A Joint Statement by Three Socialist Tendencies in the U.S. –

Stalinism Is Not Socialism!

(17 October 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 42, 17 October 1949, p. 3.
Transcribed &anp; marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Labor Action herewith publishes the complete text of a statement on Stalinism which was drawn up for the signature of all organizations in the United States which, while opposing the Stalinist regime in Russia, proclaim their adherence to socialism.

The statement was originally submitted for the official signature of the Independent Socialist League, the Social-Democratic Federation, the Socialist Labor Party, the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party and the World Socialist Party. As may be seen from the statement, it was designed to emphasize the opposition of all socialistic groups in this country to any claim that. Stalinism makes to represent socialism, its ideals and its principles, without in any way concealing the fact that the signing organizations differ among themselves on numerous other questions which the statement is not intended to deal with.

The Independent Socialist League made it clear that it prefers to sign the statement together with all the other organizations. Unfortunately this proved to be impossible.

The Socialist Labor Party declined to sign the statement with the others on the ground that it does not acknowledge the claim of any organization except itself to the program of socialism, even though it took no particular exception to the validity of the statement as drafted. The Socialist Workers Party refused to sign it, either, although it will probably be very prudent about defending its decision in public. It did not take any exception to the characterization of Stalinism or to any of the specific terms in the statement. Still it refused to sign because the statement did not call for an uncompromising struggle against capitalism. It also objected because Social Democrats were among those invited to sign. The Social Democratic Federation also declined to sign its name officially to the statement. Its secretary, August Claessens, consented to the use of his signature in a personal capacity. The Independent Socialist League and the Socialist Party agreed to sign the statement officially.

No further comment on the statement is necessary, for the present. &mnash; Ed.



The ultimate objective of socialists of all schools represented in the United States of America is the abolition of man’s exploitation by man. The means to this end advocated by the several groups vary so widely that they cannot be reconciled; yet, with the single exception of the Communist Party, no American party, group or school which advocates socialism can see in the means by which the ruling coterie in the Soviet Union pretends to have implemented socialism, or in the results achieved, anything but a consistent and thoroughly cynical betrayal of traditional socialist ideals.

Besides their agreement upon socialism’s ultimate objective, American socialists are also in complete agreement upon one other thesis, which is that Stalinism is not socialism. They therefore resent in common the more and more frequent assertion by the Kremlin’s agencies in the United States and elsewhere that their mission is to “teach socialism.”

Before going further it must be made clear that some of the groups in the United States which seek to abolish man’s exploitation by man, by one means or another, are as hostile to capitalism, thence to the American political institutions which are inextricably associated with the capitalistic economy, and thence to the extension of American economic influence abroad, or capitalistic imperialism, as they are to Stalinism. They steadfastly refuse to take sides in what they consider a conflict between evils.

These views are always presented as reservations, by several anti-capitalistic groups in their declarations of hostility to the pseudo-socialism of the Kremlin and such of its agencies as the American Communist Party. Their position is briefly stated here so as to make it unmistakably clear that they do not join in an indictment of Stalinism in the Interest of capitalism or of capitalistic imperialism. With this reservation, those groups in the United States which strive towards socialism’s ultimate objective by their several means and which endorse this statement agree that Stalinism is not socialism for the following reasons, among many others:


A totalitarian despotism is not consistent with socialism.

In the Stalin Constitution of 1936, the USSR is described as “a socialist state of workers and peasants.” Workers, peasants and the state are certainly there; and the machinery set up certainly functions. But that machinery works to express the will of the most highly centralized, least responsible, least humane despotism that ever tyrannized a great human community.


Gross inequality in living standards and privileges is not consistent with socialism.

In no country on earth is there such a wide range of living standards and privileges, from slave laborer, through peasants, unskilled labor, skilled labor, bureaucrats, intellectuals and the commissariat, up to the ruling gang, as exists in Soviet Russia. At the end of only a few decades, educational and employment privileges for the children of the privileged give promise of a hereditary caste system.


The arbitrary administration of justice by the police is peculiarly repugnant to all socialists because of their historic conflict with the policing of ideas.

In Soviet Russia the thief, arsonist or murderer may have his day in court. The suspected political dissident is investigated, arrested, investigated again by torture, indicted, tried, sentenced, and the sentence executed by the police.


Judicial murder, through show trials and purges, for purely political purposes, have made forever false and shameful Stalin’s claim to be a champion of socialist ideals.

The methods employed in Russia in the late ’30s to clear Stalin’s bloody path to power, and more recently employed in the satellite states to liquidate honest opposition to Stalinism, are not to be explained as foul means to a good end. They are means for the foul liquidation of the ideals of socialism.


The enslavement and exploitation of industrial labor in the Soviet Union, under a fantastic system of speedup, wage differentials, police control of the worker’s choice of employment, with slave labor for the dissident, is the boldest possible repudiation of the basic elements of socialism.

Whatever one socialist group or another thinks that the function of unionism should be under established socialism, none has ever contemplated the preservation of the union as an instrument of state exploitation of the worker, which is the major function in the Soviet Union today.


The Russian peasant is today bound to the land in a condition of closely policed and harshly exploited state serfdom, which was never contemplated by any teacher of socialism.

Upon the question of whether or not the land should be nationalized and farming collectivized, American socialists differ. They differ not at all, however, in their feeling that mass liquidations, mass deportations to slave camps, and man-made famines, leading to state serfdom, are not implementations of socialist ideals, but a singularly savage form of the exploitation of man by man.


For many decades in many lands socialists have fought for freedom of expression; but never has any tyranny, political or ecclesiastical, so completely blanketed non-conformist expression through espionage and terror, or so completely quarantined a great mass of humanity against world news and trends of thought elsewhere, as has the Stalin dictatorship in what if has the effrontery to describe as “the land of socialism.”


There is now a mass of evidence available to prove that slave labor, made up largely of political dissidents, according to arbitrary police standards, from which there is no possible appeal, under barbarous and debasing conditions, using up millions of “expendibles” at minimum cost, has become an essential feature in the Soviet Union’s economic planning.

Stalinism this certainly is; socialism it certainly is not.


The utterly cynical Stalinist effort to follow upon the Kremlin’s use of the subservient Russian Orthodox Church as an instrument of policy by setting up state churches in the satellites, supported and patronized by the agencies of a frankly atheistic dictatorship, as new mediums for the extension of Stalin’s will, is abominable in the sight of all socialists, irrespective of their attitude towards religion or clericalism.

There has never been a school of socialism that has not championed freedom of religion and conscience. All American socialist groups insist upon the separation of church and state. There is, therefore, none that can take note with anything but loathing of these recent Stalinist aspirations to establish in the Kremlin a kind of godless Soviet Russian foreign policy in support of world papacy, using all complacent priesthoods as subsidized agents of tyranny.


Socialism is as staunchly opposed to the conquest and exploitation, by whatever means, of race by race, nation by nation, or state by state, as it is to the exploitation of man by man.

Socialism and imperialism are irreconcilable. Soviet Russian foreign policy in support of world revolution once enjoyed the support of many socialist groups in all countries and the sympathetic interest of many others. But the extension of Stalinist imperialism to neighboring peoples and their conversion into police states, is viewed with horror by all American socialists.

Finally, it must be said with emphasis that, for these several reasons, no group of socialists in the United States collaborate with Stalinists politically or believes that such collaboration anywhere can possibly serve the socialist cause or do socialism credit.

Endorsed through independent official action by:

The Socialist Party, Harry Fleischman, national secretary, signing;

The Independent Socialist League, Max Shachtman, national chairman, signing;

August Claessens, secretary of the Social Democratic Federation.


Max Shachtman
Marxist Writers’

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