourth International in 1939? What new conception can it have of itself and its tasks in the light of the developments between 1940 and 1947 ? Germain does not even ask himself these questions.
In the Manifesto of the Communist International, 1919, Trotsky states:
“If the First International presaged the future course of development and indicated its paths; if the Second International gathered and organized millions of workers; then the Third International is the International of open mass action, the International of revolutionary realization, the International of the deed.”
We have to examine this concentrated generalization, see what it means, place each International in relation to its period and arrive at what the Fourth International means today. That is the historic continuity of cur movement, not the “dual character of the bureaucracy.”
The First International was founded in an epoch in which small bourgeois production predominated. Marx, basing himself upon the most advanced stage and tendencies of the capital-labor relation of those days, fought for the revolutionary mobilization of the proletariat on the basis of unifying its economic and political struggles. He had to struggle against conspiratorial Blanquists and Anarchists for the systematic politicalization of the everyday proletarian struggle.
The Second International was founded on the realization in life of the theoretical perspectives for which Marx fought in the first International. The development of capitalism itself had solidified, unified and differentiated the proletariat from the rest of the nation, and clarified its role. Its clearly marked place in the social structure of advancing capitalism dictated the strategy of the Second International, the mobilization of the proletariat for revolutionary action. But the development of imperialism with its super-profits created the political democracy and social legislation which dissolved the unified social action of the proletariat into an amorphous mass of electors drowned in the petty-bourgeois swamp.
The dialectical development is now manifested with extraordinary clarity. If the revolutionary perspectives of the First International were the concrete foundation of the Second, the revolutionary perspectives of the Second International became in time the concrete foundations of the Third. The Third International was founded on the actual revolutionary upheaval of the masses, the October Revolution, mass general strikes, Soviets, armed demonstrations on a European scale. Capitalism had produced these just as it produced the foundations at each stage of the previous labor organization. And at each successive stage the degeneration of the proletarian party not only imitates capitalism but must take on to a greater degree the contradictions which are rending capitalism.
Beginning with 1933, Fascism, the bureaucratic control by the state of all aspects of life, becomes the political method of the bourgeoisie. Government even in democratic countries maintains only the form of legislative procedure and becomes in reality government by executive decree. The labor movement everywhere and the Third International above all complete a strictly parallel degeneration.
As in previous stages, with the degeneration of the labor movement, society itself culminates in social catastrophe, the series of defeated revolutions which preceded World War II, the war itself, and the insoluble crisis of the present. But here, the logical development of the International becomes of fundamental importance for us to understand our own present and our own future. The theoretical perspectives of the Third International, expressed most concretely by Lenin for Russia in the articles quoted, will logically become the concrete actual foundation of the Fourth.
In 1864, the revolution aimed at achieving social emancipation in the future. Today, revolution must begin with social emancipation. No conceivable force exists in the world to begin the regeneration of society except the emancipated proletariat. The Fourth International must tell the workers that only the free scope of their “own natural and acquired powers” and the “latent socialism” of their class can satisfy their most elementary needs. This is the theoretical basis of the revolutionary international of 1947. Where Marx fought to unify political and economic struggles, today, long past that stage, the Fourth International has to aim at the unification in the struggle of the national units of the proletariat, for the international reconstruction of economic life.
The emancipation must be social.
Only the complete social transformation of man as a productive force can begin to cope with the ruin, economic, political and moral, to which bourgeois society has reduced and is still further reducing the world.
The emancipation must be international.
1939-1947, and particularly 1945-1947, have demonstrated to the whole world, and particularly to the European proletariat, that the old national economies are shattered beyond repair. This was not so in 1940. The United States, the U.S.S.R. and the colonial countries are knit into an almost inextricable fabric with Europe. The world moves as a unit.
The tasks of the Fourth International have therefore undergone a qualitative change. Its most remote theories of 1940 have become in 1947 practical necessities for millions. Neither in theory nor in practice does Germain show any grasp of this. He is too tied up in “property” and “nationalization” to perform the first task of today. It is to examine and establish to what degree the objective movement and subjective expression of the proletariat correspond to the objective needs of society and the subjective claims of his organization. Germain’s treatment of this, where it exists, is superficial and impressionistic. For the Johnson-Forest tendency the correspondence is established and is the greatest political factor of our time. With the world socialist revolution the history of humanity will begin. And that is precisely what is already shaking the world. Vast millions of men are not thinking or acting as in the old days. They are flexing themselves for a leap that has become imperative for them – the leap from the realm of capitalist necessity into the realm of social freedom. This today is revolutionary politics. The revolutionary writer who does not know this, scratches only on the surface – and then begins to slip backward.
The mass movement today is not essentially the product of the war. Its first appearance is in France in 1934, after one year’s experience by Europe of the barbarism and degradation of Fascism.
In the space of three or four months after the June 1936 strikes in France four million workers join the French trade union movement “lining up for the class struggle.” In Spain the workers revolted with a violence and decisiveness never seen in any previous revolution. But it is in the U.S.A. that the phenomenon can be most instructively observed. Within two years the American proletariat creates the C.I.O., which in ten years becomes the most powerful social force in the nation, an achievement rarely exceeded in the history of the proletariat.
The victories of Hitler seemed to hurl back this world-wide mobilization of the proletariat. At the first check he received in 1941, the proletariat began the struggle on a higher plane. The resistance movements were nothing less than a higher stage of the self-mobilization of the proletariat as leader of the nation now deserted by the bourgeoisie.
Today this mass movement continues in the rush to join the Communist Parties. Nowhere in the writings of Germain and his co-thinkers is it possible to find a single paragraph which recognizes that this is the greatest social phenomenon of the age, the proletarian mobilization corresponding to the degeneration of bourgeois society.
Tomorrow if the Communist Parties in Western Europe should seriously undertake a series of decisive actions with the conquest of power as the open aim, the millions would pour into it as they poured into the unions in 1936. This is in no sense a national or Western European phenomenon. In Japan, in Indonesia, in Shanghai, in West Africa, there is the same type of self-mobilization. It has been growing with advances and retreats for thirteen years.
The French and Italian workers of today are not the Russian workers of 1917 seizing factories chaotically and trying to run them individually. They have been trained and disciplined in a more advanced school of capitalism, in a more complex world, in a society where social collapse and barbarism are very close. In the tightly-knit network of Western Europe they are profoundly aware of the inter-dependence of the economy, of the diminishing opposition between national and international economy, between national and international politics, between peace and war, the need for centralized organization.
In the Resolution on the role of the Communist Party at the Second Congress of the Communist International, Zinoviev stated that the former subdivisions of the workers’ movement into the three forms, party, union, co-operative, had exhausted itself. The new forms of the dictatorship of the proletariat were party, soviet and industrial unions. The whole resolution is built around the idea that even “on the day of the conquest of power the Communist Party constitutes only a fraction of the working class.” This was the axis on which Lenin worked for Russia and for the whole of Western Europe. What we are seeing in France and Italy shows how far beyond 1919 we are.
Any revolutionary party today which initiated actions for the conquest of power would rally such a membership as would reduce to the vanishing point the organizational difference between vanguard and masses, party, Soviet and union. The revolutionary party will not be only a “fraction” of the working-class. In a country like France at the moment of the conquest of power, we can well see practically every member of the organized labor movement and millions of the petty-bourgeoisie as members of the revolutionary party.* [* How ridiculous all the disputes about the dictatorship of the party over the masses already begin to appear!] For Shachtman and such, all this is stratospheric “theory.” Yet it is only with this in mind (and not revolutionary waves which were unloosed by the Red Army) that we shall begin to see the catastrophic role played by the Red Army in Eastern Europe and the lessons for today.
In 1917 the February and October Revolutions gave the impetus to the European revolution precisely because of the backwardness of Russia. In 1944 the revolutionary mobilization of the masses in the Eastern European countries under the impending defeat of Germany was historically due to be the signal and example for such a mobilization in Western Europe as would have put the 1917-1923 revolutions in the shade. It is this the Kremlin, deliberately and farsightedly counter-revolutionary, destroyed. Could Anglo-American imperialism have held the populations of those countries down? Look at the rest of the world and judge. We would have had a repetition of Greece, (Greece which Germain so grievously misunderstands) in every country in Eastern Europe; the Middle East aflame and a movement in Western Europe to which even the present unprecedented self-mobilization of the masses would have been merely a prelude.
The analysis must be taken to its conclusion, as our teachers taught us to do and because today historical development takes all processes to their logical conclusion. Already in the Spanish Civil War in 1936 the French proletariat was seething with the consciousness that it was necessary to go to the aid of the Spanish proletariat. All through the war the elements of international action particularly in North Italy and the Balkans, existed. Stalinism corrupted and destroyed it when it destroyed the revolution. Yet today the self-mobilization of the masses in Italy and France on a national scale has reached such a stage that given serious action of any kind, always decisive for proletarian consciousness, it is bound to overflow the national boundaries.
In the “Critique of the Gotha Program” (1875) Marx drew attention to the fact that thirty years before in the Communist Manifesto, he had warned that the class struggle is national “in form” only but not in content. In 1873 he had taken it further. Referring to the death of the First International he had declared that “The international activity of the working class does not by any means depend on the existence of the International Workingmen’s Association.” Had Churchill’s plan for the Anglo-American invasion of Eastern Europe been successful, the revolutionary masses of Europe, despite-internal divisions, would have faced on an international scale one enemy, Anglo-American imperialism. That initial impulse has been beheaded, and corrupted by the Kremlin bureaucracy and its army.
Included in this terrible set-back for the revolution is Germany, Eastern and Western. In Belgrade, Sofia, and above all, in Warsaw, the German proletarian revolution was undermined. Those bourgeois commentators who declare that but for the Red Army, all Europe would have been communist today, not only speak far more wisely than they know but have infinitely more grasp of the truth than all the “Marxism” of Germain’s theses. And as recompense for all this we have the barely concealed defeatism by Germain in the oft-reiterated prospect of “structural assimilation to the U.S.S.R.,” including Eastern Germany. And to conclude, he gives us the truly preposterous piece of capitalism in a single country – “the growth of the productive forces” in those ruined, plundered, tortured, starving countries of Eastern Europe, the most stricken areas of a stricken and collapsing continent, which in another page Germain will assure us must achieve the Socialist United States of Europe or perish.
All the lamentations over the fate of the German proletariat and the need for economic recovery before it can once more take its place in the revolutionary struggle are the most pitiful capitulation to bourgeois ideology and the direct result of a false method of analysis. But for its ghastly experience with the Red Army, Germany today might have only one party, a revolutionary party of millions. But even given the present state of Germany, the revolutionary proletariat of France and Italy, dragging with them the Ruhr workers, can at one stroke lift the German people to their feet again.
Entangled in the meshes of his concepts of bureaucracy, Germain has cut himself off from understanding the dynamics of the mass movement today. It will have periods of lull, retreat and even defeat. But its main outlines and the course of development are already clear. It is a world-wide phenomenon. The unprecedented movement of the Japanese proletariat is only superficially different in kind. There is being prepared in the United States (and the bourgeoisie is frantic in fear of it) a self-mobilization of the great mass of the nation which will assume a national and international scope that will shake the globe. Wherever the Red Army has not passed, there this movement exists.
We are not formalists. The logical deduction is for us only the guide to proof by practice – in this case empirical examination. Ger-main may say that more or less he agrees. But if he does, that would only be another example of the dilemma in which he finds himself, between his revolutionary strivings and the theoretical stranglehold of the “dual character of the bureaucracy.” For if he saw the mass movement of the proletariat as he ought to see it, he would recognize and declare and build policy on the fact that the extension of the power of the Kremlin constitutes the growth of the most determined, the most skillful, the most experienced, the most conscious enemy of precisely this self-mobilization of the masses.
When the masses in one country move, the world theory of Bolshevism leaps forward. Now today we have two and a half millions in one Italian Communist Party, before the seizure of power. Europe has seen nothing like this since the Crusades. It is here that are concentrated all the problems of our age.* [* The membership of the Italian Communist Party is said to be a “book” membership. The observation is without sense. For the Italian workers the party was a legend, the party of Lenin and Trotsky. They joined it for action. Without action they fall away. Trotsky’s remarks on the unions In 1919 are sufficient to expose any superficial analysis of the Italian people and the Communist Party in Italy.]
Germain does not see here a new stage of the mass movement, and therefore the new stage of theoretical advance. He is busy instead – defeating Shachtman.
The relation with World War I will show the new stage. After World War I there was a tremendous movement of the masses into the Trade Union movement. Said Trotsky in 1919:
“ ‘The workers join the trade unions solely for the sake of immediate gains’ reply the conciliators. This theory is false from beginning to end. The great influx of workers into the trade unions is elicited not by petty, day-to-day questions, but by the colossal fact of the World War. The working masses, not only the top layers but the lowest depths as well, are roused and alarmed by the greatest historical upheaval. Each individual proletarian has sensed to a never equaled degree his helplessness in the face of the mighty imperialist machine. The urge to establish ties, the urge to unification and consolidation of forces has manifested itself with unprecedented power. Hence flows the surge of millions of workers into the trade unions or into the Soviets of Deputies, i.e., into such organizations as do not demand political preparation but represent the most general and most direct expression of the proletarian class struggle.” [The First Five Years of the Communist International, p. 73]
The workers today are aware of the tremendous problems involved in the overthrow of bourgeois society. They seek a philosophy of life, a place, an organization, a social force which will not only be “the direct expression of the proletarian class struggle” but the direct force with which to rebuild society. In Indonesia and Indo-China, slight as is the proletarian base, we see the same total mobilization. It is only the occupation forces in Japan that impede a similar manifestation. The genuine mass organization of the American proletariat, the socially most advanced social entity the world has ever seen, will show that the Stalinism of the Stalinist parties is merely a subjective expression of the world proletariat, instinctively unifying and consolidating social forces in the face of dangers and tasks. This is the invading socialist society of our day.
As late as 1864 Marx’s concrete economic program showed how closely he differentiated between the boldness of his theoretical con-elusions and the concrete stage of economic development and its reflection in the revolutionary proletariat. Even this seemed to be mere Utopianism when the Commune erupted like a volcano and projected the proletariat itself far beyond his theories. Yet its strictly economic program is today ridiculous – one of the things which Marx details with great pride is the abolition of night-work for journeymen bakers.
The degeneration of the Second International consisted precisely in the fact that it separated what the Commune at a high moment had joined together, moderate economic content but a new political organization of the masses. The Second International placed militant trade unionism on one side and social legislation on the other. But in 1905 the Russian proletariat linked the two together in the Soviet which, became the pattern for revolutionary action from 1917 onwards. Yet in the consciousness of the workers, the Soviet still remained a form of political activity, proletarian politics, but essentially revolutionary activity against the bourgeoisie. Between 1923 and 1929 the failure of the world revolution and the stabilizing influence of American capital in Western Europe made it impossible for the backward Russian ; proletariat to give the Soviets that content (administration of the state and workers’ control of production) which Lenin strove to instill into the Soviet form.
The failure of the world revolution reintroduced the old separation between economics and politics. The unions and the parties divided the economic and political struggle over the production and distribution of the surplus-value. With the increasing fall in the rate of profit and the increasing socialization of labor, the disciplining, training and social education of the proletariat, this separation between economics and politics could not be long maintained. The proletariat received from Fascism a merciless subjective education in the integration of economics and politics which was not lost upon it.
Now, today, the proletariat, on a higher plane, has drawn the ultimate conclusion. Its revolt is not against politics and the distribution of the surplus-value. The revolt is against value production itself. It has made its own comprehension of the pivot on which the comprehension of political economy turns.
From end to end of the world, the miners in Germany, in Britain, in the United States, in Russia do not seek merely higher pay (“be his payment high or low”) or better working conditions. In peace or war, in summer or blizzards, they do not want to work in the mines at all. Every word from Japan shows that the Japanese workers aim at nothing less than the complete reorganization of society. The proletariat is not seeking as in the Commune a mere political form in which to work out the emancipation of labor, nor is it seeking as in the 1917-1923 Soviets a means for revolutionary politics, to overthrow private property. Its aims are greater. It seeks a complete transformation of the productive system.
The pivot of the whole science of political economy as Marx conceived it, his own special discovery, as he tells us in the first pages of Capital, was found in the dual character not of finished commodities on the market (Ricardo could get no further) but in the dual character of the labor that created them. Labor’s fundamental, its eternally necessary function in all societies, past, present and future, was to create use-values. Into this organic function of all labor, capitalist production imposed the contradiction of producing value, and more particularly surplus-value. Within this contradiction is contained the necessity for the division of society into direct producers (workers) and rulers of society, into manual and intellectual laborers. On this class distinction rests the bourgeois distinction between economics and politics.
The proletariat in the advanced countries has now given notice that it is ready to solve these contradictions and abolish labor as “labor,” as Marx used the term before 1848. It seeks to substitute instead a meaningful creative activity with a social aim as the end and the exercise of its natural and acquired faculties as the means.
Nations like the United States, Britain, France, and Germany could withdraw millions of men from production, feed them, clothe them, educate them, supply them with the weapons of destruction, transport them to the ends of the earth and maintain them for years. Today it is perfectly possible for the advanced nations by a self-mobilization of the population and modern methods of education to train and educate, technically and socially, all its able-bodied population between 16 and 35 without drawing them from labor for more than half the normal capitalist working day of 8 hours. Thus while within a decade civilization can be turned into a barbarous shambles, within a decade also there can be created such a social force for production and the democratic administration of things as Marx and Engels and even Lenin thought would come only in the second generation of socialism. The needs of the proletariat today are thus a direct response to the stage of development of capitalism itself.
The social and political education of the proletariat is on a corresponding scale. The world now moves from day to day by a series of gigantic convulsions. Men have to think in terms of global solutions. It is precisely the character of our age and the maturity of humanity that obliterates the opposition between theory and practice, between the intellectual preoccupations of the “educated” and of the masses. All the great philosophical concepts, from the nature of the physical universe (atomic energy) through the structure and function of productive systems (free enterprise, “socialism,” or “communism”), the nature of government (the state versus the individual) to the destiny of man (can mankind survive?) these are no longer “theory,” but are in the market-place, tied together so that they cannot be separated. matters on which the daily lives of millions upon millions depend.
The unending murders, the destruction of peoples, the bestial passions, the sadism, the cruelties and the lusts, all the manifestations of barbarism, of the last thirty years are unparalleled in history. But this barbarism exists only because nothing else can suppress the readiness for sacrifice, the democratic instincts and creative power of the great masses of the people.
The world revolution manifests itself not in the Red Army but in Palestine. The violence in Palestine is only secondarily Jewish. It is an indication of the stage of development of class antagonisms on a world scale and of the social temper of the working masses every-where The same holds true of the events in Indonesia, in Indo-China. in India, China and Burma. These tell us what is the revolutionary potentiality of the proletariat in Britain, France, the United States and Holland.
Experience in the factories has shown that it is precisely fundamental solutions that workers are ready to listen to because fundamental questions are posed all around them both objectively and subjectively. The subjective factor, man as man and not as the slave of capital is now emerging as the decisive force in history and is organizing itself to correspond. The bourgeoisie in every country, but particularly in the United States has seen into this as far as it is possible for an alien class to see. Not only in highly organized investigations and reports, but, in journals costing nickels and dimes and sold to the proletariat in millions, the American bourgeoisie is .shocked beyond measure at the incredible and apparently senseless behavior of the American proletariat. It confesses its fear that the proletariat will never again slave at the assembly line in the old way, and that it is social frustration, the cramping- of personality, of its “natural and acquired powers,” the need for universality (not wages and higher standard of living) which are ruining the productivity of labor and driving the proletariat to repeated manifestations of hostility to the society. The condition is permanent. It is not French, it is not Italian, it is not Japanese, it is not Stalinist. It is proletarian and socialist, it has been developing since 1934, it is crushed to the ground only to leap forward again, broader and deeper, while the traditional organizations scurry in terror before it. Tomorrow it will be the United States, where the same type of mass mobilization, heaving out from the very depths of society will take place.
What the proletariat has shown so far is only the surface of the iceberg. Just as the Commune leapt above the level of European society, and the Soviets in 1905 created a political form undreamt of even by Lenin – so today the proletariat has not yet entered into its new creative period of political-economic organization. The production relations and the social and political problems of 1947 have created a need for solutions far beyond the modest beginning of Marx’s day.
This is the social basis of the growth of the Stalinist parties. The Stalinist parties where this movement has taken concrete form are not political organizations in the old sense of the term. Behind the, smoke-screen of democratic parliamentarism in France and Italy, they are social organizations. They symbolize the most profound mass revolt against capital that we have yet seen. They exercise a varying but substantial control in their own way over whole sections of the army, police, banks, production and distribution. They constitute a form of state power within the national state, dominating the private lives of citizens and the intellectual life of the country in all spheres. It appears as Stalinism in France and Italy. It may appear as an organization of the C.I.O. bureaucracy in the United States tomorrow. It calls itself Social-Democratic in Japan. But until the Fourth International recognizes these formations for what they are, and draws from them the full conclusions, draws the arrow to the head as Marx drew it before 1848, in 1864 and afterwards in 1871, as Lenin drew it in 1905 and again in 1917, and as Trotsky drew it in 1938, then just so long will the Fourth International remain unable to understand the modern proletariat and its own historical role.
Shachtman attacks Trotsky’s analysis of the Stalinist parties. He discovers that they are totalitarian parties. This theory is the most foolish of all Shachtman’s theories. But the more Germain writes in “defense” of Trotsky’s ideas the clearer if becomes that Germain does not even know what he is “defending.”
Trotsky had a world conception. He never operated from the basis of Stalinism. When he said that the Fourth International would be leading- millions at the end of the war or during the post-war, he was not “predicting,” nor was he being “optimistic.” Trotsky, strictly scientific, based his analysis on the bourgeois crisis driving the Stalinist parties to their national bourgeoisies. He saw a repetition on a higher scale of 1914.
It was the most serious of all his errors.* [*It has a long and deeply instructive history.] This is why he foresaw at a certain stage the political isolation of Stalinist Russia, and the emergence of the revolutionary masses under the banner of the Fourth International. Political isolation on the one hand, the revolutionary masses on the other, were the algebraic forces which would pressure into action the incipient revolutionary forces inside Russia. But the revolutionary forces, by force or fraud, were captured by Stalinism. It is at this point that the world conception split open. It is just here that the whole world picture is different from what Trotsky envisaged and has profoundly affected all mankind and the fortunes of the Fourth International.
Trotsky believed that the traditional national bourgeoisies could still offer a cushion of super-profits to Stalinism. Here are his own words.
“Ten years ago it was predicted that the theory of socialism in one country must inevitably lead to the growth of nationalist tendencies in the sections of the Comintern. This prediction has become an obvious fact. But until recently, the chauvinism of the French, British, Belgian, Czechoslovak, American and other communist parties seemed to be, and to a certain extent, was, a refracted image of the interests of Soviet diplomacy (‘the defense of the U.S.S.R.’). Today, we can predict with assurance the inception of a new stage. The growth of imperialist antagonisms, the obvious proximity of the war danger and the equally obvious isolation of the U.S.S.R. must unavoidably strengthen the centrifugal nationalist tendencies within the Comintern. Each one of its sections will begin to evolve a patriotic policy on its own account. Stalin has reconciled the communist parties of imperialist democracies with their national bourgeoisies. This stage has now been passed. The Bonapartist procurer has played his role. Henceforth the communo-chauvinists will have to worry about their own hides, whose interests by no means always coincide with the ‘defense of the U.S.S.R.’ ...
“Fifteen years of uninterrupted purges, degradation and corruption have brought the bureaucracy of the ex-Comintern to such a degree of demoralization that it has become able and anxious to openly take into its hands the banner of social-patriotism...
“The ruling Moscow clique will reap the just fruits of fifteen years’ prostitution of the Comintern.” (“A Fresh Lesson,” New International, Dec. 1938, pp. 363-4.)
It was possible to make Trotsky’s mistake in 1940. No one seriously challenged the strictly economic analysis on which he based his expectations. But what is one to say of a writer in 1947, who with the whole experience, the hard facts of Stalinism between 1940 and 1947 behind him, proceeds to make it again and then puts this forward as Trotskyism?
It is clear that we face a serious problem. It is not to be solved by analysis of “bureaucracies” but by analysis of capital.
The economic program of the Fascist party of Germany will teach us much. The program was not the expansion of finance-capital in the classic manner but the integration of whole economies, all their capital and all their labor, into one solid continental bloc to serve the interests of capital accumulation, political mobilization, strategic attack and defense. How organic to the contemporary world is this movement to break the old national chains is proved by the example of Italy, the ally, and France, the enemy of Nazism. In the last stage ; Italian Fascism became the direct agent of German capital in Italy. Petain and Laval who had long dreamt of a coordinated French and German capital hesitated before and during 1940, but immediately after the June defeat recognized the historic process.
This is the bourgeois movement. What Trotsky failed to see, but what We have no excuse for failing to see, is that such is the disintegration of capitalism, that the proletarian parties even though counter-revolutionary, can no longer pay allegiance to the old national boundaries. Capitalism had neither economic basis nor ideology nor future to win the Stalinist leaderships and the Stalinist cadres to national allegiance. But breaking with the national state and all the phenomena of capitalism and unable to turn to the “latent socialism” in the masses as Lenin did in 1917, they held tightly to another pole of power, the Stalinist state and the Red Army.
The Stalinist parties do not aim at independent Stalinist states. They do not, as the pre-1914 Shachtman likes to think, aim , at doing for themselves in France what the Russian Communist Party had done in 1917. The Stalinists understand the movement of the centralization of capital. In France and Italy they aim at the incorporation of these countries as satellites with greater or lesser freedom into one coordinated European syndicate. They may be forced to do otherwise but that is their aim.
“All democracy,” says Lenin, “like every superstructure in general (which is inevitable until classes have been abolished, until classless society has been created) in the last analysis serves production and in the last analysis is determined by the production relations prevailing in a given society.” [Selected Works, Vol. IX, p. 52] Now that European fascism is destroyed, Stalinism in various stages of development is the organic political superstructure of the day. Irrespective of the will and consciousness of men it serves or seeks to serve production. But it is capitalist production, which at the present stage can live only by the suppression of those millions whose very joining of the Communist Party but partially expresses their proletarian determination to remove them-selves forevermore from wage slavery which is precisely what Stalin-ism has in store for them. The concept of abolishing wage slavery would transform Stalinism into a revolutionary organization depending on mass force. That they cannot unloose without destroying themselves. They are therefore balanced between the fundamental antagonisms of the capital-labor relation on a razor’s edge, combining the extreme development of capital – already slipping from the hands of the bourgeoisie – and the proletariat, also slipping out of the clutches of the bourgeoisie.
Engels would have recognized Stalinism at once. In his personal supplement to Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, he wrote:
“Partial recognition of the social character of the productive forces forced upon the capitalists themselves. Taking over the great institutions for production and communication first by joint-stock companies, later on by trusts, then by the State.”
The political agency of this last is Stalinism and it will do it with or without the bourgeoisie but so far always with the Red Army.
“The bourgeoisie is demonstrated to be a superfluous class. All its social functions are now performed by salaried employees.”
But Engels did not end there. He continues:
“Proletarian Revolution – Solution of the contradiction.” (note that, Comrade Germain, and note what follows.) “The proletariat seizes the public power, and by means of this transforms the socialized means of production, slipping from the hands of the bourgeoisie, into public property. By this act, the proletariat frees the means of production from the character of capital they have thus far borne, and gives their socialized character complete freedom to work itself out. Socialized production upon a predetermined plan becomes henceforth possible.”
The leadership and policies of the Communist Parties therefore can be summed up as the political form corresponding to the final form of capitalism, state capitalism, which involves, not the expansion of finance-capital in the old way, but the incorporation of individual economies within powerful centralized economies operating on a continental scale. These parties are as organically related to capitalism in this stage of its development as was the Second International to the classic finance-capitalism of Lenin.
We understand these parties best by realizing that even if Stalinist Russia had never existed and the proletarian revolution had been delayed, some such political formation as the Stalinist parties would have appeared.
The Stalinist leaderships are a further stage of development of Menshevism in 1917. The Mensheviks trembled before the “anarchy” of the revolutionary fervor of the masses and fear of the inevitable intervention. The Stalinist leaders in France and Italy tremble before the same phenomena infinitely multiplied. Historically, in appearance, subjectively, they support the Kremlin and therefore they oppose the proletarian revolution. But Marx never tired of pointing out how often the appearance of thing’s contradicted their essence. The logical analysis of the Stalinists is the exact opposite of the appearance, i.e., their historical origin and subjective motivation. It is because they despaired of, fear and oppose the tremendous leap in the dark of the proletarian revolution that they attach themselves like leeches to the tangible power of the Kremlin.
Germain, enclosed in the theory of power, prestige and revenues for the Stalinist bureaucracy in France, just as he is enclosed in the theory of power, prestige and revenues in Russia, cannot grasp the fundamental movement.
It is the class struggle which is decisive for the policy of Stalinism. If the irreparable bankruptcy of capital drives the Stalinist leadership to break with the national state and look to an established power, it is the driving force of the mass movement which keeps them there. It is only where there is a comparatively feeble mass support that the subjective decision is theirs. But with the violent rejection by the masses of bourgeois society and the complete bankruptcy of the national state and the national economy, the Stalinist leadership, unable to turn to the masses, must look elsewhere. They are held to the Kremlin by as tight a social bond as held the reformists to the bourgeoisie. They are terrorized first by the revolutionary masses and only afterwards by the G.P.U.
Imprisoned in his analysis of the Stalinist bureaucracy, Germain does not understand the corruption of the Stalinist parties. It is only superficially a Stalinist bureaucratic corruption. It is a class corruption, corruption by the petty-bourgeoisie.
In Left-Wing Communism, Lenin, analyzing the international significance of the Russian Revolution, insisted that an exact analysis in each country of the position of the petty-bourgeoisie between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat was decisive for the clarification of revolutionary politics. In the early years the petty-bourgeoisie had contributed substantially to the parliamentary corruption of the Second International.
The Stalinists use the petty-bourgeoisie who turn to it to corrupt the proletariat. These petty-bourgeois elements, revolutionized, are ready to expropriate the national bourgeoisie, and “plan the economy.” But their conception of planning is the administration by themselves of the productive forces, including the proletariat. The prejudices and fears of intermediate classes have been used by frightened leaders in every revolution to corrupt and demoralize the vanguard and strengthen the rearguard against it. Nothing but the revolutionary movement of the proletarian masses will draw the petty-bourgeoisie to it, genuinely revolutionize it and leave thousands of bureaucrats without a medium for corruption.
Thus, while not in any way minimizing the subjective features of the Stalinist bureaucracies in France or Italy and the origin of their practices, we must first show that their corruption is fundamentally bourgeois, based upon bourgeois fears, a bourgeois economic solution of economic problems and a bourgeois response to the acute class relations in the country.
Once the contradiction between the proletarian and the bourgeois content of the Stalinist Parties is grasped, political policy flows from it If it was necessary to raise the slogan of the Social-Democracy to power, then with all the more urgency it is necessary to raise the slogan of the Communist Party to power. But Stalinism has already shown that it will strip capital of every covering, including private property, in order to maintain wage-labor, the proletariat as proletariat, the fundamental condition of capitalist slavery. Absolutely unable to make the leap that Lenin made in 1917,it is therefore compelled in its own right to become even more deeply the quintessential expression of capitalist barbarism. In the closest inter-penetration with this slogan therefore must be posed the complete reorganization of society, Soviets, factory committees, preparation for the seizure of power, tearing to pieces of the old social order, abolition of the bourgeois state, abolition of the bourgeois army, arming of all the able-bodied population, workers’ control of production, peoples’ courts. So acute are the contradictions of capitalist society that the slogan without the program concretely presented for the full revolutionary transformation of society is a betrayal of the masses. The revolutionary program without the slogan is a denial of that mobilization for the ‘social overturn which the Communist Parties represent.
At a later stage the masses may create other organizations of their own, Soviets or nation-wide anti-Stalinist factory committees. When they do, a new situation arises. But the very social character of the Stalinist parties and the objective acuteness of the social relations creates the possibilities of vast organized splits in that party, impossible in the old days when these partly were merely political parties. It is the presence of a revolutionary program and not mere agitation about wages which can accelerate, clarify and solidify these.
The contradiction contained in the very term critical support becomes altered by the objective conditions. The support becomes merely a basis for the criticism, the merciless exposure of Stalinism and the revolutionary release of the masses which alone can overcome it.
Munis confuses the Stalinist parties in Western Europe with the Stalinist parties in Eastern Europe. He opposes the slogan of the Communist Party to power in France because, according to him, the Stalinist Parties immediately set out to destroy the power of the proletariat. The destruction of the self-acting organs of the proletariat is a matter of the relationship of forces, national and international, at a given moment. In 1917, the Bolshevik Party first supported the slogan of the Soviets to power; then came to the conclusion that the Soviets had gone completely over to the government, and decided that the revolution would have to be made against the Soviets; and finally, came to the conclusion that this judgment was mistaken and returned to the policy of making the revolution through the Soviets. A Bolshevik party that cannot in theory apply this revolutionary flexibility will be swamped in the always violent oscillations of the revolutionary struggle for power. Any policy based upon the conception that Stalinism can at will destroy the revolutionary proletariat, is a denial of the premises of the proletarian revolution itself. Munis’ policy is to be entirely rejected.
Munis takes it for granted that the Communist Party in power will automatically mean the destruction of the proletariat and repudiates the slogan for Western Europe as well as for Eastern. But Germain who attacks Munis sticks to the slogan in Eastern Europe where the Communist Party is not only the organizer of a bourgeois police-state but is the unashamed agent of a foreign power. Worse still, Germain has now begun to analyze “the level of consciousness” and of “organization” of the proletariat in a manner which, if he were taken seriously, would make his use of the slogan a suicidal adventure. How can he correct Munis? Shachtman hopes for a good long “democratic interlude” where everyone would be able to talk the matter out democratically.
The International should stop and ponder what this means. It is not differences of views but lack of clarity which causes confusion. It is lack of a firm guiding line from the leadership, the majority, around which differing tendencies can align themselves, that generates centrifugal tendencies. The responsibility for this lies entirely on Germain and those who think like him. And none of the crimes of Shachtman should prevent Germain being brought to book for the superficiality and falseness of his analysis of the Stalinist parties.
The self-mobilization of the masses is the dominating social and political feature of our age. Now that we see it in sufficiently concrete manifestation, it is possible to link these manifestations to the recent historical past and draw strategic conclusions for the future.
The old divisions between the economic management of production, the social leadership of society, and the political party – traditional in the bourgeois national state and reflection of the capitalistic division of labor, are doomed. The classes recognize the need for a new social organization and the response is the modern party. Yesterday the national state used the party. Today, to meet the changes, internal and external, the party uses the national state.
Hitler in 1930 declared:
“I replace the simulacrum of bourgeois patriotism by the national solidarity .of my party and the simulacrum of Marxian socialism by the social justice of the same party. While parliamentary Germany falls in ruins, a new Germany is being born.”
He recognized the modern political party as a new social formation, .and his efforts as an expression of it. The genius of Lenin, nourished by the needs of Russia, anticipated as a conscious organized activity, what is now turning out to be the necessity of the social structure.
Such tremendous social expressions can only arise from profound economic changes and needs, which are concentrated in the statification of modern production. As the Johnson-Forest tendency stated in its Resolution on the International Situation (April 27, 1946):
“In France and Britain any movement of the masses brings them immediately into direct conflict with their own leaders as rulers or direct representatives of the government. The simplest of immediate demands concerning the high cost of living, of the right to strike be-come questions of state policy and continually pose before the workers the fundamental question of state power. Thus, the social structure of state power in statified production places the workers in a situation where any determined struggle compels them 10 face the problem of creating their own organization in order to bring pressure upon, and if necessary, to break the power of the labor leadership as virtual functionaries of the existing government.
“Statification and Bourgeois Democracy
“The struggle for democracy, particularly in the advanced countries, is no longer the struggle for the extension of popular rights...
“Statification of Production – The Ideological Struggle
“Today, when the proletariat says democracy, it means above all, not bourgeois democracy... Its social concepts are dominated by the idea that the catastrophes of modern society are caused by the private ownership of the means of production. The necessity that these be taken away from the monopolists and be returned to the nation to be planned for the good of all has now achieved the ‘fixity of a popular prejudice.’ This is one of the greatest advances ever made by human consciousness both in its implicit rejection of the concept of class distinction and in the scores of millions who hold it.”
Driven by the economic and social transformations (and the psychological responses engendered by these), the oppressed classes turn away from the old political forms and seek to encompass the need of the all-embracing statified production by an all-embracing organization. History is and will be inexhaustible in its combinations. Soviets and the mass party may appear together or in combined forms. The new content constantly appears in old forms. According to Trotsky, it was not until the Bolsheviks had to dissolve the Constituent Assembly in 1918 that the concept of proletarian democracy became clear to Lenin. But the proletariat and the petty-bourgeoisie have already shown enough to warn us that, despite the inevitable defeats, advances and retreats, we are in a new stage of mass mobilization.
In the light of the above, all the proponents of the theory of the backwardness of the modern proletariat show nothing but their backwardness. They are completely incapable of analyzing the actions of the proletariat as revolutionary manifestations of the present stage of the capital-labor relation, i.e., statification of production. For petty-bourgeoisie and proletariat the modern party is not a political party for voting. It is a social organization for action – a response to objective and psychological needs. The American proletariat may not form a party at all until it feels the need for creating a party of this kind. It will be political only in the formal sense but its appearance will signify a readiness to break the old society entirely to pieces. It is not only Shachtman who does not understand this. Germain preaches an abstract revolutionism, attacks Shachtman with a lot of words, and then in July, 1947, informs us that the post-war proletariat started “from a much lower level of consciousness and organization than that of 1918.” This is monstrously false, a direct reversal of the objective truth, and the result of complete misunderstanding of the Marxist method.
The origin of this retrogression is the same as Shachtman’s. Germain sees the proletariat too much from above, in its relation to the Stalinist parties and not sufficiently in its response to the capital-labor relation. And this (also like Shachtman) he practices because his basic theoretical conceptions are governed by the theory of the degenerated Workers State and all that this implies. The theory of the degenerated Workers State implies the theory of the degenerated workers. But never by one comma did Trotsky govern his general analysis by concepts of this kind, and we shall pursue it wherever it appears. Germain’s “Trotskyism” is his own misconception and misappropriation of certain of Trotsky’s ideas, and the application of them in a manner and in spheres alien to Bolshevik analysis.
From this concept of the proletariat we can draw certain political conclusions:
1) We can see in a new light the full significance of Trotsky’s audacious use of the propaganda and agitation for the formation of a Labor Party in the United States. With the tremendous self-mobilization of the masses which he anticipated, he infused the slogan with the full revolutionary content, exactly the same procedure that Lenin followed in his advocacy of the Constituent Assembly during 1917. The driving mass movement, if it were powerful enough, would in action slough off the reformist shell of the slogan, aided as always by the quite unacademic education of the counter-revolution. This was
Trotsky’s conception of the Labor Party slogan. The principle acquires a burning actuality. The “consciousness” of the masses today is no guide to the revolutionary violence of their explosion tomorrow and still less a guide to the millions who rush to create the new social formations. Slogans like National Liberation, the Constituent Assembly, and nationalization of industry (a slogan repudiated by the Third Congress) acquire the same, no less and no more, significance than the Labor Party slogan in the United States.
2) With a clear conception of what the revolutionary masses mean by a party the whole conception of the role of the Bolshevik Party, i.e., of the Fourth International in the concrete circumstances, does not marrow but expands. The rise of the mass movement raises with it the role of the Bolshevik Party. Every Bolshevik becomes what Trotsky warned in 1940 that he – not merely the apparatus – must become, an officer in the proletarian army. The theoretical range, the practical political capacity, the revolutionary dynamism, the discipline, the cohesion, are needed not so much to meet the offensive of the bourgeoisie, as was the fate of a party based upon the small Russian proletariat. It is needed to meet the offensive of the proletariat. Subjective and objective move towards fusion. Every revolutionary unit of “the subjective factor” becomes an objective unit for the revolutionary preparation and then as a rallying center for scores and perhaps hundreds of proletarians on the road to proletarian democracy.
This is the problem in Britain. The Labor Party is a party of the old kind. It is strangling the new British proletariat. The advanced workers therefore either break out in sudden wildcat strikes or face the government in impotent but implacable hostility. At a certain stage the proletariat will transform or fuse, but somehow totally reorganize in the modern sense its organizations to meet the needs and satisfy the desires for which the present Labor Party and the unions are totally unfitted. To stimulate, observe and develop this and nothing else but this is the main task of the revolutionary vanguard in Britain. But to carry out this policy demands a clear conception of the origin and destiny of the social movement of the proletariat which is developing before our eyes.
3) At this stage of statification, says Engels, the proletariat seizes the public power. These mass rushes to the party are the form whereby the proletariat girds itself to seize the public power and thereby begin the withering away of the state. But the defense of the statified production against the proletariat involves a similar mass mobilization or organization. The Communist Party of Russia is such a mass mobilization. In its completed form it is not a proletarian party at all. In it the razor-sharp capital-labor contradiction that exists between the proletariat and the Stalinist leaderships inside the parties of Western Europe has been resolved entirely at the expense of the proletariat and in favor of state-capital. The motive force of the Communist Parties in Western Europe is the attack on capital. The motive force of the Communist Party of Russia is the defense of capital in its present form – state-capital. Thus they are exact opposites. For Germain and Shachtman this organic distinction does not exist because they have continually evaded answering even to themselves what Engels meant by state-capitalism.