Ernest Germain

The Rise and Decline of Stalinism

Resolution Approved by the Fourth World Congress of 1954

(November 1953)

From Fourth International [Amsterdam], No. 1, Winter 1958, pp. 31–56. [1*]
Originally published as Montée et déclin du stalinisme, Quatrième Internationale, n° 63, novembre 1953, pp. 53–75.
Transcribed by Daniel Gaido.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The evolution of the Soviet Union and of the world working-class movement since 1917 is fundamentally determined by the dynamic of the relation of class forces on the world scale. This development has passed through major phases: the rise of the revolution in 1917–1923, the ebb of the world revolution in 1923–1943, and the new revolutionary rise since 1943.

The October Revolution was the starting point of a new historic stage in numerous fields:

The period from 1917 to 1923 is in the first instance a period of struggle for the survival of the new state and for the formation and consolidation of the communist vanguard throughout the world.

The defeat of the world revolution following World War I resulted in the Soviet Union in the crushing of soviet democracy by a bureaucracy which established a dictatorial political power under which the economic and cultural development of the Soviet Union has taken place for the last thirty years. Through the action and weight of this state, the Soviet bureaucracy has exercised a considerable influence over the mass movement throughout the world, in the first place over the organizations and movements created by the impulsion of the Russian Revolution.

The Communist International and the Communist Parties ought to have adjusted their activity to the new stage, that is to say, ought to have consolidated themselves theoretically and politically, strengthened their ties with the masses and in this way prepared a future revolutionary upsurge. But the weight of the first workers’ state and of its bureaucratic degeneration upon organizations that had scarcely emerged from Social Democracy, without solid cadres, likewise led to a degeneration of these organizations. The Communist International became the principal instrument through which the Kremlin transmitted its orders to the Communist Parties. These parties, whose political and theoretical development was thus derailed and whose selection of cadres and central bodies was accomplished in a bureaucratic manner, utilized the masses and the mass movements not to promote the world revolution but for the benefit of the bureaucracy’s interests.

This utilization of Communist Parties in the service of the Kremlin’s diplomacy contributed to bringing about a series of heavy defeats of the workers’ movement which culminated in the triumph of Nazism in Germany and in the unleashing of World War II.

On the eve of the Second World War, the Communist Parties in the principal capitalist countries were minorities inside the working class. Stalinism, that is to say, subordination of the interests of the world proletariat to the interests of the Soviet bureaucracy – operated through a relatively simple system:

At the end of World War II and in the years that followed, events of cardinal importance have brought it about that there now gravitates within the present orbit of Stalinism the following complex aggregate:

  1. the Soviet Union, which, after putting up an extraordinary resistance during the War thanks to the power of the productive relations established by the October Revolution, and to the attachment the masses feel for those relations, has continued its economic development which has, in fact, made it now the second industrial power in the world;
  2. new workers’ states in Eastern Europe, which have been established essentially by bureaucratic action, without a prior plan by the Kremlin;
  3. China, where the Chinese CP has come to power on the basis of a formidable peasant uprising;
  4. a series of colonial movements under Stalinist or pro-Stalinist leadership;
  5. the Communist Parties in the capitalist world: those in Western Europe experienced toward the end of World War II important growth as a consequence of the “Resistance Movement”; during the following years the Communist Parties have lost the ground which they had won in a whole series of countries; but in important cases such as France and Italy, these parties have acquired an influence over the majority of the working class and, despite certain fluctuations, have preserved it since then;
  6. Jugoslavia might have been added to these, up to June 1948; there the JCP had conquered power thanks to a heroic mass struggle which it had led.

The fundamental conditions under which the Soviet bureaucracy and its tight hold over the Communist Parties developed, namely, the ebb of the revolution, the isolation of the Soviet Union and the backward condition of its economy – these conditions have disappeared.

The equilibrium which assured this control prior to World War II – and which in its own way reflected the relative world equilibrium during this same period – has been disrupted.

Far from constituting a factor of consolidation, the “expansion” of Stalinism contained within it tendencies acting toward its own disintegration which have been demonstrated by: the break-away of the JCP; the numerous purges of the CP leaderships in the “People’s Democracies”; the acceptance of a sort of co-leadership with the Chinese CP in regard to the Asian Communist movements; the weakening of certain Communist Parties, to the verge of their virtual liquidation; the end of political immobility within the Soviet Union; and the beginning of the revolutionary upsurge in the glacis.

One of the most striking manifestations of this new situation is the inability of the Kremlin to reestablish, in place of the Communist International dissolved in 1943, an international centre in any way viable.

Finally, despite the growth of the mass Communist Parties and of the attraction of the Soviet Union as a power, there have been formed in the course of this post-war period mass currents evolving toward the left outside Stalinist influence (Bevanism, Asian Socialist Parties ...).

Various factors however are operating to prolong the Kremlin’s influence over the world workers’ movement and the non-capitalist countries: the threat of imperialist war; the power of the Soviet state exercised over materially weaker partners; the fact that the masses, making use of organizations at their disposal in order to solve problems posed by revolutionary situations, are first rallying around the existing leaderships. There is finally the fact that the conceptions and methods acquired during the period of the rise of Stalinism continue to operate because of inertia and tradition, all the more so because the bureaucratic structure of these parties and countries and their relations with the Soviet Union, have survived.

In no place where the Communist Parties possess a mass base, except in Yugoslavia, have mass breaks with the Kremlin been produced: and similarly there has not been any mass break within these parties. The disintegration of Stalinism has begun by assuming the form of penetration into these organizations of ideas opposed to the interests of the Kremlin bureaucracy; and of a process of modification in the hierarchical bureaucratic relations previously established. It is first of all and above all in this manner that the disintegration of Stalinism will proceed for a whole period: the Communist organizations with a mass base will maintain themselves, but within these forms of organization there will develop tendencies toward a new content, both as regards the ideas which they express and as regards the existing organizational relations through which the tight hold of the Soviet bureaucracy finds its expression.

In countries where the Communist Parties constitute a small minority of the workers’ movement, the revolutionary rise, by channeling itself in other organizations, accentuates the isolation of these Communist Parties and thus provokes profound crises in them.

The events which have taken place in the Soviet Union following Stalin’s death constitute on the one hand the beginning of the maturing of the objective and subjective conditions for the political revolution in the Soviet Union. On the other hand, these changes likewise constitute the relaxation of the brake, which operated in the most conservative and even reactionary way upon the organizations which today still group together the largest number of revolutionary militants, even in the many countries where the Communist Parties are extremely weak. As a result there has opened up a new stage not only in the Soviet Union but also in the development of the Communist Parties and of the non-capitalist countries, accelerating the disintegration of Stalinism in the sense indicated above.

The role of the Fourth International, which was created to assure the continuity of the revolutionary Marxist programme and organization in order to build a new revolutionary leadership for the proletariat, has the task of intervening in this disintegration in order to rally around its banner the healthy communist forces influenced up until now by Stalinism.

I. The Rise and Decline of Stalinism in the Soviet Union

1. The revolutionary rise unleashed by the First World War shook only the weakest of the imperialist powers. It left intact the colonial empires and thus permitted those imperialisms that possessed colonies to crush in the bud the upsurge of the revolutionary movement by granting important concessions to the masses (8-hour work day, universal suffrage, etc.). When this revolutionary rise occurred, the United States, having passed through a half-century of feverish economic growth, still had not experienced a social crisis sufficiently deep-going to bring the mass of the American industrial proletariat, constantly renewed by waves of immigration, to trade-union or political consciousness. The field of action of the revolutionary rise was thus limited to Central and Eastern Europe, essentially to Russia, Germany, and Italy among the great countries of the world. But Russia was an economically and culturally backward country, with a very small industrial proletariat, relatively low in skill and culture, crushed under the weight of scores of millions of illiterate peasants. Only the fusion of the Russian Revolution with the German and Italian revolutions could have provided the dictatorship of the proletariat with a material and social base broad enough to be able to guarantee soviet democracy. The defeats of the Italian revolution in 1922 and of the German revolution in 1923 marked the end of the revolutionary wave, leaving the revolution isolated in a backward country. This isolation imposed enormous material sacrifices upon the Russian proletariat, led to the gradual exhaustion of its combat potential and enthusiasm, an increasing abandonment of political activity and interest. In this way the objective conditions were created for its political expropriation by the Soviet bureaucracy.

2. Nevertheless, the end of the revolutionary wave of 1917–1923 did not signify a profound prolonged defeat of the international working-class movement. The sectors of the world proletariat which had remained relatively quiet during the revolutionary rise of 1918–1923 began one after another to move in the following decades: Great Britain in 1925–26; China in 1925–27; Spain in 1931–38; France 1936–38; the United States 1934–37. In Germany itself, the 1929 world economic crisis created conditions favorable for a new revolutionary rise. If, in the end, despite these many opportunities the ebb of the revolution became more and more accentuated, that was not due to the dynamics inherent in the mass movement but to the pernicious role played by the workers’ leaderships. In numerous eases, it was above all the Stalinist leadership which brought about the defeat of these movements. If the appearance and rise of Stalinism were determined in the last analysis by the accentuation of the ebb of the world revolution, this development was neither fatal nor inevitable. The efforts of the revolutionary forces in the Soviet Union and the world over (Left Opposition, Bolshevik-Leninists) to reverse the trend, to reinforce the weight of the proletariat in the Soviet Union thanks to industrialization and to victories, even if partial ones, gained on the world scale, prove, as these events recede into the past, to have been perfectly realistic. The junction of the Russian revolution with the world revolution remained possible during this entire period. If such a junction did not come about, that was above all owing to the role of the leadership of the Soviet Union and of the Communist International. Stalinism is just as much the product as the cause of the revolutionary ebb of the entire period from 1923 to 1943.

3. The isolation in a backward country, the overwhelming specific weight of the peasantry, the numerical and cultural weakness of the proletariat, its lack of democratic traditions – all these factors brought about in the Soviet Union the exhaustion of proletarian democracy, growing passivity among the masses, the more and more exclusive wielding of political power by functionaries of the party and the state. The existence of such a body of functionaries is unavoidable during the epoch of transition from capitalism to socialism. But they should decrease in number and importance to the extent that the society and the economy issuing from the socialist revolution become consolidated, and that classes, social inequality, and social contradictions wither away. Their withering away is in large measure identical with the withering away of the state. Up to this withering away a strict control exercised over the functionaries by the working class in democratically organized power should as much as possible limit these abuses. What happened in the Soviet Union was quite different. Under conditions of general scarcities and poverty, the political power administrating or distributing all of the country’s wealth swiftly became the regulator of distribution, arrogating to itself the essential privileges of consumption. The bureaucratic elements set themselves up as a distinct and conservative bureaucratic layer which defended, in alliance with the exploitive or petty-bourgeois elements (kulaks, Nepmen, etc.) material interests opposed to those of the proletariat ; and later as a bureaucratic caste conscious of having special social interests and determined to defend them against any other layer of society. The formation and consolidation of this bureaucratic caste found its principal reflection in the political field, in the factional struggle which tore apart the Bolshevik party, the only arena of political struggle in the country. The Stalinist faction triumphed in this struggle because it received the support of the bureaucracy. This triumph culminated in the destruction of internal party democracy, the last bastion of proletarian democracy in the USSR, in the complete upset of the social superstructure of the country save for the property relations, and in the establishment of the Stalinist Bonapartist dictatorship, based essentially upon the interests of the Soviet bureaucracy and fundamentally defending them.

4. The revolutionary upsurge had found its clearest expression in the victory of the October Revolution. The ebb of the revolution found its essential expression in the victory of the Soviet bureaucracy in the USSR. But this retreat took place within a framework where world capitalism was profoundly characterized by the decline of its system. This decline was already too advanced, the imperialist antagonism too acute on the basis of this decline, the workers’ movement still too powerful on a world scale, the wretched remnants of the former Russian possessing classes or the nucleus of a new bourgeoisie still too feeble, in the Soviet Union itself, for the ebb of the proletariat to bring capitalism back to power there. The counter-revolution was, by and large, confined to the domain of the superstructure. The mode of production characterized by the nationalization of the means of production, foreign trade monopoly, and over-all planning of the economy – this foundation, produced by the October Revolution, which detached the Soviet economy from the world system of capitalism and opposed it to the latter, was maintained, strengthened, and consolidated in the course of the history of the Soviet Union. The struggle between capitalism and socialism, which according to Lenin’s formula characterizes the period of transition, passed within the Soviet Union itself from the field of production – where practically all capitalist forms were eliminated – to the field of distribution. The Bonapartist dictatorship of the Soviet bureaucracy is therefore the product of a political counter-revolution: a political revolution is needed to overthrow it. But the Soviet state is the product of the social revolution of October whose economic and social conquests it continues to defend, even though in a special and often inadequate manner. This state could not be overthrown except by a social counter-revolution, reestablishing, if only by stages, the rule of capital and of the private ownership of the means of production. Our definition of the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers' state embraces the two fundamental elements of contemporary Soviet social reality: the survival and growth of the social foundations deriving from the October Revolution, on the one side; the victory of a political counter-revolution on these same foundations, on the other. Our policy of the unconditional defense of the Soviet Union corresponds to this same contradictory Soviet reality: to assure the progress of the Soviet Union through the overthrow of the bureaucratic dictatorship and the establishment of socialist democracy; to prevent the defeat of the Soviet Union which would entail the overthrow of its social foundations and the reestablishment of capitalism.

5. Within the framework of this same Soviet reality there appears the contradictory character, the dual nature of the Soviet bureaucracy:

  1. On the one side, it is a parasitic caste whose privileges derive from the special social structure of the Soviet Union. It is therefore obliged, in order to survive, to defend in its own way this structure against the internal and international bourgeois and petty-bourgeois forces which are seeking to destroy it and to reestablish, whatever may be its form, capitalist economy.
  2. On the other side, it is a parasitic caste whose privileges could not be extended and temporarily stabilized except through the political expropriation and the political passivity of the proletariat, its lack of revolutionary perspectives. The bureaucracy s therefore obliged to try to maintain, against the proletariat, domestic and world conditions which would prevent a new upsurge and new revolutionary activity of the Soviet proletariat.

The contradictory nature of the bureaucracy reflects itself equally in the fact that, to the extent that it defends the Soviet Union and its social base against imperialism and against restorationist forces of all kinds, it definitively aids the rebirth of soviet democracy inside the country; while, conversely, to the extent to which it succeeds in temporarily .holding back the Soviet proletariat or the world proletarian upsurge, it undermines and disorganizes definitively the social base from which its own privileges derive.

6. This dual and contradictory nature of the Soviet bureaucracy is reflected in its domestic and world policies as a whole since 1923. But the concrete manner in which this manifests itself depends fundamentally upon conditions beyond the control of the Soviet bureaucracy: the relationship of forces between the classes on the world scale and inside the Soviet Union itself. From this point of view two major stages may be distinguished:

  1. From 1923 to 1943: the international retreat of the revolution and of the workers’ movement, in connection with the aggravation of the general crisis of the capitalist system and of the internal contradictions of imperialism, permitted the bureaucracy to consolidate its power by balancing itself between the international revolutionary movement and imperialism, among the different imperialist powers, between the classes inside the Soviet Union itself. The Bonapartist dictatorship is the product of these balances. The end pursued by the Soviet bureaucracy’s policy is to maintain the status quo, to maintain the equilibrium. In this sense the global balance sheet of the Soviet bureaucracy's international policy is a reformist one, because the bureaucracy aims not to overthrow world capitalism but simply to maintain the Soviet Union within the framework of the status quo.
  2. Beginning with 1943: the new revolutionary rise, in connection with the aggravation of the crisis of the capitalist system and the establishment of the crushing supremacy of American imperialism in the capitalist world, disrupted both the equilibrium between the international proletariat and imperialism, and the equilibrium among the different imperialist powers. These factors forced these powers to accept, whether they wished to or not, a world imperialist united front against the revolution and the anti-capitalist forces and rendered more and more illusory every policy of seesawing and of maintenance of the status quo. The disruption of the basic equilibriums of Stalinist Bonapartism undermines the very foundations of the bureaucratic dictatorship in the Soviet Union. At the same time, the upsurge of the productive forces in the Soviet Union,, the numerical and cultural strengthening of the proletariat, and the repercussions of the international revolutionary wave within the country have broken the equilibrium (based on their political prostration) of social forces there, and are preparing the reappearance of the proletarian struggle for soviet democracy.

7. During the phase from 1923 to 1943, the dual and contradictory nature of the Soviet bureaucracy manifested itself at home as well as abroad in a number of sharp turns:

  1. 1924–1927: alliance of the bureaucracy with the kulak and NEP elements in the Soviet Union against the proletarian vanguard. A rightist course internationally: unprincipled alliances with Chiang Kai-shek, with the British trade-union bureaucracy, with Balkan peasant parties, etc.
  2. 1928–1934: Destruction of kulaks and Nepmen; forced collectivization of agriculture and headlong industrialization. At the same time, the destruction of the remaining political rights of the workers deriving from the October Revolution, the establishing of the omnipotence of the director of each enterprise, the accelerated growth of inequality within the working class. Ultra-leftist course internationally at a time when imperialism was weakened and paralyzed by economic crisis.
  3. 1935–1939: A rightist course in the USSR, restoration of private peasant ownership of part of the cattle and of small strips of land; abolition of the old Soviet constitution; extermination of the entire generation of Old Bolsheviks; triumph of reaction in the sphere of morals, culture, etc., and in general encouragement of neo-bourgeois trends. At the same time, a rightist course internationally: alliance with the imperialist “democracies,” acceptance of national defense in these countries and in their colonies; the policy of People’s Fronts; the strangling of the Spanish and French revolutions.
  4. 1939–1941: Preparation for war including the halt of mass purges in the Soviet Union, and the consolidation of the individual positions of the bureaucracy. On the international scale, the sudden shift of diplomatic alliances results in an ultra-left policy of the Stalinist CPs.
  5. 1941–1943: A rightist course during the war. At home: “great patriotic war,” the enrichment of the peasants, massive private appropriation of collective farm land, dissolution of the Communist International, restoration of the Church as an instrument of state policy, Pan-Slavic propaganda, etc. Abroad: close alliance with imperialism, policy of the National Front, struggle against liberation uprisings in the colonies, against the defense of the economic interests of the workers in the allied countries, etc.

8. The period from 1943 to 1947, during which the Soviet bureaucracy seemed at the peak of its power, appeared as a transitional period between the ebb and the new rise of the world revolution. It is, for the same reason, a transitional period between the phase of the rise and the phase of the decline of Stalinism. The world revolutionary rise was still not powerful enough to permit the outflanking of Stalinism; it remained, in general, restricted within limits where the bureaucracy and its agencies were able to control it through more or less traditional methods (France, Italy, Indochina, Malaya, and in part Indonesia and China); the sole exception was Yugoslavia. But this wave was sufficiently menacing to bring imperialism to seek a modus vivendi with the Soviet bureaucracy. The latter undertook to halt or try to force back the revolution in return for territorial and economic concessions. This was the meaning of the Teheran, Yalta, and Potsdam agreements, of the dismemberment of Germany and the division of Europe into two spheres of influence, of the counter-revolutionary policy of the CPs of Western Europe and of the Far East colonial countries during this same period, of the maintenance of bourgeois remnants in Eastern Europe, and of the joint efforts of U.S. General Marshall and Stalin to set up a coalition government in China. Favoring this same tendency were: the domestic situation in the Soviet Union, the terrible devastations of the war, the extreme scarcities of consumer goods, the 1945–47 economic crisis of reconversion, the pillage of the buffer countries as a bureaucratic means for ameliorating this situation to some extent.

9. But the international revolutionary wave, above all the victory of the Chinese revolution, destroyed the possibility for the Soviet bureaucracy to come to an overall compromise with imperialism. Stifling within a living space far too narrow for its needs, and menaced by a terrible economic shock, imperialism had previously sought to pass to the offensive by restoring capitalist economy in Western Europe with the aim of loosening the Soviet Union’s tight hold on the buffer zone (Marshall Plan). Thereafter, outflanked by the colonial, revolution, imperialism passed on to armed action (the wars in Indochina, Indonesia, Malaya, Korea), and set about preparing a final settlement of accounts with all the anti-capitalist forces (the Atlantic Pact, M.S.A., Balkan Pact, Middle East Pact, Pacific Pact, remilitarization of Japan and Germany, etc. ...). Caught between the imperialist threat and the Chinese revolution, the Soviet bureaucracy found itself obliged to ally itself with the People’s Republic of China, which emerged from this revolution, against imperialism. This implied a de facto recognition of the autonomy and independence of the Chinese Communist Party and of the People’s Republic of China, and the Sino-Soviet co-leadership of the entire Communist movement in Asia. This marked the opening of a new phase in the world situation in which the Soviet bureaucracy finds itself, a situation characterized by the exacerbation of international class contradictions and by the evolution of the relationship of class forces in a manner more and more favorable to the revolution. This new situation limits more and more the capacity of counter-revolutionary manoeuvres by the bureaucracy. It can no longer utilize the entire colonial revolution as small change in order to arrive at a general agreement with imperialism. Its efforts to utilize inter-imperialist contradictions continue, as do the efforts to gain the support of certain bourgeoisies in colonial and semi-colonial countries (India, Argentina, Indonesia) by damping down the anti-capitalist struggle of the masses in these countries, by attempts to mobilize all the classes in these countries, including the “national bourgeoisie,” against imperialism. So also there continue to exist the efforts of the bureaucracy to arrive at temporary and partial agreements with imperialism as well as its role of brake on the unfolding of the colonial revolution (insufficient aid in the course of the Korean war). But the practical effects of these efforts become more and more limited and ephemeral in proportion as, on the one side, the upsurge of the masses, despite the attempts to curb them, and, on the other, the pressure and the march of Yankee imperialism towards war, become more accentuated.

10. A parallel evolution has been, in the meantime, produced inside the USSR itself.

The important successes of the Soviet economy since the reconversion crisis of 1945–47 (a crisis corroborated by Malenkov’s report to the XlXth Congress) have profoundly altered the position of the country and of its population. If, in regard to the principal products, per capita production still lags behind that of the most advanced capitalist countries, it has already surpassed the level of those capitalist countries which remain stagnant, such as France and Italy. On the other hand, gross production has considerably surpassed the level of all capitalist countries except the USA and, in a number of basic products, has even outstripped the total production of two or three of the most important capitalist countries, such as Britain, Germany, Japan. The Soviet Union has become the second industrial power in the world, possessing the second largest stock of machines and increasing its productivity at a more rapid rate than any other country except the USA. If Soviet agriculture has not been able to advance at an equal pace and lags considerably behind, its progress has nevertheless sufficed to eliminate any phenomenon of famine or chronic undernourishment. For the population in the great industrial centres the supply of manufactured consumer goods, although still very inadequate, has been regularized and surpasses anything previously seen in the USSR.

11. As a result of these economic advances, an important social transformation is taking place which finds its expression in a modification of the composition and dynamism of the principal social strata of the country.

  1. The proletariat has greatly increased in number and skills, the number of industrial workers continuing to increase at the rate of many millions with each Five-Year Plan. From the small minority in Soviet society that it was in 1917 and in 1927, it has become the most numerous social stratum. Illiteracy has disappeared from its ranks, The tremendous mechanization of the Soviet economy for the past seven years has entailed a considerable growth in the number and role of the skilled workers. The unskilled laborer no longer typifies the Soviet worker but tends to become the exception. Because of this the differentiation of income among the proletariat, although greater than ever, no longer tends to crush the great majority of the working class down to a hunger level.
  2. The peasantry has been the most shaken up. Year by year it is from its ranks that supplementary industrial labor is drawn. This is the stratum whose number and social weight tend constantly to diminish. Its upper layers are continually being drawn off and converted into the kolkhoz bureaucracy and aristocracy (directors, accountants, agronomists, tractor drivers). The peasantry has not been able to restore the relatively advantageous position it gained during the war and the immediate post-war period. The introduction of the system of labor brigades and the amalgamation of the collective farms have marked important steps along the line of a gradual industrialization of agriculture, but they have run up against passive resistance from the peasants and have not permitted a serious increase in agricultural production. The standard of living in the country has been raised much less than in the cities, and the disproportion between agriculture and industry is steadily accentuated.
  3. The bureaucracy has increased in number and in weight, but at a less rapid rate than the proletariat. Two important modifications have taken place in the composition of the upper circles of the bureaucracy. First of all in respect to social origin, the number of former capitalists or bourgeois technicians and Nepmen on the one hand, the number of old revolutionary militants of the pre-1917 vintage (Thermidorians) has been more and more reduced; the great mass of the bureaucracy is recruited from privileged individuals who have become adults since the revolution. Second, in their mentality: the tops of the bureaucracy are in their majority no longer a young and rapacious social layer, tending to conquer privileges in the field of consumption in the midst of prevailing poverty; the majority constitute a layer of men of mature years or heading into old age, tending to conserve the best possible living standards.

12. Although the rise and the consolidation of the Bonapartist dictatorship in the USSR came as the products of a political counter-revolution, the bureaucracy has placed its special seal upon Soviet society in all the fields of social life:

  1. The economy: The entire economy of the epoch of transition is characterized by the contradiction between the non-capitalist mode of production and the survival of bourgeois norms of distribution. But the Soviet bureaucracy has aggravated this contradiction by the enormous development of its privileges and of social inequality. The bureaucratic centralization of planning, the abolition of all workers’ control over production, the omnipotence, the arbitrariness, and the greed for privileges of the factory bureaucrats provoke new contradictions and new disruptions of equilibrium within the very field of production, which become more and more accentuated to the degree that the economy achieves important progress.
  2. The state: The abolition of the last vestiges of Soviet democracy together with the disappearance of internal party democracy has resulted, in fact, in an autocratic regime, in which the bulk of the bureaucracy, including its upper circles, is itself excluded from the exercise of political rights. The Bonapartist dictatorship rests essentially upon the apparatus of repression, upon the terror of periodic purges, and in addition controls a system of plebiscitary “elections.” Great Russian nationalism flourishes and the accusations of “bourgeois nationalism” are lodged against national minorities affirming their history and their own rights.
  3. The army: The old Red Army which took the oath of loyalty to the Soviet constitution and to the Communist International has been replaced by a “patriotic” Soviet army narrowly controlled by the dictatorship, and within it have been introduced the self-same manifestations of monstrous inequality, arbitrariness, and the omnipotence of the apparatus which prevail in society as a whole.
  4. Ideology: Marxist theory has been transformed into a pragmatic ideology, tending to justify the practical requirements of the bureaucracy’s policy. The history of the party, of the International, and of the country is systematically and periodically revised, rewritten, falsified. Scientific research and free theoretical discussions are suppressed in all the fields of the social sciences and are even beginning to be “oriented” in the field of certain natural sciences. From this suppression stems the necessity for an infallible and omniscient Pope who formulates, at each turn, the dogmas suitable to the then interests of the bureaucracy.
  5. Morals: The liberation of women and of youth which the October Revolution had carried out during its years of ascendance has been reversed. The equality of women has become the equality in expending the super-human physical effort exacted from the workers and not the right freely to dispose of their own lives. Divorce legislation has become ever stricter; the right of abortion has been abolished. The prohibition of youth from participating in politics is consecrated in the statutes of the youth organization.

13. But the Soviet masses absorbed a great experience during the war (where the limits of the repressive capacity of the apparatus and the reality of the living standards of the Western workers were simultaneously revealed to them). The Soviet masses, above all the advanced working class youth, are beginning to take more and more cognizance of the contradictions contained in Soviet society and the Bonapartist dictatorship. They are becoming aware above all of the economic contradictions, all the more so because they have transferred all their dynamism and their creative effort into this field. The discussions which preceded the XIXth Cogress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and those which have taken place during and after this congress, have revealed the following:

  1. That to the mind of the vast majority of the Soviet people, the power acquired by Soviet economy more and more appears to come into greater contradiction with the still extremely low level of mass consumption. Above all, the housing crisis is felt by these masses as inexplicable and was universally criticized during the XlXth Congress.
  2. That to the minds of the advanced strata of the working class, the lower layers of the party and trade-union functionaries, the Soviet bureaucracy more and more appears to be a brake upon the growth of the productive forces. Having attained for themselves a high level of privileges as consumers, the top circles of the bureaucracy no longer have a major interest in the maximum expansion of production. The greed for gain among the directors of industry, regarded as the principal motor force of accumulation, is turning into a factor limiting and impeding this accumulation. To the degree that the attainment of the goals of the plan continues to depend mainly on the interest of these strata of the bureaucracy, they introduce a further disorganizing force into planning (primacy given to attaining the financial plan at the expense of the production plan). The bureaucratically centralized elaboration of the plan comes into collision with the growing complexity of the economy.

14. In the ideological domain the contradictions of the bureaucratic dictatorship have culminated in a serious theoretical crisis which found its reflection not only in the discussion over political economy, but also in the discussion around the “transition toward communism,” and a number of other ideological problems.

  1. The ruling strata of the Kremlin have been forced to affirm in the same breath both the disappearance of classes in the USSR, and the survival, even the sharpening, of the class struggle.
  2. They have been forced to emphasize that to the degree that advance is made toward communism, social conflicts do not wither away but, become accentuated.
  3. They have been forced at one and the same time to insist upon the fact that the state, far from withering away, “will be reinforced” with the transition toward communism, and to recall that the state will end up by withering away with “the triumph of socialism in the principal countries of the world.”
  4. They have been forced to affirm at one and the same time that the socialist society has as its “fundamental law” the satisfaction of the needs of the population, and that the economy of this society continues to be regulated by “the primacy of the production of the means of production over the production of the means of consumption.”
  5. They have been obliged at one and the same time to represent the tendency toward personal enrichment as the principal “vestige of bourgeois mentality” in Soviet society, and to preserve this same tendency as the principal lever of planning.

15. In this way the historically unstable character of the Bonapartist dictatorship in the Soviet Union clearly reveals itself. With the modification of the relationship of forces between the classes on the international scale, with the concurrent modification of this relationship of forces inside the Soviet Union itself, the objective foundations of the dictatorship are in process of rapidly disappearing. Traditionally, the historically transitional and passing character of the Bonapartist dictatorship in the USSR was analyzed correctly in the sense that this dictatorship could lead to two opposed paths of social development: either a reenforcement of the restorationist tendencies within the peasantry and the bureaucracy, which, with the aid of imperialism, would restore capitalism in the Soviet Union by means of a civil war; or, thanks to the extension of the world revolution and the aid brought by the world proletariat to the Soviet proletariat and to the left tendency of the bureaucracy which will rally to the side of the proletariat for the defense of the social bases of the USSR, the overthrow of the Bonapartist dictatorship and the reestablishment of Soviet democracy. But it is evident that the two variants of this alternative imply special dynamics in the class struggle on the world scale. The first appears as the end-product of the retreat of the world revolution, the second as the product of the international victories of the revolution. The present dynamics of the class struggle on the world scale indicates very clearly which is the more likely of these two variants. The entire domestic evolution of the Soviet Union also speaks in the same sense. There, faced by the upsurge of the productive forces, the small islands of petty commodity production which existed and constantly revive no longer possess more than a very reduced specific weight in the totality of economic life. The aggravation of social contradictions, the mounting pressure of imperialism, and the signs of proletarian awakening may provoke within very limited layers of the bureaucracy reflexes of capitulation and desertion to the bourgeois camp; but that will be nothing more than a by-product of the evolution and not its dominant characteristic. It therefore follows that since in the USSR itself the relationship of forces tends to become modified in favor of the working class, parallel with an analogous modification on a world scale, the coming decisive battle will not be waged between the restorationist forces launching an offensive to restore private property, and the forces defending the conquests of October. It will be, on the contrary, waged between the forces defending the privileges and administration of the bureaucracy against the assault of the revolutionary forces of the working class embarking on the struggle for the restoration of soviet democracy upon a higher level.

16. Stalin’s death has accentuated all the above-described tendencies and has given them a direct and dramatic manifestation. This is to be explained by the special role that Stalin played in the Soviet Union. Arbiter between the classes, arbiter between the classes and the bureaucracy, and between the different layers of the bureaucracy, Stalin represented in his person the link between the socialist foundation of the Soviet Union and its bureaucratic superstructure. He represented a major guarantee for the economic bureaucracy and the intelligentsia that they would continue to enjoy their privileges and at the same time a major guarantee for the lower levels of the bureaucracy (minor party and trade-union functionaries, Stakhanovists, rising cadres of the youth) that socialized ownership of the means of production would remain intact. His sudden disappearance has deprived the regime of one of its main elements of stability, all the more since the equilibrium of social forces had previously been gradually shaken. To this must be added the element of uncertainty and anxiety in the Bonapartist heights of the dictatorship, accustomed to follow the line laid down by the “Chief,” without personal prestige among the masses and incapable of predicting the effects of Stalin’s death on the attitude of different strata of Soviet society. This uncertainty and even panic in the top circles have no doubt accentuated the tendencies which are challenging the absolutism of the dictatorship.

17. The bureaucracy is not a homogeneous social stratum. It consists of millions of individuals, with roots extended into the working class (Stakhanovists) and the peasantry (kolkhoz functionaries); it rises through numerous secondary functionaries of the government and the economy (auditors) toward the higher layers of technicians and engineers, celebrated artists and writers, the higher echelons of the army and the police, all the way up to the heights of the economy (directors of big factories and trusts), of the army (generals and marshals), of the state and of the party (members of the central committees of the parties of the Soviet republics and of the USSR, ministers of the republics and the USSR, members of the central administrations of the state and of the party). The most conservative and at the same time the most privileged group is indubitably the stratum of directors of the factories and of the central administrations of the economy to whom can be added the chief engineers and principal technicians of the planning and the generals and marshals of the army.

18. Confronting the most privileged heights of the bureaucracy are the Bonapartist summits of the bureaucracy, who have wielded political power for more than two decades; who personify the Bonapartist dictatorship and represent the personal connection between the tops of the party and of the state. It is this stratum which been hardest hit by Stalin’s death, which has been seized with panic before the sweep of the discontent of the entire population, and which took the initiative for dramatic measures to “liberalize” the regime (amnesty, announced revisions of the penal code, liberation of the doctors, attack against police arbitrariness and against national and racial discriminations, purge of the GPU and the attacks against it, the tendency to shove into the background the cult of the chief, the new tone introduced into the Soviet press, the modification of the Five-Year Plan increasing the weight of production of the means of consumption).

The measures pursue the following aims:

  1. To establish the dictatorship on a broader basis, to associate broader sections of the bureaucracy more directly with the exercise of power by guaranteeing them against arbitrary purges.
  2. To establish the dictatorship on a more popular basis, by taking measures favorably greeted by the entire population, by promising to restore easier and less tormented conditions, by tacitly disavowing the bloodiest phases of the terror of Stalin’s epoch, by appearing to concede on the three principal points of this popular discontent: the low level of consumption, the police regime, and national oppression.

Historically, the Malenkov regime thus signalizes the beginning of the decline of the power of the Bonapartist dictatorship. The “liberalization” as well as the tightening of the regime only constitute alternative methods of self-defense by the bureaucracy which knows that its powers and privileges are threatened, and which will in any case try to use all the resources at its disposal to defend itself against the rising tide of the Soviet masses. But history has demonstrated that autocrats doomed to disappear do not save themselves by either of these two methods, or by a combination of both. The Bonapartist dictatorship in the USSR already stands doomed by history. The masses will crush it and wipe out the power and privileges of the bureaucracy with their political revolution.

19. Until now there has been only one first sign that the proletariat has been able to pass to organized action under the new conditions created by Stalin’s death (the Vorkuta strike). That is not surprising. For a quarter of a century the Soviet proletariat has been politically atomized and its advanced cadres wiped out by police terror. Though the advances of the international revolution since the end of World War II must have reawakened old hopes among the Soviet workers, the inflexibility of the dictatorship up to Stalin’s death did not permit such sentiments to be voiced directly. At most the indirect expression of their concerns, demands, and aspirations could have been found in the lower layers of the petty functionaries of the party, of the trade unions, and of the youth. The “liberalization” of the regime announced by Malenkov cannot have immediate effects favoring political action by the working class, either. But from now on molecular forces come into play within the Soviet proletariat. Tests of strength are being prepared in the factories and the trade unions, which will no doubt begin over technical questions whereby the working class will strengthen its consciousness and confidence in its own strength without directly colliding with the Bonapartist dictatorship. To cope with this threat, the new regime, having weakened the GPU, has to lean more on the army, which probably helped liquidate Beria. At the same time within the party and especially within the youth, a spirit of criticism is advancing, questioning the theoretical “heritage” of the Stalinist era, venturing into the domain of political elaboration, winning its first spurs in an ideological struggle against the most petrified representatives of the Stalinist era. Thus is announced the regroupment of the objective and subjective forces of the Soviet proletariat.

20. Under the panic of the moment, the first defensive reflex of the directing nucleus, the Bonapartist tops, has not been exclusively the “liberalization” of the regime. Its first reflex has been also its own reorganization and its own extreme centralization. Momentarily the Bonapartist heights of the bureaucracy tried to regroup themselves without major conflict or division around the new chiefs, Malenkov–Beria–Molotov–Khrushchev, since they all felt threatened all together. But this phase of unity and regroupment could be only a fleeting one. The centrifugal forces appearing in the dictatorship, that the “liberal” regime has accentuated, are beginning to get the upper hand over the monolithism of the ruling group itself. Herein is the significance of Beria’s fall, of the weakening of the GPU apparatus by that of the state and the army. “Liberalism” was supposed to satisfy all layers of the population: the masses because they suffered the most from the police dictatorship; the tops of the bureaucracy because they feel themselves freed from the nightmare of a new wave of arbitrary purges; the lower layers of the bureaucracy, because they hope to be more closely associated with the wielding of power. But if the bureaucracy considered that these measures could consolidate its basis the better to defend its own privileges, the proletariat is trying to use them to challenge these privileges. After an initial phase of expectation, hope and joy, these two divergent tendencies have already begun to collide. The higher layers of the bureaucracy have been impelled to demand more and more legal guarantees to the degree that the popular pressure is deepening, and these demands and uneasinesses are finding their expression in the very midst of the directing nucleus through Beria’s elimination and the important blow delivered to the GPU. At the same time the growing mass pressure, that the “liberalization” of the regime has already increased, will also find expression, even though indirect and deformed, at the top of the regime. This process of differentiation within the party and its upper circles has been influenced by the beginning of the revolutionary rise in the buffer zone. It will be still more deeply influenced by the evolution of the international situation. An accelerated outbreak of the war could delay this differentiation for an initial period. New victories of the international revolution, a sharpened differentiation within the Communist Parties abroad, would accelerate it.

On the other hand, if the new leading group seeks to gain time on an international scale by making concessions in form and tone to imperialism, it can less than ever before make substantial concessions that might result in a genuine compromise with Wall Street (liquidation of the colonial revolution, opening up of the “People’s Democracies” to American goods and capital, etc.). In these conditions the arms race and the preparations for the imperialist war will remain basically the same as set down in the report of the XIIth Plenum of the IEC.

21. Events unfolding in the Soviet Union since Stalin’s death considerably modify the world situation. They signalize the end of the relative stability of the Bonapartist dictatorship in the Soviet Union. Thus one of the principal forces of social conservatism in the world finds itself challenged. The development of the world revolution and the struggle for its conscious leadership by the Fourth International find themselves considerably facilitated. A series of conditions favorable for the development of our ideas and our organizations flows from this and it will be necessary to take full advantage of them with the aid of an appropriate tactic.

The most urgent tasks are posed for our movement in the Soviet Union itself. The first cracks in the Bonapartist dictatorship place on the order of the day the struggle for the socialist regeneration of the Soviet Union. The programme of action put forward in this connection by the Transitional Programme and which the Second World Congress reaffirmed and concretized now takes on a burning timeliness. [1]

They will demand the application of the democratic right of self-determination, including that of secession, for all national minorities living in the USSR, struggling for the Ukrainian, White-Russian, Esthonian, Lithuanian, independent socialist republics.

But the significance of this regeneration has been modified. Today the Soviet Union, because of its industry and its working class, is the second basis of support for socialism in the world. The socialist regeneration of the Soviet Union, almost as much as the socialist revolution in the USA, would decide the world victory of socialism. The fact that the hesitations, doubts, and retreats of the new ruling group in the dictatorship aid the struggle for this regeneration places our international movement in new historical conditions of which we must be deeply conscious. The conditions are being created for the reconstitution and the upsurge of the Bolshevik-Leninist party in the Soviet Union. [2] It is not accidental that at the XlXth Congress Malenkov, after 15 years of silence, referred to the activity of “deviationist, anti-Leninist” groups in the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, on which the victory of the political revolution depends. It is no accident that the Malenkov amnesty expressly excludes political offenders! The International must look for and find the means to aid our Soviet brothers to benefit from conditions favorable for their regrouping; this will be a decisive stage in the world upsurge of our movement.

At the same time our sections ought resolutely to combat any tendency toward apology or justification for the present political regime in the Soviet Union, a tendency which will manifest itself in petty-bourgeois circles inclined to make their peace with the Malenkov power. Even though “liberalizing” itself, the Bonapartist dictatorship nonetheless remains the dictatorship. The proletariat remains politically expropriated in the Soviet Union. The new penal code, a genuine habeus corpus [sic], will defend the bureaucratic privileges just as police arbitrariness has defended them up to now. The task of smashing the dictatorship and the privileges of the bureaucracy, the task of a new political revolution in the Soviet Union remains more burning than ever. The significance of the entire recent development is that the conditions which prepare and facilitate this revolution are ripening.

22. The coming war will coincide not with an ebb but a new leap forward of the international revolution. It can therefore act only fundamentally to accentuate still more the phenomena of the disintegration of the Bonapartist dictatorship in the Soviet Union, and the phenomena of revival and revolutionary rise of the Soviet proletariat. The extension of the revolution to Western European countries with their workers at a high level of culture, technical skill, and democratic traditions; the contact between the Soviet Army and populations accustomed to relatively higher living standards than those of the Soviet toilers; the victories over imperialism; the difficulties of all types as well as the bureaucracy’s general behavior in the course of the war – all these factors will operate in the same direction. They will heighten the confidence of the Soviet masses in their own strength, undermine still more the prestige of any repressive apparatus, harden the will of the masses to acquire living conditions economically and politically much closer to the socialist ideal, weaken and disorganize the bureaucracy’s capacity of resistance and of counteraction in the face of the masses, accentuate dissensions and centrifugal tendencies within the ranks of the bureaucracy. Whether the open, external manifestations of the rise will become accentuated and hastened even during the very first stage of the war, or whether these will begin by receding before the menace of imperialism only in order to reappear more powerfully than ever at a subsequent stage of the war, when this menace seems to have disappeared – this will depend upon the rapidity with which the revolution spreads, upon the capacity of the proletariat of the advanced countries to carry out this revolution under their1 own leadership, upon the maturity of political conditions inside the USSR itself, and upon the presence of a new revolutionary leadership. In any case, in the course of the final settlement of accounts with imperialism, the Soviet proletariat aided by the world proletariat will learn to settle accounts also with the Soviet bureaucracy and to overthrow its dictatorship. During the period as a whole running from 1943 to the end of the Third World War, a period which is just a chain of partial wars and temporary armed truces, will be confirmed the prediction of Leon Trotsky that the bureaucracy will be incapable of withstanding the test of a decisive battle with imperialism and the world revolution.

23. To understand that the Soviet bureaucracy is henceforth placed in new conditions which are fundamentally different from the conditions of the epoch of the bureaucracy’s rise and growth, and are those of the bureaucracy’s decline and ultimate downfall, does not in any way mean to modify the traditional Trotskyist evaluation of the objective and subjective role played by this bureaucracy in the Soviet Union and the world over. The upsurge of the Soviet productive forces has resulted not from the activity of the bureaucracy but despite it. The bureaucracy began by impeding industrialization for a period of five years; and then plunged into it in conditions, that disorganized the entire national economy, causing a terrible crisis in agriculture and popular consumption which required 20 years to overcome. To this day the bureaucracy prevents a complete and rational utilization of the huge productive apparatus with which the dynamics of planning endowed the country. Similarly, the upsurge of the world revolution did not in any respect come about thanks to the Soviet bureaucracy’s leadership, but has taken place despite its interventions in the world labor movement. The bureaucracy began by causing the terrible historical defeats of the proletariat from 1923 to 1943. Subsequently it retarded and partially halted the revolutionary wave between 1943 and 1947. To this day it still prevents the complete and rational utilization of the colossal revolutionary potential of the masses on the five continents. Today it is more correct than ever to say that if the domination of imperialism subsists over half of the globe it is thanks to the role played by the bureaucracy and its agencies. In the principal country where this domination has been abolished – in China – this was due to the fact that the Chinese CP was able to shake itself loose from the orders of the Kremlin. What is new in the situation is that we have reached the stage, forecast in the Transitional Programme, where “the laws of history” reveal themselves “stronger than the bureaucratic apparatus.” Of the two factors determining the orientation of the masses – the death agony of capitalism which unlooses immense revolutionary forces on a world scale, and the policy of the reformist and Stalinist bureaucratic apparatuses which play the role of a brake upon the masses – it is the first that is coming more and more to the fore. The revolutionary tide which the Soviet bureaucracy is no longer capable of smashing and arresting is even being nourished by certain of the methods of self-defense applied by this bureaucracy and is preparing the conditions for the overthrow of the bureaucracy by the Soviet proletariat.

II. The Rise and Decline of Stalinism in Other Non-Capitalist Countries

24. Since the eruption of the revolutionary wave of 1943, new non-capitalist states have made their appearance in Europe and Asia. These states may be put in two categories:

  1. States produced by the victory of the revolution in these countries, as in the case of the People’s Republic of Yugoslavia and the People’s Republic of China.
  2. States produced by the expansionism of the Soviet bureaucracy, the occupation of these countries and their structural assimilation with the Soviet Union by military-bureaucratic means, supported in certain instances by a limited mobilization of the masses: this is the case in the European buffer zone and in the case of the People’s Republic of North Korea (where, incidentally, the mobilization of the masses was on a larger scale).

To these countries it is necessary to add: a) the democratic state of Vietnam, produced by a revolutionary wave in Vietnam similar to that in China but which still continues the anti-imperialist war and the civil war in order to gain control of the entire national territory; b) Albania, where there has also been a strong revolutionary movement of the masses.

The appearance of these states represents a fundamental modification of the world situation, extending the global area withdrawn from the domination of capitalism from one-sixth to one-third on the geographical plane, and from one-twelfth to one-third as regards the world population.

25. The victory of the revolution in Jugoslavia and in China – the first revolutionary victories since 1917 – dealt a mortal blow to the direct Hold of the. Soviet bureaucracy upon the Communist Parties of these two countries and inaugurated the world crisis of Stalinism. In this way has been confirmed the prediction of Leon Trotsky to the effect that “the disintegration of the Comintern (i.e., of the apparatus of subordinating the CPs to the Kremlin) which has no direct support in the GPU, will precede the downfall of the Bonapartist clique and of the Thermidorian bureaucracy as a whole.” The blow dealt to Stalinism by the victory of the revolution in Jugoslavia and in China, although these revolutions were led by parties issuing from the Comintern, expresses itself in the fact that this victory resulted from their “breach of discipline” toward the Kremlin. Threatened with being overwhelmed by the revolutionary wave of the masses and faced with no alternative other than being crushed politically and physically by reaction, the Jugoslav CP, and later the Chinese CP, went beyond the orders of the Kremlin and marched to the conquest of power. From this they gained a genuine material independence in relation to the Soviet bureaucracy, and this has created the objective base for a political and ideological differentiation. The system of rigid subordination of the Communist Parties to the political directives of the Kremlin and of the automatic and servile repetition of each successive manifestation of Stalinist revisionism of Marxist-Leninist theory has thus been breached.

26. Neither in the case of Jugoslavia nor that of China, however, did the victorious CPs decide on their own initiative upon a public political break with the policy of Stalinism. The explanation for this is to be found in:

  1. the Stalinist origin and traditions of these leaderships and of the majority of their cadres, who sought, for the most part, to excuse within their narrow circles the “errors” of Moscow and to hide them from their own party members and from the masses;
  2. the objective support which these parties received after the revolutionary victory through their diplomatic, political, military, and economic alliance with the Soviet Union in the face of the de facto imperialist blockade; even though this Kremlin support was considered as insufficient or very onerous, it was worth more in their eyes than the abandonment of all aid;
  3. the opportunist character of these leaderships who see no pole of attraction other than the Kremlin or imperialism, and who underestimate or ignore the upsurge of the world revolution and the international working-class movement.

27. In the case of Jugoslavia it was the Kremlin itself that took the initiative for the break with the CP, conscious that this party represented a mortal danger for the bureaucracy by introducing into its system of parties a Communist Party with an independent base, capable of reacting independently not only in relations between the states (Jugoslav policy in relation to mixed companies, Balkan federation, relations with Italy, etc.) but also as regards the policy of other Communist Parties (the attitude of the JCP toward the Greek partisan movement, toward the policy followed by the French and Italian CPs during the “liberation,” etc.). It preferred to push Jugoslavia into the embraces of imperialism and in this way to open up a dangerous breach in its line of defenses in the Balkans rather than incur the risk of having the Jugoslav example break up the Kremlin’s entire grip on the glacis and on the Cominform. Toward this end it utilized every resource in its power: the break of diplomatic relations; the sudden economic blockade disorganizing the Jugoslav economy; provocation of border incidents; attempts at organizing a terrorist movement inside Jugoslavia itself; a permanent campaign of intimidation via press, radio, etc. But it was able originally to indulge in such a counterrevolutionary attitude first because the preparations for the imperialist war were still only in their preliminary stage, and then and above all because Jugoslavia is a small country which cannot basically alter the world relationship of economic and military forces. It was otherwise in the case of the Chinese revolution. The Kremlin could not permit a break of a coalition which represented the keystone of its military defense system and which in effect broke up the imperialist encirclement of the USSR. That is why in the case of the Chinese CP, the Kremlin, despite apprehensions analogous to those it nursed toward the Jugoslav CP, was obliged to accept a collaboration on a basis of equality and even on the basis of co-leadership with the Chinese CP of the entire Asian Communist movement.

28. Both the Jugoslav state and the Chinese state, born of a victorious revolution resulting from the destruction of the political power of the bourgeoisie and of its state, have moved at a rapid tempo toward the complete economic expropriation of that same bourgeoisie. After the first hesitations and compromises, to the extent that this tendency has been manifested more and more, the structure of these states has also been adjusted to its new social base, and the non-capitalist, working-class character of these states has clearly manifested itself. But, even though born of a victorious revolution, the Jugoslav state and the Chinese state bear the stigmata of an opportunist and bureaucratic workers’ leadership. In the case of Jugoslavia these features were notably revealed between 1945 and 1948 in a servile imitation of Soviet practices, methods, and institutions, and in the suppression of all workers’ democracy within the state and within the party. After an attempt at a genuine democratization of the regime from 1948 to 1950 the opportunist character of the JCP again found expression in the state structure as a result of the latest changes in the Constitution and in the party statutes which, far from guaranteeing workers’ democracy, represent an attempt to eliminate the influence of advanced layers of the proletariat on the conduct of public affairs. This is the meaning of the dissolution of the JCP and of the utilization of the People’s Front as the sole political instrument of power. In the case of China, the opportunist and bureaucratic character of the Chinese CP has equally left its mark upon the Constitution and upon the evolution of the state in the People’s Republic of China. Its desire to collaborate with important fractions of the “national bourgeoisie” led it in the beginning to sabotage and impede revolutionary mobilization of the proletariat in the; cities conjointly with the revolutionary uprising of the peasants in North China. The same desire then led it to take entire segments of the old Kuomintang state apparatus and incorporate them into the newly constructed state apparatus. And when, after the Chinese intervention in Korea, the offensive was opened up against the bourgeoisie and a certain mobilization of the masses of the poor took place (mobilization of the peasant masses in the South in order to achieve the agrarian reform; mobilization of the workers in the campaigns Against Five Ways and the campaign Against Three Ways) [3], the Chinese CP did everything possible to limit this mobilization and halt it and prevent it from giving birth to organs of self-administration of the working-class masses in the cities; and it even utilized this same occasion to employ terror against the vanguard revolutionary elements. As in the case of Jugoslavia so in the case of China the new workers’ states are not based upon organs of self-administration (soviets, committees), and where such organs formally exist, they are void of their revolutionary content because of the lack of political freedom and freedom of expression for the various workers’ currents. That is why in these two cases it is a question of bureaucratically deformed workers’ states.

29. There is no contradiction between the fact that, on the one hand, the Jugoslav CP and the Chinese CP have been able to lead a revolution victoriously and independently of the Kremlin and have in these instances ceased to be Stalinist parties in the proper meaning of this term; and that, on the other hand, these parties have followed and continue to follow an opportunist orientation which restricts, disorganizes, and places in danger the conquests of the revolution – an opportunist line essentially derived from the Stalinist past of the leaderships of these parties. The Marxist theory of revolutions by no means implies that no revolution could ever triumph, no matter what the circumstances, without a 100% Marxist leadership. The Jugoslav CP and the Chinese CP freed themselves from the tutelage of the Kremlin, but did so pragmatically, under the pressure of events, of the revolutionary movement of the masses which threatened to overwhelm them. Therein lies their merit, but therein also lies their weakness. What our period demands is not an opportunist leadership which permits itself to be dragged along in order somehow to accomplish the revolution as it were in spite of itself and without a clear vision of the overall tasks of the revolution and means for its accomplishment. Our period requires a revolutionary leadership conscious of its mission in its full scope, conscious of the enormous possibilities inherent in the colossal wave of international revolution, capable of coordinating the international revolutionary forces and of leading them to victory as quickly as possible. In this sense it may be said that the more the revolution progresses and touches advanced industrial countries, the more the existence of such a leadership will become necessary for victory. In the same sense, the experiences in Jugoslavia and China do not invalidate but on the contrary confirm the need for the Fourth International, not only on a world scale but also in these two countries themselves.

30. By the scope of the transformations which the Chinese revolution has brought about in China itself and throughout the world, the People’s Republic of China occupies a special place among the new non-capitalist states which have appeared since World War II. The Chinese revolution and the People’s Republic of China are today, the principal motor force of the colonial revolution, an essential element of the international revolutionary upsurge. This imposes upon the People’s Republic of China special relations with American imperialism; it is upon the People’s Republic of China that the U.S. concentrates its principal fire at the present stage. This is precisely the meaning of the Korean War, of the first rank occupied henceforth by Asian affairs in the diplomacy, policy, and military strategy of American imperialism. That is why it is a vital question for the People’s Republic of China to assure itself of Soviet aid and alliance so long as the revolution has not triumphed in other advanced industrial countries. At the present stage and for the entire stage to come, it is not the Kremlin which “imposes” an alliance upon China, it is the People’s Republic of China which demands guarantees that this alliance be maintained. The more the colonial revolution extends to other Asian countries, the stronger will grow the pressure that the People’s Republic of China will be able to exert in this sense upon the Kremlin. But the maintenance and the consolidation of the Sino-Soviet military alliance are by themselves independent of the Kremlin’s degree of influence upon the Chinese CP, that is to say, of the extent of the decline of Stalinism in China. The latter is a function of the relationship of forces between the Chinese CP and the Kremlin, fundamentally a function of the progress of the colonial revolution, of the economic reconstruction of China, and of the progress achieved by the proletariat in the rest of the world, including the Soviet Union itself.

31. From this flow the actual stages which have been traversed up to now by the relations between the Chinese CP and the Kremlin:

  1. From the victory of Mao up to the American offensive toward the Yalu River: the Chinese CP affirmed its de facto independence, including its independence in the ideological field. The stress is placed upon equality between the two allies, and upon Mao’s role as the guide of the revolution in all the colonial countries.
  2. From the American offensive toward the Yalu up to the death of Stalin: the Chinese CP affirmed the vital character of its alliance with the Kremlin, the decisive aid which it obtains and must obtain from the Soviet Union in military, economic, technical, cultural, and other fields. The stress is placed on the great example and lesson of the Soviet Union, on the role of Stalin as the guide of the world proletariat, including the Chinese proletariat.
  3. Since Stalin’s death: Mao’s prestige has risen considerably throughout the entire non-capitalist world and among all the Communist Parties. Domestic economic difficulties impel China toward an armistice in Korea. Stress is once again being placed upon equality between the two allies. The Soviet Union’s economic aid takes first place in propaganda.

One inescapable part of this entire evolution is inherent in the objective world situation; the other part derives from the opportunist policy of the Chinese CP, the lack of revolutionary audacity on the part of its leadership and its lack of confidence in the dynamism of the revolutionary forces in Asia.

32. Mao’s victory has signified only the beginning of the Third Chinese Revolution. The tasks of this revolution are only beginning to be solved. After the unification of the country, a unified national market for food products and for manufactured consumers’ goods has been created; the conquest of national independence has been by and large achieved; the agrarian reform has been extended and achieved over the entire territory of China. Age-old social relations have been overthrown in the Chinese countryside (relations between peasants and landlords and merchant-usurers, between men and women, between parents and children), and this represents an enormous progress.

In this process the Chinese CP, after being first pushed into action by the peasant masses which overwhelmed it in the North, found itself later obliged itself to mobilize the peasant masses in the South in order to achieve the agrarian reform. This led it to attack for the first time in a massive way the positions and property of the bourgeoisie. But the bourgeoisie preserves to this day 20% of heavy industry, 60% of light industry, and the greater part of retail trade; its complete expropriation will be a long and arduous task, above all in the sector of trade, which is nourished by scores of millions of small private peasant enterprises. But holding in its hands the key sectors of the economy, the major part of heavy industry and of the transport system, the banks, foreign trade and wholesale trade, the People’s Republic of China can and must begin the planned development of state industry even before the expropriation of the bourgeoisie has been achieved. To the extent that this process has begun and clearly indicates the future dynamic of the evolution, the working-class nature of the state becomes explicit. In the Soviet Union, too, the Left Opposition demanded the launching of large-scale industrialization without the suppression of all the measures of the NEP. But as long as the situation remains as it is, the Chinese CP will be able to limit its appeal to the masses and their mobilization, as has been the case for the last two years. These appeals to the working masses, while they have not entailed an enormous upsurge of the workers’ movement in the cities, have nevertheless obliged the government to modify its policy toward the workers, to ameliorate the workers’ position by the new regime of social security, of forms of workers’ participation in the administration of the enterprises, and improvements in living standards, thereby creating a more favorable climate for a new rise of the workers’ movement. It is in connection with the outbreak of the war, with the aggravation of class contradictions, with the necessity of expropriating the bourgeoisie which will confront the Chinese CP, that such a rise will most likely occur in order to carry through the conquests of the Chinese revolution.

33. The tasks of the Fourth International in Jugoslavia and in China are determined by the particular nature of these states and of the Jugoslav and Chinese Communist Parties. Since workers’ states are involved, we are obviously for their defense against any attempts to overthrow them and to alter the social bases created by the Jugoslav and Chinese revolutions. Since both the Chinese CP and to a certain extent also the Jugoslav CP are in reality bureaucratic centrist parties, which however still find themselves under the pressure of the revolution in their countries, we do not' call upon the proletariat of these countries to constitute new revolutionary parties or to prepare a political revolution in these countries. We are working toward the constitution of a left tendency within the JCP and within the Chinese CP, a tendency which will be able, in connection with the development of the world revolutionary rise, to assure and to lead a new stage forward in the revolution in these two countries. In China our forces will orient themselves particularly toward raising the level of consciousness and of organization of the proletariat and will use every opportunity offered by official government policy in order to prepare and accelerate the entry of the industrial proletariat into the revolution. In Jugoslavia, on the basis of unconditional defense of the conquests of the revolution against imperialism and against the Kremlin, including the conquests of the period from 1948 to 1950, our forces will attempt to constitute an opposition which will seek to replace the present leadership of the party, to break the military and diplomatic alliance of Jugoslavia with the imperialist bloc which is leading the revolution to ruin, to reconstitute officially the JCP, to establish a genuine socialist democracy with freedom of expression for all currents of working-class political opinion, to reorient it theoretically and politically toward revolutionary Marxism and toward the international revolutionary movement. Without a doubt, the evolution of the situation in the Soviet Union since Stalin’s death, and the approach of the revolutionary rise in that country and the beginning of its bursting out in the buffer-zone countries, will greatly favor such an orientation.

34. Unlike the new states of China, Jugoslavia and Vietnam, the non-capitalist states of the buffer zone in Eastern Europe were not the product of a revolutionary rise of the masses in these countries that swept beyond the policy and the organizational control of the Kremlin and obliged the Communist Parties of these countries to go forward on the road of revolution, independently of Moscow’s orders and contrary to them. They are, on the contrary, the product of Soviet expansionism, of the tight hold which the Kremlin has succeeded in maintaining over the Communist Parties and over the masses of these countries, owing either to the absence or too limited character of the revolutionary rise which took place there at the end of World War II. The weakening of the bourgeoisie of these countries as a result of the war permitted the Soviet bureaucracy to assimilate these countries structurally without being obliged to mobilize the masses on a large scale, without being menaced by a mass movement sweeping over their heads. Wherever the bourgeoisie still remained too strong to be eliminated in this cold way, as in Finland and Austria, the attempts at structural assimilation miscarried and these countries returned to the capitalist orbit. From this basic difference between the origin of the non-capitalist states of the buffer zone and the origin of the People’s Republic of China and of Jugoslavia flow important differences both as regards the reciprocal relations between these Communist Parties and the Kremlin, and between the CPs and the masses.

35. The attitude taken and the aims pursued by the Soviet bureaucracy in the buffer countries have passed through three phases:

  1. From 1944 to 1947: The basic aim was that of immediate economic pillage of the buffer zone. Toward this end the Soviet bureaucracy utilized the existing capitalist relations of production, by introducing reparation treaties, the seizure of former German property, the creation of Soviet stock companies, of mixed companies, etc. Economic reforms remained limited to agrarian reform and to the nationalization of basic industries. In general, coalition governments with the bourgeoisie and with the petty-bourgeois parties were maintained, governments in which the Communist Parties, however, made sure of the commanding levers (army, police, justice, etc.).
  2. From 1948 to 1950: Faced with the launching of the Marshall Plan and imperialism’s attempt at the economic disintegration of the buffer zone, the bureaucracy replied by eliminating the bourgeois parties from power, generalizing the nationalizations, projecting through two-year and three-year reconstruction plans the basis for overall planning of the economy, by beginning to develop peasant cooperatives, and by transforming the structure of the state.
  3. From 1951 on: Five- and six-year plans developed the industry of the buffer zone, integrating and tying it more and more closely with that of the Soviet Union; collectivization of agriculture has been pursued at rates varying from country to country. The arms programme imposed consider-able sacrifices upon the economy and upon the workers. The direct grip of the Soviet Union upon these countries, the “Russification” of the respective CPs became accentuated, indicating that social and economic contradictions were tending to become reflected inside these parties. To consolidate its hold upon these CPs has become task No. 1 and the most difficult task for the Soviet bureaucracy in the buffer countries.

36. The evolution of the workers’ movement and of the masses’ moods in the buffer zone differs from country to country. The essential criteria for judging this evolution are, on the one side, the extent to which the post-1948 industrialization has effectively overthrown the previously existing backward economic, cultural, and technological conditions, and, on the other side, the extent to which the CPs in the respective countries have been able to gain or preserve the confidence of important layers of the proletariat.

As regards Albania, Bulgaria, Rumania, Slovakia, and, in part, Hungary, industrialization is taking place at a relatively higher rate than in the Soviet Union itself, and in these countries has in tendency effects analogous to those which are being produced in the Soviet Union with regard to the social modification that they are bringing about there. Even though difficulties with restorationist layers among the peasantry, elements of national oppression introduced into the life of these countries, along with terror, and the still low living level of the masses, are delaying a new workers’ rise in these countries, this will finally occur in these countries as the product of the same causes. The Jugoslav CP could have played a leading role in developing this revolutionary rise; today its capitulationist course plays instead the role of a brake.

As regards East Germany, Poland, western Czechoslovakia, and in part Hungary, industrialization – while swiftly developing the productive forces – has not basically modified the weight, the technical skills, and the culture of the working class which had already attained a relatively high level there. In these countries, during the first stage, the workers’ resistance against the relative or absolute decline of living standards, against the dictatorship and the arbitrariness of the Stalinist bureaucracy in formation, has not ceased to sharpen and is becoming an increasingly greater obstacle to the Soviet bureaucracy’s carrying out its project. In Hungary and partly in Poland this resistance has been able to be limited because of the relative stability of the CP leadership. In Czechoslovakia and East Germany, where this resistance is combined with violent shocks within the leading apparatus, it is resulting in a very grave and prolonged crisis, marking the inception of the revolutionary rise (strikes and workers’ demonstrations May to June 1953). In, these countries, as in the Soviet Union or even at a still faster pace, the struggle for the conquest of socialist democracy is maturing.

37. It is still too early to predict the precise organizational form which the revolutionary rise will assume in each of the buffer-zone countries. Two variants are possible:

  1. The development of autonomous mass action transmitting themselves to the native Communist Parties where there are developing leftist currents capable of giving leadership to the upsurge. This variant is the more probable for those CPs that have preserved a broad enough workers’ base and possess old traditions: Hungary, Bulgaria, partially Czechoslovakia and East Germany.
  2. The development of independent mass movements finding their coordination outside the legally existing organizations, through the appearance of new political currents or the revival of Social Democratic organizations. This variant is the more probable for those countries where the CP has only a feeble tradition or a narrow mass base: Albania, Rumania, Poland, and in part East Germany and Czechoslovakia.

A combination of these two organizational forms cannot be excluded, either. We must be prepared for these two possible organizational forms of the future upsurge so as always to be within the real movement of the masses when it will burst forth. It is naturally necessary carefully to distinguish genuine working-class resistance movements, no matter what confused forms they may take on initially, from restorationist movements instigated by the remnants of former possessing classes and by imperialism and led by them, movements which it is necessary to combat. Also, the more the outbreak of the revolutionary upsurge is delayed, and the young generation which has known no form of political organization other than the CP will awaken to political life, the more the CP will tend to become the natural forum in which the leadership of the new revolutionary upsurge will develop. That is why our forces will seek to carry out their tasks, which are in general similar to those we have in the Soviet Union and whose solution demands the construction of Bolshevik-Leninist parties, through an entrist tactic toward the CPs, while remaining prepared to join quickly any other mass organization which might appear at the beginning of the upsurge. Our basic task within the buffer zone is to assure a Bolshevik leadership to this upsurge and to prevent its falling under the domination of reformist, semi-restorationist forces. This upsurge has to lead to the constitution of genuinely independent Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Rumanian, Bulgarian and similar Socialist Republics, free to associate themselves voluntarily among themselves in a Balkan-Danubian Federation of Socialist Republics.

38. The general dynamic of the decline of Stalinism in the buffer-zone countries may be clearly outlined as follows:

  1. In all these countries structural assimilation has not been able to be effected except through the turning over of political and economic power, in large measure, to the native Communist Parties. These parties thereby acquired a relatively independent base even in cases where, because of lack of mass support, this power remains precarious and depends upon support of the Kremlin.
  2. In all these countries the national CP leadership has sought – first against the Kremlin, and since the death of Stalin perhaps partially with the Kremlin’s encouragement – to avoid the most disastrous aspects of Stalinist policy in the Soviet Union, above all, forced collectivization.
  3. In all these countries, after a transitional period of retreat, passivity, and confusion, the working class appears stronger and more active than before to fight for socialist democracy.
  4. In all these countries the objective factors (the war devastations, the low level of the productive forces, etc.) and the subjective factors (absence of workers’ organization, the onerous past of a fascist or military dictatorship, lack of revolutionary perspectives, intensification of national sentiments, etc.) which checked the upsurge in 1944 and aided its strict control by the Kremlin, are beginning to disappear and are only partially compensated for by the elements of demoralization produced by the dictatorship, national oppression, the relative reduction of living standards in the entire last period, etc.

39. In all these countries the changes occurring in the Soviet Union since Stalin’s death have had considerable repercussions. These have affected simultaneously the internal regime of these parties, their ties with the Kremlin, and their ties with the masses.

Special economic conditions – the monetary reform in Czechoslovakia, the increase of norms in East Germany – have caused the resistance of the masses to the bureaucratic dictatorship to culminate in an open revolt of the proletariat in these countries. This revolt, which is nothing other than the beginning of the political revolution by which the masses will overthrow the Stalinist dictatorship, brings the most striking confirmation of the predictions of our movement on this question. It also confirms – by the example of the S.E.D., which on June 17th 1953 was split from top to bottom by the pressure of the revolutionary uprising of the masses, and a part of which showed itself disposed to capitulate to the workers – the heterogeneous character of the bureaucracy and the effects of disintegration produced in it by such action of the masses.

This revolt has doubtless cheeked the application of the « new course » on the political plane, and in certain cases such as in Germany has been replaced by a regression in this field. But even in these cases the “new course” has been generally applied on the economic plane, and further strengthened in East Germany by the concessions that the Soviet bureaucracy made after June 17th (giving up reparations, turning over the SAG to the national Stalinist authorities).

This “new course,” the most complete example of which has been represented by the reorientation of the Hungarian government, includes these noteworthy features:

  1. An improvement in economic conditions for all strata of the population; a slowing down in the development of heavy industry; a slowing down in agrarian collectivization, improvement in supplying the people with industrial goods; softening of the repressive legislation on “violations of labor discipline,” etc.
  2. A softening of the atmosphere of extreme tension in the mass organizations; less rigid language, less “prefabricated” discussions, greater possibilities for the lower cadres to get a hearing for their concerns, etc.

This new course, very likely ordered by the Kremlin, is designed as a means of strengthening the grip of the Stalinist Parties on the buffer countries by making it more flexible, less rigid. But, through the social and political forces it will liberate, through the differentiation it will help bring about in the CPs and the youth organizations it will facilitate even more than in the USSR, the rise of the proletariat toward the political revolution.

It goes without saying that the accentuation of the revolutionary rise and its extension into Western Europe and into the USSR, before or during the war, will play a decisive role in the emancipation of the proletariat of the buffer zone from the bureaucratic straitjacket imprisoning it.

40. The programme of political revolution on the order of the day in all the buffer countries includes the following noteworthy points:

  1. Freedom for working-class prisoners.
  2. Abolition of repressive anti-labor legislation.
  3. Democratization of the workers’ parties and organizations.
  4. Legalization of all workers’ parties and organizations.
  5. Election and democratic functioning of mass committees.
  6. Independence of the trade unions in relation to the government.
  7. Democratic elaboration of the economic plan by the masses, for the masses.
  8. Effective right of self-determination for peoples.

III. The Rise and Decline of Stalinism in the Communist Parties of the Capitalist World

41. The Communist parties were created above all under the impetus produced by the October Revolution within the Social Democratic parties and, subordinately, within other formations of the pre-1914 workers’ movement. The victory of the Soviet bureaucracy in the USSR enabled it to exploit the prestige of the October Revolution among the world proletarian vanguard. That is the primary cause for the victory of Stalinism in the CPs. The inherent weaknesses of these parties facilitated this process. The lack of a left-wing organized on a clear-cut program inside the pre-1914 Social Democracy resulted in the political and theoretical weakness of most of the CP leadership in the early years of the Communist International. This led, on the one hand, to the crushing political preponderance of the Bolshevik Party inside the International and, on the other, to the lack of preparation of other party leaderships seriously to cope with the controversial issues beginning with 1923. Once the Bolshevik Party had been bureaucratized, Stalin’s faction met with little serious organized opposition in transplanting bureaucratic centralism into the Communist International. The process of Stalinization of the Communist Parties was accentuated by the ebb of the workers’ movement in the period from 1923 to 1943, the year when Stalin proceeded to dissolve the CI.

42. The CI and the Communist Parties were converted into instruments of Kremlin diplomacy for a bureaucratic defense of the Soviet Union. They abandoned the struggle for the world revolution and sought to exert pressure upon various national bourgeoisies so as to obtain from them a diplomatic orientation in conformity with the Kremlin’s views. These transformations of the CP objectives provoked swings from adventurism to opportunism, and led certain Communist Parties to take directly counter-revolutionary actions at certain periods (notably in Spain during the People’s Front days).

The Stalinist policy resulted in numerous defeats of the working class, including the Nazi victory in Germany, fruit of the policies of both the German Communist Party and the German Social Democratic Party. Each of these defeats accentuated the ebb of the world revolution and reinforced the grip of the Soviet bureaucracy upon the USSR as well as upon the vanguard which remained attached to the Russian Revolution.

The bureaucratic regime within the CI and within the CPs entailed a theoretical decline. The CI became less and less a centre for the elaboration of an international political orientation. The CP leaderships were selected and changed from above, depending upon their aptitude in following orders from the Kremlin through all the multiple turns and zigzags. The CPs functioned under the aegis o£ empiricism, monolithism and historical falsification. Thus came about a selection in reverse of leaderships, which eliminated the most independent and the most politically capable elements. This regime, in fact, suppressed any possibility of collective political work by the national leaderships, transforming them instead into mere transmission belts for the Kremlin’s orders.

43. Originally constituted in order to become the national sections of a world revolutionary party, the Communist Parties, under Stalinist leadership, became instead degenerated workers’ parties. Their bureaucratic leaderships depended upon the Kremlin, above all because they lived politically upon exploiting the prestige of the October Revolution and of the Soviet Union among the masses. Nevertheless, unlike the CP of the Soviet Union, the leadership of the Stalinist Parties did not express the interests of a special social stratum with enormous material resources at its disposal. Because of this fact the dual nature of these parties is not identical with the dual nature of the Soviet bureaucracy. By their rank and file, which in contradistinction to the Social Democratic Parties, was generally composed of the most exploited and the most militant sectors of the working class, they were obliged to reflect, to a certain extent and however inadequately, the interests of the proletariat. By their leadership they were subjected to strict control by the Kremlin which sought to maintain the status quo of the revolution “in a single country,” precisely at the expense of the revolution in other countries.

By their bondage to Soviet diplomacy, the Communist Parties were led at various periods to practise an opportunist policy very close in its effects to that of the Social Democracy. Even in those periods the Communist Parties could never go so far as to fuse with the Socialist Parties because they were the instruments, not of their own national bourgeoisie, but of the Kremlin. All doubts on this score were dissipated by the decisive test of World War II: in their overwhelming majority the Communist Parties (the leadership as well as the rank and file) remained faithful to the policy of the Kremlin bureaucracy, notably during the period of the Soviet-German Pact.

44. In the pre-war period the Communist Parties of the capitalist countries experienced varied developments: some, like the French CP, have seen their influence over the masses grow; others, like the British CP, never experienced a genuine upsurge. But during this period all the numerous crises which shook the Communist Parties were surmounted by Stalinism in a way which strengthened its grip upon them.

The main reason for it was that during this period of ebb of the revolution, every great mass struggle ended in defeat, and what became detached from the Communist Parties was either a very small revolutionary vanguard on the programme of Trotskyism, or currents renouncing revolutionary struggle, while the Communist Parties retained militant worker cadres attached to the Soviet Union in an overall way without distinguishing between the state and its leadership.

Each turn was regarded by these militants as a mere tactical manoeuvre dictated by the need to save the first workers’ state at all costs. It should however be noted that the role played by Stalinism in the Spanish Civil War, an openly counter-revolutionary role, while it did not turn against Stalinism the Communist militants who had come to fight in the International Brigades, did, nevertheless, for the first "time, sow doubts among them, as was revealed much later – after the break with Jugoslavia.

As a consequence, almost everywhere, the Stalinist Parties remained face to face with the Social Democratic Parties as organizations revolutionary in appearance and numerically strongest, and it was toward them that the newly politicalized militant elements turned during each new workers’ upsurge. This was the case especially during World War II, in the course of which the Communist Parties became strengthened thanks to their activity inside the Resistance Movements and thanks to the prestige of the Soviet victories.

But it was during this same war period that for the first time a Communist Party, the Jugoslav CP, ceased to act in accordance with the strict requirements of the Kremlin’s policy. During the war, because of both the acuteness of the struggle against the armies of occupation and the tensions within Jugoslav society which prevented the CP from practising class collaboration in the name of the National Front, the CP was led to build a new army, mass organs of power, and to seize power at the head of the insurgent masses. For several years the Jugoslav leadership tried to adjust this situation to the Kremlin’s demands, but finally the conflict erupted in 1948, demonstrating the profound incompatibility between the Soviet bureaucracy, the product of the ebb of the revolution, and a powerful revolutionary movement.

It was likewise after the end of the war that the Chinese CP, confronted with a mighty uprising which posed before it the alternative of either putting itself at its head or of disappearing from the political scene, engaged in a mortal combat with Chiang Kai-shek and conquered power through a struggle of Chinese Red Armies backed by a giant peasant uprising.

In the course of the war the Kremlin’s relations with the Communist Parties were loosened. The leadership of the CI was isolated from many parties. It was this moment that was chosen by Stalin to dissolve the CI. In this same period, under pressure of the beginning of the revolutionary upsurge (France, Greece, ...), differences within the CP leaderships having a mass base began to manifest themselves. Other leaderships went beyond the required limits of opportunism and were called to order by Moscow (the United States, Holland, ...). The unfolding post-war situation no longer permitted the Kremlin to reestablish the rigid control over the Communist parties which existed prior to the war. The formation of the Cominform was less intended to attain this than to take Jugoslavia and the buffer zone firmly in hand.

45. With the victory of the Chinese revolution over the Kuomintang regime, the period of the revolutionary upsurge, which began in 1943 with the downfall of fascism in Italy, entered a new stage, basically marked by a relationship of international forces favorable to the revolution and evolving on a global scale more and more favorably. The revolutionary wave is spreading from country to country, from continent to continent. It has recently reached the Soviet Union itself and the buffer zone.

The Communist Parties of the capitalist countries consequently find themselves placed in conditions absolutely different from those of the pre-war days.

In those countries where the Communist Parties are in the minority in the working class, the revolutionary upsurge has generally manifested itself through an influx of the masses into the majority parties, isolating the Communist Parties still further, at the same time that leftist currents, such as Bevanism, are beginning to appear within these majority parties.

In countries where the working class has not yet formed its own mass parties, as is the case for the Latin-American countries, among others, the Communist Parties as a rule represented the strongest tendency in the existing political movement of the class. Their Stalinist degeneration, especially their treachery during and immediately after the war, has caused a permanent crisis in these parties, which is becoming accentuated with the rise of the mass movement in Latin America and their inability to offer it a revolutionary outcome. The crisis in these parties can lead the major part of the communist cadres to come close to the Fourth International and even join its ranks. This on condition that the Trotskyist organizations fulfill their task of revolutionary leadership of the masses and adopt a dynamic and flexible attitude toward the Communist militants by seeking a common basis in action which would facilitate their transition to Trotskyism.

As for the mass Communist Parties, their relations with Moscow are being subjected to conditions drastically different from the past: the very power of the mass movement in their own countries, developing in the direction of revolutionary struggles, asserts itself increasingly. Relations with Moscow become loosened (during the war there were even prolonged disruptions in certain cases). Finally, it is in place to add, since the recent developments in the USSR, there has been an uncertainty on the part of the CP leaderships about the policy of the Kremlin and – on the part of the rank and file – there are possibilities of a critical attitude toward the regime in the Soviet Union and in the “People’s Democracies.”

This international situation and its repercussions on the Communist Parties of the capitalist countries thus open up two ways for the decline of Stalinism in the workers’ movement under its control:

46. The evolution of future relations between the Kremlin and the leaderships of the mass Communist Parties, and between these parties and the masses, depends on several factors:

It is impossible to foresee exactly the action and interaction of these basic factors. In any case it is possible to indicate that the greater the scope of the revolutionary upsurge, and the closer it impinges upon industrially advanced countries, then the more the political initiative will slip out of the Kremlin’s hands, while centrist tendencies will become accentuated inside the mass Communist Parties affected by this upsurge. In the same way, the more that the revolutionary upsurge passes under a consistent revolutionary leadership, and the greater the tendency to have direct repercussions in the Soviet Union itself, then the more able will this leadership be to deal a mortal blow to Stalinism in its very heart, even before the majority of the communist militants in these countries have freed themselves from the Kremlin’s control and influence.

This entire dynamic is neither unswerving nor uniform. It must be understood as a complex dialectical process with many contradictions and partial swings backward. It does not exclude but on the contrary implies:

  1. the possibility for the mass Communist Parties to carry out temporary turns to the right within given conditions, as long as mass pressure has not reached its culminating point;
  2. the possibility of expulsions or break-aways of numerically restricted groups of militants and cadres;
  3. the possibility, during the war, of open counter-revolutionary actions by the Kremlin against mass movements, especially those that will be still isolated.

But it is important to understand the general direction of the evolution in which these variants will occupy a less and less important place, in which the mass revolutionary movements will more and more succeed in liberating themselves from the Kremlin’s control, whatever may be their initial form or their initial leadership.

This process of disintegration of Stalinism by no means signifies that for the mass Communist Parties there will take place a gradual transformation of these organizations into revolutionary Marxist parties. Crises and great transformations will be necessary and inevitable for revolutionary Marxist parties under the banner of the Fourth International to emerge from this. But these transformations which will mark the complete end of Stalinism will come as the culminating points of a process which at present begins by stages in the course of which the Communist Parties, compelled to seek to strengthen their ties with the masses, begin to shake off, often in scarcely perceptible ways, the rigid ties of Stalinist obedience.

IV. The Role and Future of the Fourth International

47. The Fourth International issued from the Left Opposition of the S.U. Communist Party and from the Bolshevik-Leninist fraction of the Third International. It originated in the defense against Stalinist revisionism of Lenin’s programme, of Leninist strategy and tactics, of the principal lessons of October and of the revolutionary defeats in Europe and Asia. The Fourth International, and the Soviet Left Opposition and the International Left Opposition which preceded it, were in a large measure born from the struggle against the theory of “socialism in one country,” against the theory of the “bloc of the four classes,” against the conceptions of building socialism at a “tortoise pace” or “in giant strides,” against the opportunist tactics of unprincipled alliances with the reformist bureaucracy, with the peasant parties, with the national bourgeoisie in the colonies, and against the ultra-left tactic of “social-fascism.” This principled origin of the Trotskyist movement represents its great strength. For the first time in the history of the workers’ movement, an international organization was constituted exclusively on the basis of agreement o{ the cadres with a precise programme, strategy, and tactics. But at the same time in this strength lay a sure danger of great weakness because of its being cut off from the workers’ movement: that of the transformation of the Trotskyist organization into a discussion club and into an academic sect of Marxist critics of Stalinist policy. The founders of the Fourth International, especially Leon Trotsky, were to such a degree conscious of this danger that as early as 1933 they concentrated all their efforts upon rooting the Trotskyist nuclei in the mass movement, upon reestablishing ties with this movement wherever they had been broken, and upon selecting a new generation of Trotskyist workers’ cadres. In some countries, such as the United States, this task had already made great progress prior to World War II. In Europe, in Asia, in the greater part of the Latin American countries, the blows dealt to our movement by Stalinist terror and by imperialist and fascist persecutions, by the lack of continuity of our leaderships and our principal cadres, but above all by the effects of the world-wide ebb of the workers’ movement, prevented the solution of this task prior to and during the Second World War. It is only in the course of the new revolutionary upsurge, beginning with 1943, that the international movement became fully conscious of this new stage into which the Trotskyist organizations had to enter, the stage of the practical application of the Transitional Programme. It is beginning with the Third World Congress and with the Tenth Plenum of the IEC that the majority of the Trotskyist organizations acquired a concrete conception of the manner in which they must root themselves within the mass movement of their country and conquer leadership therein.

48. The origin of the Fourth International in a factional struggle inside the Third International against the Stalinist faction of the international communist movement has given rise to deviations in the Trotskyist movement which considered the struggle against the deviations and crimes of Stalinism as their main function. In reality the role of the Fourth International was and remains quite different. It was not by accident that at the very inception of the Trotskyist movement is to be found the struggle for the theory of the Permanent Revolution which is the most conscious expression of the social dynamic of our epoch. The Fourth International opposes all other workers’ leaderships which represent only special, selfish, bureaucratically or nationally narrow interests, whether they are reformist, centrist, Stalinist, or of any other variety. The Fourth International opposes any attempt to limit the action of the workers to the defense of positions already conquered, whether these be bourgeois democracy, the Soviet state or the Jugoslav state. It represents the interests as a whole of the international proletariat and its historic goals, the worldwide realization of the socialist revolution, the worldwide construction of the communist society. It is because the socialist revolution is distinguished from every other revolution by the high degree of consciousness it requires from the vanguard of the class which carries it out, that this goal cannot be definitively achieved without the building of a workers’ leadership that has assimilated the programme of the Fourth International. The Fourth International does not conceive of winning over the workers’ vanguard and the masses to its programme and to its organization by opposing itself to the actual movement of the masses, but by integrating itself into it, by fusing itself with it, and by aiding through its political and practical intervention its advance and the selection of new leading cadres within its ranks.

49. The particular conditions in which the Fourth International was born – in contrast to the First, the Second, and the Third Internationals, it was born not in a period of rise but in a period of ebb of the working-class movement – determined in the last analysis the slow rate of growth of its organizations and their great) weakness at the beginning of the upsurge in 1943. From this fact, as much as from the still limited character of this upsurge, above all in the countries of Western Europe, has flowed the impossibility for the Fourth International to become a leading force of this upsurge in most of the countries of the world. This in its turn has facilitated the manoeuvres of the Soviet bureaucracy to control, check, and stop this upsurge. But it is precisely during this same stage that in many important countries more solid Trotskyist leaderships and cadres have been selected. For this reason the Fourth International enters the next stage of the upsurge and especially will enter the Third World War with a solidity infinitely superior to that of 1939 and with far more serious and tangible chances of asserting itself and of rallying round its programme a genuine revolutionary leadership of the masses in many countries.

50. The rise of Stalinism was inaugurated by a ferocious struggle against the Left Opposition in the Soviet Union and against the International Left Opposition because these incarnated, as against the conservative interests of the Soviet bureaucracy, the genuine interests of the international and the Soviet proletariat. Despite the attempts of the state apparatus, the most powerful in the world, to crush them, the handful of conscious revolutionaries who at this period formed the Trotskyist movement not only survived but also transmitted intact to the younger generations in most of the countries of the world the entire Leninist programmatic heritage as against the falsifications of the Kremlin. The decline of Stalinism opens up, in varying degrees, favorable conditions for an upsurge of the Trotskyist movement in the entire world. In all countries where the decline of Stalinism is the direct product of the power of the revolutionary upsurge, Trotskyism, Trotskyist ideas, and the Trotskyist programme are experiencing a striking confirmation, and it depends, at bottom, upon the tactical organizational flexibility of our organizations whether they profit to the full from this confirmation. In the USSR itself and in the buffer-zone countries, the existing stage, preliminary to or the beginning of the revolutionary upsurge and characterized by a process of differentiation, of uncertainty, of sharp turns, and even panic among the Stalinist leaders, is very favorable to the reappearance of our ideas and our organization within the working-class movement. Upon the capacity of the International to utilize the slightest fissures in the apparatus for the introduction of our ideas will depend whether this reappearance will take place in a conscious and organized form or whether it will begin by assuming more confused and more complicated forms. As for the countries which will be drawn into the revolutionary upsurge at the next stage, immediately on the eve or in the course of the war, the International has been specially armed to utilize to the maximum the opportunities offered for increasing the influence of our organizations and assuring their breaking through. The disorder and confusion which reign in the leading Stalinist circles, arising both from political problems they are unable to solve and from the latest events in the Soviet Union, will aid us greatly in this task. The significance of our intervention in the world crisis which is shaking Stalinism can be specified as follows: to regain the maximum of the cadres and honest revolutionary militants working for the communist cause in the ranks of the CPs that the crisis of Stalinism is shaking and will shake more and more; to assure the new revolutionary leadership of the proletariat; to assure the proletarian victory with the least possible expense in regard to the defense of the already existing conquests of the revolution as well as the duration and convulsions of the revolutionary epoch. If we learn how to combine intransigent principled firmness with an extreme tactical flexibility with regard to the integration of our forces in the real mass movement, we shall make the decline and downfall of Stalinism coincide with the triumph of the Fourth International and of the world revolution.


1. “A fresh upsurge of the revolution in the USSR will undoubtedly begin under the banner of the struggle against social inequality and political oppression. Down with the privileges of the bureaucracy. Down with Stakhanovism! Down with the Soviet aristocracy and its ranks and orders! Greater equality of wages for all forms of labor!

“The struggle for the freedom of the trade unions and the factory committees, for the right of assembly and freedom of the press, will unfold in the struggle for the regeneration and development of soviet democracy.

“The bureaucracy replaced the Soviets as class organs with the fiction of universal electoral rights – in the style of Hitler-Goebbels. It is necessary to return to the soviets not only their free democratic form but also their class content. As once the bourgeoisie and kulaks were not permitted to enter the soviets, so now it is necessary to drive the bureaucracy and the new aristocracy out of the soviets. In the soviets there is room only for the representatives of the workers, rank-and-file collective farmers, peasants and Red Army men.

“Democratization of the soviets is impossible without legalization of soviet parties. The workers and peasants themselves by their own free vote will indicate what parties they recognize as soviet parties.

A revision of planned economy from top to bottom in the interests of producers and consumers! Factory committees should be returned their right to control production. A democratically organized consumer’s cooperative should control the quality and price of products.

“Reorganization of the collective farms in accordance with the will and the interests of the workers engaged therein!

“The reactionary international policy of the bureaucracy should be replaced by the policy of proletarian internationalism. The complete diplomatic correspondence of the Kremlin to be published. Down with secret diplomacy!

“All political trials staged by the Thermidorian bureaucracy to be reviewed in the light of complete publicity and controversial openness and integrity. The organizers of the frame-ups must pay the proper penalty.

“It is impossible to carry out this programme without the overthrow of the bureaucracy which maintains itself by violence and falsification.” (Extracts from the Transitional Programme)

They will demand the application of the democratic right of self-determination, including that of secession, for all national minorities living in the USSR, struggling for the Ukrainian, White-Russian, Esthonian, Lithuanian, independent socialist republics.

2. That is also what the Transitional Programme means: “Only the victorious revolutionary uprising of the oppressed masses can revive the Soviet regime and guarantee its further development toward socialism. There is but one party capable of leading the Soviet masses to insurrection – the party of the Fourth International!” (Excerpt from the Transitional Programme)

3. Campaigns against pillage, corruption, bureaucratism, etc.

* * *

Footnote by MIA

1*. When we initially published this document, we attributed it to Michel Pablo on the basis of evidence we had received, although the Report on this question given to the 4th Congress of the Fourth International by Ernest Germain, who at that time used the pseudonym Ernest Germain. However, we have since been presented with evidence that shows that the document was a collaborative work by the International Executive Committee of the Fourth International and that the main author was Ernest Mandel. Thanks to Penelope Duggan for help in clarifying this issue.

Updated on: 6 April 2020