The Invading Socialist Society. C L R James and Raya Dunayevskaya 1947

Chapter IV – Poland – Where All Roads Meet

There is no better example than Poland itself of how a national situation develops, how Marxist policy changes, and how we must concretely apply Marxist fundamentals. In dealing with Poland and self-determination in 1903, Lenin poses two epochs – (1) the epoch of the formation of national states ending about 1871 and (2) the epoch of 1903, “the age of desperate reaction, of extreme tension of all forces on the eve of the proletarian revolution..."* [*Lenin lived perpetually with these ideas, even in 1903.] During both periods, Poland was divided between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia. Yet the policy for each period was sharply distinct. In the first period Marx and Engels raised the slogan of self-determination for an independent bourgeois Poland to help defend democratic Europe against Tsarist reaction. In the second period Franz Mehring denounced this policy. The Polish Socialist Party, the P.P.S., was gaining ground among the petty-bourgeoisie with its slogans of armed insurrection and terrorism against Tsarism. It sought to unite the three parts of Poland into a bourgeois state. By 1902, said Mehring, an independent bourgeois Poland is impossible and therefore the Polish proletariat in all three sections should fight “unreservedly” with its class brothers. Lenin, cautious as always, stated that he would not declare the impossibility of a bourgeois Poland as categorically as did Mehring. But he agreed sufficiently for the time with the analysis to accept the political conclusion as absolutely correct. The unity of the proletariat of the oppressed and oppressing nations, a cardinal point in the Leninist doctrine of self-determination, here assumed an extreme form.

Yet long before 1916 the specific historical circumstances, alliances, relations, etc. which culminated in the war of 1914 had opened up new possibilities for an independent bourgeois Poland. Lenin said so plainly and now defended the right of self-determination for a bourgeois Poland against Tsarist Russia. His main reason now was that the right of self-determination did not and could not under capitalism mean freedom from an economic domination by great powers. Such freedom was impossible under capitalism. But the right of self-determination meant political freedom of a state, freedom for the full and free development of the class struggle, freedom for the proletariat to develop its democratic instincts and tendencies. Further, the slogan of self-determination had undergone a class development. The Russian liberal bourgeoisie had hitherto supported the slogan, but under the blows of the Russian proletariat, they became antagonistic to it. Thus Bolshevism took over the slogan as a proletarian demand.

This at once involves the important distinction between the right of self-determination and the raising of the demand.

So tentative and conditioned is the actual demand as distinct from the abstract right, that Lenin, while defending the right of Norway to secede from Sweden, states that if such a demand could result in a European war, then. while the right should be fought for, the demand should not be raised. That is for the Shachtmanites to think over. On the other hand, Lenin, in 1916, quotes Engels to the effect that colonial India would be justified in making a revolution against “victorious socialism” in Britain. And this is for Germain and his co-thinkers to ponder over.

A Stage Beyond 1916

The Johnson-Forest tendency, in its strategy and tactics on the question of self-determination, has never at any time lost sight of the relation between the given stage of the epoch, the particular type of country involved, and the given stage of class relations; and the effect of this demand in Europe, for instance, upon the struggle for the common goal, the Socialist United States of Europe.

In 1943, immediately after Stalingrad, which outlined the future course of bourgeois Europe, the Johnson-Forest tendency, in violent opposition to the Shachtmanite thesis on the national question, pointed out that henceforth there could be no independent bourgeois states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

In 1946, this time against the I.K.D., we poured as much scorn as we could on their idea of “autonomous,” “bourgeois states” as preliminary to socialism. We said:

“During World War I it was one of Lenin’s basic arguments on self-determination that economic domination did not mean political domination. Today, and that is the new stage, economic and political domination go hand in hand.” (“Historical Retrogression or Socialist Revolution” New International, Jan., Feb., 1946.)

This was a tremendous step forward from Lenin’s position. By May 1946 our analysis of the stage of the epoch had been in our view sufficiently confirmed by the concrete happenings in Europe. In our international resolution therefore we elaborated policy.

“The Anglo-American bourgeoisie and the Second International seek to bribe the proletariat to accept the overlordship of American imperialism in return for bourgeois-democratic forms and American economic aid.

“Russian imperialism and its Stalinist satellites seek to tyrannize and then to bribe the proletariat to accept the virtual overlordship of Russian imperialism under the guise of the European continent in a new social order...

“Under these circumstances it is a matter of life and death for the Fourth International to oppose both these ruinous roads, and it can do so only by linking the struggle for national economic rehabilitation to the struggle for the Socialist United States of Europe.

“A Socialist France in a Socialist United States of Europe

“A Socialist Poland in a Socialist United States of Europe

“A Socialist Germany in a Socialist United States of Europe.”

From this basic analysis we then outlined a concrete policy for Russian dominated Europe and Asia:

“In Eastern Europe the proletariat faces the colossal task of overthrowing not the delegated but the direct military power of the Russian state. In its rear, it has the armed forces of Russia occupying Germany. Under these circumstances, the movement against Russian domination in the separate countries must therefore orient towards the unification of proletarian struggle in the directly oppressed states, including Germany. A mass revolutionary movement with a common program and an advanced social goal has the best possibility of shaking the discipline of the Russian armies and re-awakening in them the traditions of the October Revolution.

“With this perspective the proletariat is assisted in the carrying out of the daily struggles against the oppressing imperialist power. Without a perspective of international struggle, the advanced workers will be less fortified against Stalinist propaganda or the defeatism which will await intervention on the part of another imperialist power as the only means of ridding itself of the Russian domination, exploitation and plunder.

“’A. similar situation in Eastern Asia (Korea, (Manchuria, etc.) poses similar tasks for the Fourth International.”

We have never wavered. Ours is a political position, rooted in the most careful, systematic analysis of the developing relations between the classes and the nations within the struggle for the world of two vast state-capitalist trusts and syndicates.

Now today it is possible to summarize our position even mere concretely and bring to bear upon it our whole analysis.

1. Class rule over the proletariat in Poland is impossible without active support from an outside imperialist power.

2. Poland cannot be ruled by the Polish proletariat as long as the present balance of power continues.

3. Far more than Mehring and Lenin in 1903, it is necessary to see that the Polish proletariat must orient itself first and foremost towards its class brothers. The objective situation demands that same repudiation of both sides which Trotsky envisaged in Spain in 1938 in case the intervention on both sides assumed dominance. The politics of Poland is the politics of war.

4. This exemplifies the form taken in our day of the perpetual Marxist struggle for the unity of the proletariat. In Marx’s day it was a struggle to integrate the economic and political aspects. We have traced it and shown that today, objectively, as a result of the concrete conditions of decaying capitalism and the concretely developing and invading socialist society, revolutionary policy must unite the proletariat internationally for the solution of immediate needs.

Shachtman and Bourgeois Politics

Examination of the policies of Shachtman and Germain shows the confusion into which they fall because neither has taken the trouble to establish a sound theoretical basis.

Shachtman begins by declaring the complete independence of the revolutionary party. Thereby he is ready to show that the revolutionary party is for everything revolutionary, including the Socialist United States of the World. Having, as he believes, covered himself up from all “attacks” (literary squabblings and debating points) he then gets down to business. His policy is the policy of “critical support to Mickolajczk.” Now critical support of Mickolajczk can mean only one thing – that Shachtman is for the victory of Mickolajczk, not for all time, but as a first stage. This policy is bourgeois politics, pure and simple. To say that Poland will be free under Mickolajczk is a fantasy. Mickolajczk stands or falls by Anglo-American imperialism.

It is necessary to remind this realistic practicalist of a little realism. Stalin in Central Europe is not playing games or making de-bating points in pre-convention discussions. Today he is holding Poland – the gateway to Germany.

Furthermore, with Russian troops in Germany, to open out a serious struggle in Poland under the leadership and with the prospect of victory to Mickolajczk is to invite at once the complete military occupation of Poland by Russia, and as far as human reason can judge, to take the responsibility of pushing the world towards world war. It is possible for a revolutionary party to advocate this. But it is obvious that Shachtman writes his little articles and scores his little points, devoid of any serious consideration of what his policies imply.

Germain and Bourgeois Economics

Some of this, more or less, Germain sees and points out with devastating effect. But what is Germain’s own policy? Germain advocates critical support of the Beirut regime. He sees and calculates boldly on the inevitable intervention which alone can make .Mickolajczk a serious contender for power. He is politically blind to the actual concrete intervention which alone makes Beirut able to hold the power. Isn’t this shameful? Germain does not say as a serious Trotskyist might say: “In this situation, control of Poland is needed to defend the precious ‘planned economy’ of Russia. Therefore we repudiate self-determination and declare that the Polish workers must for the time being defend the regime in the interests of the degenerated but proletarian state.” He does not say: “This Polish economy is the economy of a workers’ state, and is or can be, transitional to socialism. Therefore it must be defended.” Instead he denounces the regime as bourgeois and declares that the nationalizations are qualitatively the same type as those of France or Britain. He knows, he must know, that these bourgeois nationalizations are defended and maintained by the power of a foreign oppressing power which makes Poland a pawn of its economic and political plans for the domination of Europe and Asia. He knows, he says later, that the Polish proletariat faces the, mortal enemy of its own self-determination. The political decisions about the Polish regime are made in Moscow. The contending parties travel there and lay the case before Stalin who tells them what to do. And yet he says that this regime must be critically supported. In reality he is objectively committing an unpardonable deception. He is defending Stalinist Russia but does not dare to face it.

The price is already being paid and a bitter price it is. Germain now subscribes to the completely petty-bourgeois conception that it is the Beirut regime which defends the Polish proletariat and its sup-posed conquests from Mickolajczk. As well say that British imperialism defended the democratic rights of Britain against Hitlerism.

In reality it is not the attacks of Mickolajzck which compel Russian domination. It is the Russian domination of Poland which gives such strength as he has to the attacks of Mickolajczk. For years the Polish proletariat has been under a systematic terror from Stalinism as the preliminary to the domination of Poland. Russia’s first step in Poland was to hand over the Warsaw proletariat to the Nazis. If Russian troops were withdrawn even today, the Polish proletariat and the masses would be able to take care of Mickolajczk. It is to misunderstand completely the history of Eastern Europe to believe that it is Russian troops which prevent the victory of the Fascists. The Fascist? would be as helpless as in Greece. A genuine proletarian uprising in Poland would find Mickolajczk ready to come to terms with Beirut as he has already tried to do and as many in his party are doing now. We are of course under no illusions about any withdrawals in Europe by any occupying power. But it is something entirely new in our movement to call the bourgeois police state the defender of the proletariat and its “gains.”

Shachtman Meets Germain

The price Germain pays extends from his own theories and Poland to the rest of Europe. Germain (and here he is at one with Shachtman) has not a single word to say about the burning question of the relation to the proletariat of Europe, to begin with, Germany. It is beyond credibility. What preoccupies all other participants and observers gets not a single word from Germain.

Not only is the relation of Poland to Western Europe general. It is particular. What is to happen to Eastern Germany which is now Western Poland? The Germans have been driven out. Millions of Poles are installed. Do Germain and Shachtman propose to accept this? Are they for “restoration” to Germany? Then they will drive ] out or tenderly lead out the Poles? Are they for the old boundaries or the new ones? The bourgeoisie and the Stalinists recognise that | the old Europe is gone. They are creating a new one in their own image. The people too know that the old world is gone. The powers hold millions of Germans. Benes transfers millions of Sudeten Germans. The Jews fight their war into Palestine. Stalin has transferred practically the whole populations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In the French Zone there are communities of Germans ready to accept French citizenship. Millions of Germans may become French citizens, and welcome ones, tomorrow. Vast numbers of Europeans are ready to emigrate, so violent is the revulsion against the old society. Still more significant. After the war, all the power of Stalin’s police was unable to stem the tide of the great migration back to Western Russia from war work in Siberia. With the first serious break-down in military discipline we shall probably see tremendous mass migrations and re-transferences initiated by the whole peoples themselves.

Ten per cent of Russian soldiers in the occupying armies desert. That is a warning, a warning that at a new stage the masses, by fraternization among themselves can break the discipline of Stalin’s army.

Today, the revolutionary movement should issue slogans and appeals for fraternization among the peoples. The Fourth International should take the lead in stimulating and holding before Poles in Western Poland and Germany everywhere the concept of a fraternal mingling of peoples aiming in time at a mass, a revolutionary disregard of the bourgeois national boundaries. The scales of bourgeois violence and barbarism can be matched only by revolutionary violence on a corresponding scale.

Germain finds that Shachtman’s slogan of the “free Republic” is a substitute of “empty and abstract slogans reflecting petty-bourgeois and bourgeois nationalist ideology” instead of the immediate struggle for material interests. But what does Germain substitute instead? He substitutes the slogan of an “Independent Soviet Poland.” If Shachtman’s free Republic is an abstraction there are no words to express the ethereal character of the struggle Germain outlines for a Soviet Poland.

“The duty of Polish revolutionists is to explain patiently to the masses that Stalinism constitutes the antithesis of Leninism; that the struggle for the socialist revolution means the struggle for a workers democracy, a genuine Soviet democracy; that the activities of the Stalinist emissaries are a condemnation of the Soviet bureaucracy but not of the Communist ideal which the latter extirpate in Russia itself in rivers of blood; that the Bolshevik-Leninists are resolute partisans of the right of peoples to self-determination; that consequently the central slogan around which they must mobilize is that of an INDEPENDENT SOVIET POLAND, which would differentiate us as much from the conservative bourgeoisie as from the degenerate bureaucracy.” (Fourth International, Feb. 1947.)

“Patiently explain.” Is this reference recognized? Of course it is. This is what Lenin told the Russian Bolsheviks to do in 1917 when the workers had in essence political power but believed in the Soviet. This is what Trotsky preached to the Russian workers against the usurpations of the Stalinist regime in a deformed workers state. Germain equates the bourgeois nationalization and the police regime with the Soviet and the democratic self-mobilization of the masses in Russia before October. From the idealization of nationalization in Stalinist Russia comes this idealization of bourgeois nationalization in Stalinist Poland. Show us a single line of Trotsky to justify this monstrosity as Trotskyism.

Germain says that the Shachtmanite thesis and the thesis of the Fourth International show their differences best on the Kielce program. They do. Shachtman is supporting critically Mickolajczk’s camp which participated in the pogroms. And Germain? He says that “if the armed struggle between the militia and the illegal bands had been drawn out... there can be no doubt we would have called upon the workers of Kielce to mobilize on their own.” (our emphasis). This is indeed a revelation. Is this too Trotsky’s policy? The Transitional Program says that at every conceivable opportunity the workers should form their own guards for their own defence. But for Germain Beirut’s police-state is a stage to the Soviet regime. This too he has deduced from the theory of the degenerated workers state. Germain’s Trotskyism therefore now tells the Polish workers to wait and see how “their” regime protects them from Fascism before intervening.

From Opportunism to Anarchism

Germain’s position pursues him everywhere, driving him to right and left. Shachtman proposes that the Trieste workers vote to join the Italian bourgeois democracy. Germain denounces him and wins one of his usual easy victories. But Germain must have a position. He dare not tell the Trieste workers to join Tito’s state. He says himself that this would mean “the bureaucratic strangling of the workers movement.” Opportunism now makes its plunge into anarchism. Germain comes out for “A Soviet Commune in Trieste.” This, even if it lasted “for only a few weeks” would, we are told, act as a magnet to the advanced masses of the countries occupied by the U.S.S.R. and give a powerful impetus to the class struggle in Italy. And this piece of romantic desperation goes unrebuked in our movement.

In reality, today, the Fourth Internationalists in Trieste should warn the Trieste workers against such suicidal nationalistic action. They should ruthlessly in their policy denounce the national boundaries and preach day in and day out the unification and coordination of the Trieste working class movement primarily with the Italian proletariat. They should denounce both the Italian democracy and the Tito police-state as agents in the strangulation and destruction of Europe. They should strive to inculcate the necessity for united, coordinated action with the program, concretely worked out, of a socialist federation. The Trieste workers should be taught to look upon themselves as a part of the proletariat of Southern Europe. They have the right of self-determination but that right is historically and politically conditioned. They should be told that this right exercised for and by themselves means economic and political ruin. Imagine a 1947 Marxist advocating a nationalized economy for Trieste! If Germain cannot see the town of Trieste as a part of the international proletarian struggle, how can he see Poland? The Trieste workers may be compelled to fight a battle for power in Trieste. Every stroke of policy should show that they have been forced into this, and do not see it as any program of their own. And the only way to prevent this action being forced upon them is to make them understand and struggle for the mass intervention (mass strikes, demonstrations) of the Italian proletariat on their behalf at the slightest sign of pressure. They should be taught that their own actions should be theoretically and organizationally linked to the actions of the Italian proletariat and the resistance to Tito. This is not only sound Bolshevism. It is exactly the type of policy which the workers in Southeastern Europe followed in the last stages of the war. The Soviet Commune of Trieste should be driven out of our movement. The property not being nationalized, the workers are therefore advised to die gloriously “pour encourager les autres.”

Germain on one side (and Shachtman on the other), cannot recognize that the slogan of the Socialist United States of Europe is the only practical, concrete basis of revolutionary policy. In the specific forms of their errors they complement their joint refusal to see international socialism as the solution, not tomorrow, but today. Germain is violent against Anglo-American intervention. Shachtman is violent against Russian intervention. Neither can say “We denounce both interventions.” Neither can see the European proletariat as the basis of proletarian strategy today. Neither understands what is meant by making the Socialist United States of Europe the unifying slogan of revolutionary policy in Europe. They remain theoretically within the national boundaries of Poland when all participants in the struggle, even the Polish workers, recognize that the struggle is international. Shachtman,. swinging in the air, can only hope in vain for “bourgeois political democracy.” Germain falls back on the bourgeois nationalizations. The policy we advocated in May 1946 has corresponded exactly to the actions of the most advanced of the Polish workers. They saw the “civil war” for what it was and held aloof from it. In Cracow the proletariat voted neither for Mickolajczk nor for Beirut. An independent Socialist Party has been formed supporting neither side. But this policy is supposed to be a policy of abstentionism.

So when Hitler attacked Czechoslovakia in 1938 and the Austrian workers said “Down with Hitler! Not for Schusnnigg,” this was presumably an abstention. When Trotsky said that you could not abstract Hitler’s attack on Czechoslovakia from the whole complex of modern Europe and told the workers to oppose both, this too becomes abstention. And today when we refuse to abstract Poland from a milieu in which is concentrated the fundamental conflicts of world politics, and draw policy to suit, this too becomes abstention.

We have other allies than Mickolajczk to struggle for and with. We have to win over the soldiers of the oppressing power – Russia.

The Russian soldiers will see Mickolajczk as the vanguard of Anglo-American imperialism. In Germany all the defeated classes and fascistic elements will rally to the support of Mickolajczk. Within the Russian Army itself, all the Kravchenkos, those who see salvation for Russia in bourgeois democracy, these are the defeatists who will he pulled over to the side of Mickolajczk. The genuinely proletarian elements of the Russian army can be won over neither by Beirut nor Mickolajczk. They must see the European proletariat. This is 1947.

And the German proletarian vanguard? Does Germain believe that they will demonstrate, make a general strike, initiate political activity for the victory of Beirut? This will mean nothing more than the tightening of their own noose. And the victory of Mickolajczk? For the German workers it means only the further entrenchment of Anglo-American imperialism. The German workers want a destruction of both imperial-isms. The Russian workers want the destruction of both. The Polish workers need the same. Hence in case of a civil war in Poland the revolutionary vanguard in the army of Beirut will have a defeatist policy. It will see to it that its representatives in Mickolajczk’s army do the same. It declares in advance: a plague on both your houses. The proletariat will carry on mass demonstrations against this pseudo-civil war. But if the war does come, it does not abstain. It does not shun the war. It holds on to what arms it can get and struggles to create against both Mickolajczk and Beirut an army for a socialist Poland, freed from both Anglo-American imperialism and Russian, and reaching out to Russian soldiers, the German proletariat, and all the other proletariats oppressed by Russian imperialism. It does not precipitate such a struggle. It works patiently to build its cadres. It bitterly opposes being forced into war. But if the war should come this is the policy it will carry out.

Shachtman will say with elaborate sarcasm: The Johnson-Forest position is based on the “Cannonite” conception that the war is still going on. For occupied Europe it is. Imperialist armed occupation of a country is a state of war. Joint occupation of one country and of a whole continent is a state of war. But there is more to this.

The 1944 Theses of the Fourth International (Fourth International, March 1945) referred to the “integration of military actions of service to the U.S.S.R. within the framework of a general working-class offensive.” Does Germain propose to prepare the German proletariat and the French proletariat today for this tomorrow? Or does he actually propose to draw this to its conclusion, if the Red Army marched on France? Is this too Trotsky’s position? Where and when will this stop? Day after day during the last two years. we Stand more and more bewildered before this question: What advantage, what single advantage does Germain gain for the proletariat by this defense of the U.S.S.R. in return for the monumental confusions and burdens which it places upon the Fourth International and the working class?