THE period between 1918 and the end of 1923 was a period of large mass movements and revolutions. Suffice it to recall the proletarian revolution in Hungary, the proletarian revolution in Bavaria, the seizure of factories by workers in Italy, the uprising in 1921 in Germany, the powerful revolutionary movement in Germany in the Autumn of 1923. This period ended with the defeat of the German revolution.
The following period is that of relative and partial stabilization of capitalism. Capitalist production increases but it cannot overcome the general crisis of capitalism. World economy is split into two sectors—the capitalist and the socialist one. Capitalism introduces higher technique, it resorts to mass production, but the new and mounting mass of goods needs a market while the markets are shrinking. The capitalists increase their exploitation of the workers in order to secure profits for capital. But this, in turn, diminishes the home market. In many countries, while there is “prosperity”, the standards of living of the workers become lower, which means a decrease in their purchasing power. All this drives the imperialists to search frantically for new markets, for new investment spheres and sources of raw material. This is fraught with renewed clashes between the imperialist powers. Every government is feverishly arming. New wars are in the offing. At the same time the exploitation of the masses, both workers and farmers, calls forth increased resistance. In the colonies there is a sharpened anti-imperialist movement often assuming the proportions of revolt.
Such was the situation by 1928 and this was the reason why, when the Sixth Congress of the Communist International convened in the Summer of 1928, it declared that the end of capitalist stabilization was at hand and that a new period had begun—the third post-war period. In that period, said the Comintern, the masses are becoming more radical. They are participating in struggles against capitalism in greater numbers. In consequence of the growing inner and outer contradictions of the capitalist countries, the revolutionary spirit of the workers, said the Comintern, will rise. In the not distant future the Comintern foresaw a new round of wars and revolutions.
The man most instrumental in bringing about this understanding of the world situation was Stalin. It is he who possessed the keen sense of reality and the clear understanding of the road to be followed. It is he who fought unremittingly against both fronts: the opportunists from the Right who, like the Lovestoneites in the U.S.A., saw no impending crisis, no radicalization of the workers in capitalist countries, and no possibility of rapid advance towards socialism in the U.S.S.R.—and the opportunists from the “Left” who advocated unsound adventurous experiments out of sheer disbelief in the maturing revolutionary forces.
Subsequent events proved the correctness of his analysis. The world-wide economic crisis struck full blast at the very vitals of the entire capitalist system hardly one year after the Congress. The revolutionary movement in India, Arabia and a number of other colonies, the victories of the Chinese Soviets, the revolution in Cuba, the revolution in Spain, the revolutionary uprising in Austria, the growing revolutionary movement in France and the United States are a few of the many upheavals marking the third period.
We must confess, we never found in the Trotskyite writings anything resembling an explanation of why they disagreed with the “third period” analysis. They just scoffed. They did not see any new period. To them capitalism in 1928 and later was still stable. All these facts of revolutionary movements failed to impress them. Capitalism is still unshakable in their estimation.
Next: 11. The German Situation and the Question of Social-Fascism