MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: FI: 1938-1949: 1948 2nd Congress of the FI
The Struggles of the Colonial Peoples and the World Revolution
Resolution Adopted by the Second Congress of the Fourth International—Paris, April 1948
Written: December 1948 and January 1949.
First Published: 1948-49
Source: Fourth International, New York, Volume IX, No. 5, July 1948, pages 144-158.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Daniel Gaido and David Walters, November, 2005
Proofread/Edited: Scott Wilson, 2006
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2005. You can freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & proofreaders above.
I. Revolutionary Movements in the Colonies after the Second World War
1. The conclusion of World War II witnessed a series of violent eruptions of national liberation struggles in the colonial countries. These struggles, expressing the crisis of imperialism in the epoch of capitalist decline, brought sharply into relief the major problems of colonies and semi-colonies. Hitherto, the colonial struggles had remained by and large in the background of the historic struggles of this century, despite the fact that fully three-quarters of the world’s population lives in the colonial countries, while the super-exploitation of this huge mass of humanity provides the real foundation for the material and cultural development of Europe in particular.
The postwar colonial struggles in the Far East have given a demonstration of the swift development of political consciousness in backward countries—so swift and sweeping that the struggles in these countries have soared to levels comparable with the class struggles in Europe: The events in Viet Nam and Indonesia, in particular, were of historic significance. For in these countries struggles moved not only along the road of liberation from imperialism, but also and above all, along the road to power. Herein lies one of the characteristic features of colonial and semi-colonial struggles of our epoch—that is, the necessity of conquering state power in order to achieve freedom.
Moreover, the history of the struggles in Viet Nam and Indonesia provided a further verification of the theory of the permanent revolution, although in negative form. For these struggles demonstrated clearly that the anti-imperialist national liberation struggles can reach fruition only under the leadership of the proletariat, however small this proletariat may be; and that the bourgeoisie in the colonies is not only utterly incapable of wresting the colonial countries from the orbit of imperialism, but is in fact obliged to maintain these countries within the imperialist framework. The native bourgeoisie combines with the very imperialism against which, in the early stages of the struggle it had fought—in order to quell, ruthlessly curb and even crush the revolutionary struggles of workers and peasants.
The postwar struggles in the Far East, especially in Java and Viet Nam, offer still further testimony of the validity of the permanent revolution by revealing the combined character of the world revolution: The forward leaps of the struggles in the backward countries enable the colonial revolutions more and more to keep pace with, and even at times to outdistance the progress of revolutionary struggles in the metropolitan countries. This becomes most evident when we compare the revolutionary events at the end of the last imperialist world war with those at the conclusion of the First World War.
In the first case, the workers seized power in Russia, and fierce struggles for power shook a number of European countries; while the struggles in Africa and Asia, which, during the immediate postwar period took the shape of strikes and demonstrations, did not reach the plane of struggles for power. The situation was sharply changed and almost reversed at the end of World War II. On the one hand, in Europe there were the big resistance movements, which fell apart into their class component parts; and then, in one country after another, the class struggle was beaten back by imperialism in Western Europe and by Stalinism in Eastern Europe, either before or at the very moment when these struggles rose to the plane of combat for state power.
On the other hand, in Viet Nam and Indonesia the mass struggles against imperialism unfolded rapidly and rose with tremendous energy to the plane of struggle for state power; and, in fact, for a period, the power was actually torn from the grasp of France and Holland and held by the nationalist forces.
The struggles of the colonies and semi-colonies constitute an essential and a major part of our epoch of wars and revolutions. Indeed, they contain within themselves the necessary strength to achieve power (as demonstrated by the theory of permanent revolution). All this has been forcibly thrust to the fore by the actual struggles for and the temporary conquest of power in Viet Nam and Indonesia. The absence of a genuinely revolutionary party prevented these struggles from reaching their goal.
These events, taken in the setting of the struggles throughout the Far East—the Chinese civil war, the movements in Burma and India, etc.—show not only the enormously increased specific weight of colonial struggles, not only their growing importance, but also their international significance both for imperialism as well as for the world struggle for emancipation and for socialism.
The following factors, in particular, have played a determining role in precipitating the crisis that had been developing over a long period in colonial countries owing to a whole series of internal conditions, economic, social and political.
a) The prestige of the imperialist rulers has steadily declined as a result of the sharp reverses suffered by them. The peoples, hitherto terrorized by savage repressions, have understood that their masters are far from invincible. This has considerably strengthened the will of the masses for emancipation.
b) The vicissitudes of the war brought about an important loosening—and in certain cases a complete rupture—of relations between colonies and mother countries. Few occupants took the place of traditional oppressors, upsetting to one degree or another, the old established order. Thus in Viet Nam and Indonesia, the Japanese, before their capitulation, facilitated the establishment of national governments committed to “independence.”
c) The war loosened the economic ties between the old imperialist powers—Britain, France and Holland—and some of their colonies, affecting in particular the supply of capital goods by the mother countries to the colonies. At the same time, these powers have maintained their economic and military domination, thus blocking the colonies to a lesser or greater extent from purchasing capital goods from other powers and from carrying on trade in general. This has aggravated the economic situation in the colonies and has revealed still more sharply the condition of chronic crisis which imperialism produces in its colonies.
d) The absolute and relative weakening of the old imperialist powers, on the one hand, and the ascendancy of U.S. imperialism, on the other, have instilled some of the colonial bourgeoisie with the hope of exploiting to their own advantage the inter-imperialist contradictions, within the framework of their dependence on the old imperialist powers.
A cursory listing of these factors suffices to make it clear that the break-up of the colonial world is far from accidental.
The First World War and the October Revolution had already provided the points of departure for an upsurge of the oppressed masses in colonial and semi-colonial countries. But the scope of the movements in that epoch, the specifically independent role of the proletariat and the shocks suffered by the metropolitan countries, were small indeed in comparison with the scope of present-day struggles, in comparison with the role played by the proletariat in these struggles and the profound disturbances in the old colonial empires today.
Immediately following the First World War, and in some, cases not until several years later there were movements in a limited number of countries (India 1921 and 1930 and 1932, China 1925, Morocco 1926). In most instances the proletariat was still weak and trailed after the bourgeois parties (Congress Party in India, Kuomintang in China), so that the British, French and Dutch imperialists were able to maintain virtually intact and unaltered their old systems of domination. The end of World War II, on the other hand, has been marked by a revolutionary crisis involving all the colonial and semi-colonial countries of the Far East, the Near East, the Arab countries. In the countries of North Africa the crisis has assumed a different character and scope, while in Southern Africa there has been a national awakening.
With the end of World War II, the colonial and semi-colonial peoples, who constitute the overwhelming majority of mankind, have ceased to be what they were at the beginning of the Twentieth Century — the passive objects of the policies of world capitalism. They have become a more and more determining factor in world politics.
Whilst the Nineteenth Century was marked by the awakening and assertion of nationalities in Europe, the middle of the Twentieth Century has inaugurated the increased struggles for national demands among the old nations of Asia and North Africa, and the awakening and assertion of national consciousness among the immense colonial countries of the African continent.
3. One of the main features of the period which opened up with the end of World War II is the dislocation of the great colonial empires (Great Britain, France, Holland). This dislocation is one of the essential elements of the present instability of the capitalist world.
In the development of the world revolution, with its characteristic combination of class struggles in the mother countries with the social and national struggles of the colonial and semi-colonial peoples, the Second World War and its consequences have considerably increased the specific weight of the struggles of colonial and semi-colonial peoples in relation to the struggles of the proletariat of the great imperialist powers. The depth of the crisis of these old imperialisms is notably measured by this, that a large part of their superprofits, which enabled them to corrupt a layer of the workers, has disappeared, and that they are no longer able to maintain the equilibrium at home without making serious inroads into the living standards of the workers in the metropolitan centers.
The combined international character of the world revolution becomes more manifest than ever in the light of the great revolutionary struggles at the end of the war.
The developing revolutions in the colonial and semi-colonial countries, which, at the close of the Second World War, assumed considerable proportions in a number of countries (Viet Nam, Indonesia) have experienced setbacks and defeats.
Will imperialism succeed in completely restoring its domination over the colonial and semi-colonial peoples? The profound changes which have occurred in world economic and political relations and in the consciousness of vast colonial masses exclude any return to the past. Imperialism is forced to seek for new forms of colonial domination. But the present state of world relations, the weakness of the old imperialisms, the impossibility for American Imperialism to supplant or support all of them everywhere, the basic weakness of the national bourgeoisie, the growing disillusionment in the traditional nationalist parties, the absence of reformist organizations with established traditions—all these factors render the contradictions in the colonial countries even more profound than in the metropolitan countries. Therefore, even should the labor movement in the metropolitan countries be crushed (which by its very nature cannot take place rapidly), this could not prevent the revolutionary period resulting from the Second World War from prolonging itself in the colonies. Nor could it alter the profoundly unstable character of imperialist domination for a long time to come.
Many crises will continue to pose the problem of the struggle for independence against imperialism, and, at the same time, the struggle for the workers’ and peasants’ power against the colonial bourgeoisie who lean on imperialism. Consequently, the colonial countries constitute major centers of work for the Fourth International and for the building of revolutionary mass parties, indispensable for the victory of the exploited colonial masses.
The setbacks sustained by the revolution in Viet Nam and Indonesia are the products of the isolation of these movements, owing to the insufficient aid from the metropolitan countries, the treason of the Stalinists, the weakness of the revolutionary parties, and especially owing to the uneven development of the revolutionary process in the two most important countries in the Far East, China and India.
The uneven development of these struggles in the Far East tends to be overcome by their combined character. Furthermore, the evolution of these struggles is affected by the development of the struggles in Japan, where a ceaseless ferment among the workers has been taking place since the defeat of Japanese imperialism in the Second World War.
II. The Redivision of the World and the New Rivalries between the Powers and the Colonies
The war has upset traditional world relations. Great Britain, which occupied the dominant position in the colonial and semi-colonial world, has found her power profoundly shattered (to the benefit of the United States) and has been obliged to work out a new Empire strategy. In its advance toward world domination, the U.S. is compelled to pay special attention to colonial and semi-colonial countries where old rulers are tottering and which are of importance from several standpoints: strategic outposts, natural resources (oil, uranium, etc.), vast markets, fields of capital investment. The role of the U.S. in the colonies is therefore growing in weight. The expansion of U.S. positions in the colonial and semi-colonial countries is at the same time spurred by the wish to prevent the extension of Russian influence and to secure decisive positions in case of conflict with the USSR.
A. Great Britain’s Retreat
(a) Great Britain’s retreat is most clearly noticeable to date in the Far East. As late as 1939, British commercial interests and investments in China (10 billion dollars) were greater than those of all other powers combined. But during the war, American intervention to a large extent replaced the British, who gave up almost all their advantages in China. Their chief remaining stronghold is Hong Kong, an extremely important, but isolated, position. In general, British influence counts for little in the Pacific, which is becoming a vast American lake.
(b) For decades, the Near and Middle East were under almost exclusively British influence. Britain considered control over these countries vital for the protection of the route to her Far-Eastern Empire. The importance of these regions was enhanced by the discovery of oil fields.
British positions in this sector remain strong, even today, but they are beginning to give way to American penetration. At the same time, Britain’s influence is changing in form.
Iraq and Transjordan remain the pillars of British imperialism in the Middle East. Iran, on the other hand, has witnessed a decline in British influence, as a result of international rivalries. The strength of Soviet pressure on Iran calls forth American interference: the U.S. no longer trusts Britain to bar the road to Russia single-handed. Henceforth, British influence is to be restricted to the region of the southern oil fields, around the Persian Gulf.
British positions in Egypt are very precarious at present. The wartime economic development of that country resulted in a greater sharpening of social relations compared to the other Arab countries. Popular pressure against imperialist domination has attained a force that would require the use of huge military detachments by Great Britain, in order for her to maintain herself by bloody repressions. Facing such a costly and perilous solution, Britain had to consider the total evacuation of Egypt in a relatively short period of time.
Similarly, Britain’s inability to maintain herself in the face of postwar disturbances and rising anti-imperialist sentiments, the shrinking of her Empire resources and the subsequent necessity to reduce expenditures, has obliged Britain to announce the withdrawal of her troops from Palestine.
(c) It follows from this analysis that we are witnessing both a modification in the form of British influence and colonial exploitation, and a radical change in her Empire strategy.
Forced to limit her military potential, Great Britain no longer seeks to impose her rule by direct military occupation, She tries to safeguard her economic and financial interests in the Near and Middle East by means of an understanding with these semi-colonial countries. This policy is similar to that carried out in India and Burma.
Strategically, Britain is in fact abandoning her positive control over the Mediterranean, limiting herself to the upkeep of a few important bases: Malta, Cyprus, Gibraltar, and the Lybian ports (Tobruk and Benghazi). Generally speaking, the U.S. is in the process of taking over from the British in the Mediterranean.
(d) In accordance with the plans of the War Office, Great Britain is falling back strategically and economically on her possessions in Africa. The center of Empire defense is to be established at Kenya. It is intended to develop all the resources of Southern and Eastern Africa. Intensive development is taking place and being planned to compensate for the British losses suffered in other parts of the Empire and at the same time to give the British-African bloc the economic unity and strength indispensable for its strategic role. Large capital investments, amounting to over 100 million pounds per year, have been made in mines, industries and other properties in the Union of South Africa, A large number of British enterprises have established branches there during the same period, in accordance with the general plan of industrial decentralization of the metropolitan country and the consolidation of the African Empire. On a smaller scale, the process is being paralleled in British East Africa.
B. American Expansion
In its relations with the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the U.S. possesses the advantages deriving from its economic and financial omnipotence; furthermore, it is not discredited as are the old colonial powers.
a) In the Far East.
The collapse of Japanese power left the U.S. an uncontested mastery of the Pacific. As the sole occupiers of Japan, the American imperialists make it their main bastion in the Far East. They are restarting certain sectors of Japanese industry—much to the disquiet of Great Britain and China. They want to make Japan the main industrial center of the Far East again.
One of the essential objectives of U.S. imperialism is the possession of the immense Chinese market. To this end, the U.S. put forward the “Open Door” principle, i.e., the non-division of China into zones of influence, and the freedom of private initiative. The overwhelming economic superiority of the U.S. would also enable it to ensure for itself the totality of the Chinese market. But the fulfillment of this policy has since the end of the war met with great internal difficulties: civil war, inflation, thefts, corruption, etc.; and is affected by the U.S.-Soviet antagonism in the Far East and the existence of strategic positions held by Russia (Port Arthur, Russian rights in Dairen, and in railways).
From October 1945, to the summer of 1946, the Americans granted massive military aid to China. This military aid is due to the revival of the civil war and the threat constituted by the installation of Chinese Communist forces in Manchuria following its evacuation by Soviet troops. General Marshall, Truman’s special envoy, tried in January, 1946 to put an end to the civil war by seeking an agreement between Chiang Kai-shek and the Communists through the formation of a coalition government making room for the latter.
This American attempt was dictated by the need of halting the dismemberment of the country and of chronic civil warfare which would exclude any serious reconstruction of China and imperil Wall Street’s plans of penetration. The failure of the Marshall solution, on the one hand, and, on the other, Chiang Kai-shek’s resistance to the complete domination of American capital over Chinese economy, resulted in the abrupt stoppage of American military aid in September 1946. But the U.S. is unable to allow itself to lose interest in China, and thus permitting Soviet influence to extend in a country of such importance. The grave reverses suffered by the government troops who for lack of munitions have been unable to use their American equipment, have led the Washington circles to project once again immediate and massive assistance.
The occupation by the U.S. of a great number of territories in the Pacific completes their domination in this sector. Independence was formally granted to the Philippines on July 4, 1946, but nothing has been altered in the subjection of the Archipelago. Moreover, American ambitions in Melanesia and Polynesia cannot but arouse some friction with Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
b) Penetration in the old empires.
American supremacy in the Far East is pushing the U.S. to encroach upon the old colonial empires in this part of the world. The most vulnerable possessions are obviously those of the weak or enfeebled imperialisms such as Holland and France. The aid given by the U.S. to restore the domination of these powers over Indonesia and Viet Nam is balanced off by a strengthening of the American mortgage on Southeast Asia. The U.S. has advanced its interests in Indonesia by imposing itself as an all-powerful arbitrator during the negotiations between the Indonesian nationalists and the Netherlands. In Viet Nam, the U.S. intervention behind the scenes is having more and more influence on the bargaining. Its pressure is essentially exerted in the direction of eliminating Stalinist influence from the Viet Nam and bringing the conflict to an end.
Furthermore, the French possessions of the Pacific (New Caledonia, Oceania islands) have since the war become incorporated in the American economic orbit. Finally, U.S. interests do not spare Portuguese possessions in the Far East, particularly Macao, where the Americans wish to establish a naval base, the strategic importance of which is obvious. American influence has also strongly increased in the British West Indies. This has aroused Britain, which is considering the creation of a West Indian Federation as a counterweight for the attraction of the powerful neighbor.
American penetration is equally felt in Africa. In South Africa, American interests have been constantly growing. American capitalism has a fairly large share in Transvaal industry and has acquired new positions in the old mines. American capital is also interested in the markets of French “Dark” Africa.
In French North Africa, American penetration is mainly taking place in Morocco, under the form of private American investments, by the importation of material and capital. Since the war, the U.S. has become the main supplier of the Sherifian Empire.
A similar tendency, although less marked, makes itself felt in Algerian and Tunisian foreign trade.
c) U. S. Mediterranean policy.
American intervention in the Eastern Mediterranean is having a more direct effect. The May 1947 laws on aid to Greece and Turkey and President Truman’s speech at that time, mark a decisive turning point in American policy in this sector. The loan of 100 million dollars to Turkey, which as solely devoted to military and strategic purposes, has transformed Turkey into an advanced American bastion against the USSR.
The military control over the Iranian army, recently won by the USA, completes the security measures on the very frontiers of the USSR taken in this sector.
In Syria and the Lebanon, France’s departure and the bad relations with Great Britain have permitted the U.S. a strong development of their commercial relations; these two countries have been swamped with American goods.
By their skillful policy since the beginning of Ibn Saud’s reign, the Americans have managed to secure exclusive concessions in Saudi Arabia, in the larger part of this territory with its rich petroleum resources.
Thus, in all parts of the colonial world, American imperialism is grabbing the lion’s share. Its overwhelming economic and financial superiority over all the other imperialist powers of the world which have emerged enfeebled or undermined from the Second World War every day facilitates its penetration in new points of the globe. But this penetration has proceeded unevenly. While U.S. capital has virtually displaced the British from China and South America, this process has been much slower and more difficult in India and Africa.
American intervention in colonial countries assumes a twofold aspect. On the one hand, it helps the imperialists whose bases have been shattered, to restore order and capitalist rule wherever they are directly threatened. But on the other, it seizes the opportunity to entrench itself in these countries and to prepare its taking over of the heritage. Thus the aid given to the old, colonial powers represents for them a double-edged weapon.
Furthermore, the wealth of the United States exercises an undeniable attraction on the weak bourgeoisie of the colonial and semi-colonial countries and thus also acts in the direction of undermining the old empires. American imperialism is in a position to offer these bourgeoisies a perspective of economic dependence and of apparent political independence. This so-called political independence means, above all, the right of these bourgeoisies to exploit the colonial masses more intensely for their own account plus an obligation to remain within the orbit of American politics.
C. The Areas of International Friction
The new factor of American expansion has upset the old map of big power rivalries.
The dominant antagonism in the colonial and semi-colonial countries of the Far and Middle East is that between the USSR and the USA.
a) In the Far East, the USSR and the USA are colliding with each other especially in China and Korea. After evacuating Manchuria, the Soviet Union seeks to keep it in its sphere of influence by means of Mao Tse-tung’s armies, which are carrying out renewed offensives. Korea, which has been under Japanese domination since 1905, had its independence officially recognized in Cairo in 1943 by China, the US and Great Britain, and later, in 1945, at the Moscow Conference by the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, Korea was the object of a veritable race at the end of the war, a race which ended up in cutting the Korean peninsula into two water-tight halves: the Russians occupy the industrial North (coal, iron, electricity) whilst the Americans have moved into the South, which is more densely populated and essentially agrarian. This partition has completely disorganized the economic life of the country.
The Near and Middle East are the theater of a competition where the stake is petroleum and control of the Eastern Mediterranean. Here the US has made considerable gains recently. The positions gained by the USA in Iran and Turkey are so many setbacks for the USSR. The attitude adopted by the USSR on the partitioning of Palestine is based on the hope that the Kremlin may be able to penetrate the Near East by taking advantage of the troubled situation that will arise from the British withdrawal.
b) Although the U.S. and Great Britain try as much as possible to align their policies, in view of the Russian danger, nevertheless serious points of friction continue to exist between these two powers. The Americans, in the Far East, especially in Japan, are pursuing an anti-British policy which is causing great anxiety in the City.
Generally speaking, Britain shows anxiety on account of American economic domination over her dominions and colonies. As a matter of fact, important parts of the British Empire (India, Australia, West Indies, South Africa) were drawn more and more into the American orbit during the war. Great Britain is today trying to swim against the stream of US penetration by maintaining and consolidating her imperial preference system, despite American objections, by strengthening the economic bonds of the Empire as a whole, and by knitting closer its African possessions (refusal to hand Southwest Africa over to UN trusteeship, Pan-African plan, etc.).
III. The Search for New Forms of Imperialist Domination
New conditions compel the imperialists to revise their traditional forms of domination. It is impossible for them to continue ruling arbitrarily and enslaving the colonial peoples in the same way as in the past. To avoid losing everything, they are increasingly forced to grant nominal independence when the aspirations of the masses become too powerful. In every instance, in order to prevent or retard an open struggle, they endeavor to camouflage their rule with a democratic facade. A trait common to all these attempts takes the shape, on the one side, of a quest for stronger support among the colonial bourgeoisie so as to stem the mass movements, and on the other side, of encouraging and even artificially creating divisions within the respective bourgeoisie and countries.
Immediately after the war, imperialism tried to give its new forms of colonial domination an international juridical formula within the framework of the United Nations, namely, “trusteeships.” But this formula has up to now been disclosed as lacking any content whatever. While paying lip service to “trusteeship,” the old imperialisms have generally refused to place under “trusteeship” their colonies and mandates. For its part, the UN, far from trying to show the least inclination of realizing this demagogic formula in life, and far from opposing imperialist interventions in the colonies, has shown itself in the Security Council to be a valuable instrument in the service of imperialism. This was notably the case in UN intervention in Indonesia, where it made itself the mouthpiece of Yankee imperialism’s will against the aspirations of the Indonesian peoples.
The imperialists tend more and more to resort to indirect rule through closer collaboration and greater compromises with the national bourgeoisie in countries where the insistent demand for independence can no longer be evaded. These political methods tend to mask as far as possible the economic domination, still extremely great, and, in fact, decisive, of the countries which have been granted independence. Imperialism continues to dominate by sheer weight of its influence in the economy of these countries,
The imperialists, all the same time, tend more and more to try to secure their hold over the insurgent colonies by means of artificial divisions and partitions. Whilst the defenders of colonialism used often in the past to claim that imperialism played a unifying role for a whole number of countries, decaying capitalism, in order to maintain its domination has had to put to an end this role of “unifier” and has instigated new separatist movements (Pakistan, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Palestine).
This process has not proceeded in the same war in all the colonies. It is particularly marked in certain countries of the Far East and Middle East. As against this, there has been a reinforcement of the positions of the old imperialists in Central and Southern Africa, where the evolution of the anti-imperialist and social struggles has only just started and, while making great strides, is still backward in comparison with the countries of the Far East.
The old imperialisms are not applying their new forms of domination in a systematic manner. On the contrary, the application of these new forms proceeds empirically, by rule of thumb, in a fashion which varies from one country to another, corresponding to the pressure and to the correlation of forces. This can be seen by examining the policies of the various imperialist powers.
The war has seriously shaken the century-old British Empire. In Asia, the British positions had already suffered many serious attacks by Japan in the economic and social fields during the prewar years.
Japan’s military attack on the Asiatic continent came only as the logical sequence of her economic offensive. When, after the capitulation of Japan, the British armies turned to Burma and Malaya, they found countries economically disrupted by the consequences of war and occupation, and politically stirred by powerful currents of nationalist hopes. Although India could be kept under the British yoke throughout the war and although the crushing of the August 1942 uprising had paved the way for an era of veritable military dictatorship, the forces of revolt continued to accumulate among the masses. They erupted again in November 1945, when British imperialism brought to trial former fighters of Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army. A wave of demonstrations and strikes that shook the country was followed by the Royal Indian Navy mutiny of February 1946 supported by the Bombay workers. This sounded the alarm signal to imperialism.
Great Britain could find no solution in the strengthening of her military and repressive apparatus. This was ruled out by her definitely reduced economic position in which she emerged from the war. Britain sought a solution through granting a nominal independence—spectacularly marked by the withdrawal of British troops, but leaving the economic bases of British rule substantially intact. In India, this maneuver is most clearly revealed. By creating two states—as artificial as Pakistan and India, without geographic or economic unity—Great Britain kills two birds with one stone: On the one hand, she superficially satisfies the nationalist aspirations of the masses, converts into communal strife their hostility to imperialism, weakens the country beyond repair, blocks any serious economic progress and prepares for herself a wide field for maneuvers by playing off one Indian state against the other. Great Britain will endeavor to impose her will on both and to ensure her possession of mines, plantations, industries and banks. India’s independence thus means that imperialism no longer dominates the country directly, but rather through the agency of the indigenous bourgeoisie and feudal landlords, and that the partition of India guarantees to Great Britain the subjection of the Hindu and Moslem bourgeoisies to her wishes.
In Burma, which lost her independence relatively recently (1886), the masses’ hostility to the British exploiters became translated during the war into a refusal to participate in the war on the Allied side, and after the Japanese capitulation, into a long series of separatist demonstrations and nationalist agitation. Here, too the British had to find a solution. They did so by negotiating with the leaders of the Anti-Fascist League which started out as a broad nationalist movement, including the Communist and Socialist parties, the Rangoon trade unions, and the peasant unions. It was purged in 1946 by the leader Aug San and was transformed into a reactionary weapon of the owning classes. Independence will in reality serve to hand over to the Burmese owning classes the responsibility for putting the squeeze on the masses in the interests of imperialism. At the same time, the endemic civil war in Burma, and the internal dissensions among the bourgeois and semi-feudal camps make an appeal for British support imperative for those in power.
In Malaya, Britain has granted a larger share of political participation to the native bourgeoisie, maintaining her naval and military bases substantially intact.
In Africa, where developments lag behind the Far East colonies, British imperialism continues its traditional forms of domination. It strives to extend and fortify its rule on the basis of a great postwar export of capital to Southern and—to a lesser extent—East Africa. In thus making up for its retreats in the Far and Middle East, British imperialism overcomes the unevenness of development. But it does so in such a way as to produce an ever greater synchronism between the Orient and Africa, and thereby it digs the grave of its gigantic African Empire.
The French Empire
During the occupation of France, the “Free French” led by de Gaulle had to rely to a great extent on the African colonies. De Gaulle was thus driven to promise to ameliorate the conditions of the colonial masses, in order to draw them into the war effort. These promises are contained in the statements made at the Brazzaville Conference at the beginning of 1944, which drew a general outline of the future postwar colonial organization. At this Conference originated the term “French Union” as a substitute for the “French Empire.” The formula proposed a “freely consented association” of the overseas peoples with France. Among the most outstanding decisions were: the abolition of forced labor, the granting of trade-union rights and the establishment of a “rim-citizens” college, giving the native population the right to vote and ensuring them a—limited—representation in the Assemblies of France.
In reality, these decisions have brought only limited results and have hardly modified the colonial system of exploitation. Forced labor has been reintroduced under various subterfuges, trade-union rights are constantly being violated by the administration and the colonists. As for the right to vote, the sending of a few native deputies to the French parliament does not make the colonial system taste any sweeter. Moreover, by using all sorts of pressure, intimidation and corruption, the administration and the colonists who are all-powerful, in most cases prevent the election of authentic representatives of the colonial masses.
Under the democratic emblem of the “French Union,” repression has actually been more ferocious and sanguinary than ever, as witness the massacres in Algeria of May 1945, the killings in Madagascar and the war against Viet Nam.
The Assembly of the French Union, established by the new Constitution is nothing but a caricature. It has power only to formulate wishes. It is not the product of any elections, since one-half of it consists of elements sent by local administrations, in accordance with the pleasure of the Administration.
The policy of the French Union approximates that of Great Britain at present, in its tendency to use, more than in the past, the native bourgeoisie as a transmission belt for imperialist interests. But it differs insofar as France is economically feebler than Britain and has a smaller margin for maneuvers with regard to concessions. Besides, France is not faced anywhere in her colonies with a colonial bourgeoisie so developed as that of India. The French concessions do not go beyond the right of independence “within the framework of the French Union,” a framework which is more like an iron collar. Diplomatic representation and the army remain in French hands; finance and the entire economy remain subject to the interests of the mother country, and so on. Under these conditions, to speak of independence is a bitter piece of irony.
The wealth of the Dutch bourgeoisie has been acquired in the course of three centuries of frenzied exploitation of the Indonesian peoples, who, under the most brutal regimes, started asserting their autonomist aspirations even before 1914. The Japanese, who occupied Indonesia from February 1942, encouraged, before they capitulated, the formation of an independent government, under the Presidency of Dr. Soekarno. At the end of the war, the Dutch found themselves confronted with a fait accompli — Indonesia was independent. Even with the aid of British troops, it was out of the question for them to reconquer by military measures a country which was up in arms against their domination. It was equally out of the question for them to allow this source of Dutch revenue to dry up.
In a declaration of Queen Wilhelmina in December 1942, the Netherlands Government announced its intention of creating a Commonwealth after the war, in which the metropolitan country and the colonies would enjoy equal status. During the stormy postwar negotiations with the Indonesian national government, the meaning of this “equality” became apparent. The policy of Dutch imperialism is similar in the main to the line of French Imperialism toward Viet Nam. Holland, too, is trying to support herself on the Indonesian bourgeoisie, but her own weakness, coupled with the vital importance for her of exploiting the wealth of Indonesia, prevent the Dutch from going very far on the road of concessions.
Refusing actually to accord independence to the Indonesian Republic, Holland endeavors to confine the new State within double barriers. On the one side, by integrating it into the so-called Federalist Indonesia, which also includes the Republic of Borneo and the Indonesian East (small islands of the East Indies, Celebes, Molucca, New Guinea) and which has been constituted under august Dutch patronage; and on the other side by creating a Netherlands-Indonesian Commonwealth. Finally, as France tried in Indo-China, Holland is trying to divide the Indonesian bourgeoisie by artificially creating separatist movements in various parts of the islands.
The July 1947 military assault was intended to complete the strangulation of the Indonesian Republic. It must be emphasized that Holland could succeed in maintaining her positions in Indonesia only thanks to Anglo-American military aid and equipment. The U. S. is interested in Indonesian oil and in the rubber and tin trade.
IV. The Colonial Bourgeoisie and the New Forms of Imperialist Rule
All these forms of indirect domination are only relative and passing in value. By leaving more room to the colonial bourgeoisie, imperialism merely paves the way for sharper social struggles, pitting the working masses more directly against the native exploiters. The masses will presently realize that they can free themselves completely from imperialist domination only by overthrowing the national bourgeoisie and taking power in their own hands.
The national industrial and commercial bourgeoisie who find themselves bound to and at times coalesced with the landlords, and whose numerical strength is slight, have in the past manifested only a timid opposition to imperialism, aiming to enlarge their own base of profit and exploitation.
To conduct their struggle against imperialism, they needed the support of the masses, but at the same time, they lived in fear of these same masses, particularly of the agrarian revolution, and they have always shown themselves eager to reach a compromise with the imperialists.
With the new form of domination which the imperialists are tending to adopt, with these indirect forms of rule in which the national bourgeoisie occupies a more important place, the indigenous capitalists become more firmly the allies of imperialism, and more directly the oppressors of the masses, while at the same time becoming less capable of playing a serious oppositional role.
In those countries where the revolutionary movement has acquired a broad scope, as in Indonesia and Viet Nam, the native bourgeoisie has shown that it does not hesitate to place itself at the disposal of the imperialists against the toiling masses. World War II has reduced virtually to zero the pretensions of the bourgeoisie of the semi-colonial and colonial countries to struggle against imperialism. In certain countries the bourgeoisie showed itself ready to struggle only in order to put itself at the disposal of the imperialist power strong enough to protect it against the movement of the masses. This appears to be the case for a certain number of French colonies, notably Morocco where the penetration of American capitalism grows more and more considerable.
There is an apparent outward development among those national bourgeoisies which still find themselves under the thumb of British imperialism. Thus, Egypt makes serious claims on Lybia and in the first instance on Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. These tendencies do not express either the strength or the growing independence of the national bourgeoisie in relation to imperialism. What they actually express is the inability of their industrial sectors to compete on major markets with imperialism. Hence this search for markets in weaker countries. We find expressed here the comprador character of the bourgeoisie as an intermediary for imperialist goods in search of new markets; and, generally speaking, the subordination of the national bourgeoisie to the old imperialist power. To the extent that the native capitalists strive to strengthen their position in relation to this power, these same tendencies express their increasing transformation into the victims of inter-imperialist competition and rivalry.
The indigenous bourgeois parties express various features of their class corresponding to their particular country.
In China, the Kuomintang has now decomposed into many rival c1iques and the clamor for reforms is above all an attempt, up to the present still in vain, to reform the Kuomintang for the profit of the strongest Chinese capitalists. The Kuomintang, in capitulating to US imperialism, keeps losing its popular base and suffers continued reverses at the hands of the peasant armies.
Tied up with US imperialism, the Kuomintang plays an utterly counterrevolutionary role in relation to the Chinese masses as a whole. Never before has the comprador character of the Kuomintang bourgeoisie been so evident as in its abject capitulation to US imperialism. The existing friction between the Chinese bourgeoisie and US imperialism becomes increasingly subordinated to the antagonism between Soviet Russia and the US and to the class struggle in China itself.
In Indonesia, the dismemberment of the Republic finds its expression in the camp of the national bourgeois leaders. In January 1948, Shahir and his followers broke with the Socialist party and disclosed increasingly capitulationist tendencies. The new government, on the contrary, while accepting the responsibility for a treaty which abandons a large territory to the imperialists, has been regrouped under the leadership of Mohamed Hatta, the Masjoemi Muslim, the Nationalist Indonesian Party of President Soekarno and the Stalinist and Socialist parties.
In India, the transition from direct to indirect rule does not qualitatively change the character of imperialist exploitation. Imperialism dominates by the sheer weight of its economy in the country as a whole, and by its control of the Indian Ocean. All exchange banks, as well as the bulk of foreign trade, are vested in the hands of the imperialist bourgeoisie. They own by far the most decisive sectors of tile economy (mining, plantations, jute, transportation —except for railways—insurance companies, along with a section of textiles). The Indian bourgeoisie has unquestionably increased its share of the spoils during the two world wars, notably in textiles, but its share in every other sphere of the economy is subordinate. And even in those fields where Indian capital has penetrated, it is more or less powerless to decisively alter the preponderance of British capital. It stands in danger of being squeezed to the wall and crowded out, despite a measure of disinvestment of British capital, which finds itself more than compensated for this by a most intensified exploitation of the workers.
The basic industries still remain undeveloped. The bourgeoisie is incapable of carrying out the industrialization of the country. Although there has been some advancement in heavy industry such as iron and steel, the most essential premise for industrial expansion as electrification is still undeveloped. Any considerable independent role on the part of the Indian bourgeoisie would involve a thoroughgoing industrialization of the country, especially the development of its basic industries, excluded under imperialism. It is possible to speak of an independent role of the Indian bourgeoisie, only in the context of a thoroughgoing industrialization of the country, which in the framework of decaying capitalism in its state of decline can be ruled out in advance. It will be no less impossible for the Indian bourgeoisie to expand with regard to the purchase of machine tools from, or have any kind of independent trade with, hard currency areas.
Coupled with the foregoing economic factors, is the fact that, despite the withdrawal of the army of occupation, the Indian Ocean remains a British lake, from which Britain is capable of enforcing her will on the bourgeoisie of India and Pakistan. Although the bourgeoisie of India has moved up the ladder of colonial status, it has not leaped from the ladder of colonial status to the ladder of independent status.
The All-India Congress is the political party of the Indian bourgeoisie. It has exploited the combativity of the masses in order to obtain concessions from British imperialism. Right from its accession to power the Congress has shown its class nature by resorting to the most brutal repressions.
The Moslem League, led by Jinnah, has been able to develop a mass base in the backward peasant regions, following the agrarian policy of the Hindu Congress ministers who do not carry out a single serious reform and who protect the big landowners. The Moslem League contains at one and the same time feudal landlords who consider it as a rampart for their privileges, the growing Moslem bourgeoisie swamped by Hindu capitalists, and the peasant masses attracted by the demagogic support given to agrarian reforms. Its advent to power in Pakistan will not fail to rip asunder this heterogeneous agglomeration. In the Middle East, the Arab League, founded in 1945, at the behest of the British includes, on the one hand, statesmen with divergent interests and, on the other, contending social classes: old feudal leaders sold out directly to imperialism and the young bourgeoisie seeking to extend their influence and markets. The result is that the Arab League does not present any real homogeneity and only arrives at a common understanding in exceptional cases. Neither decadent feudalism nor the bourgeoisie condemned to remain an abortion is capable of unifying the Arab world.
V. The Peasantry and the Proletariat
1. Capitalism has introduced into the colonial countries elements of capitalist economy which have led to the overthrow of their ancient social structure. This process was accelerated in the course of the Second World War, which made necessary the development of economic resources in a whole number of colonial countries (Egypt, Palestine, Manchuria, Korea, certain regions of China, and others).
In spite of these economic developments, the economy of most colonies preserves a predominantly peasant character.
Two main categories must be distinguished:
a) The peoples among whom a certain national consciousness had existed for a long time, such as India, China, Viet Nam, Korea, Indonesia, the Middle Eastern countries. Egypt, North Africa, whose overall structure is comparable and whose problems are parallel, despite very important differences resulting essentially from a different level of economic development.
The peasantry in all these countries constitutes a very large majority of the populace. These peasants live in exceeding misery and under precarious conditions, on dwarfish plots of land which do not allow them to eke out a subsistence, while at the opposite pole a handful of big landowners own among them most of the land. In these countries, usury is a scourge daily lashing the peasant population. Everywhere, famine stalks more or less permanently. All these conditions place the peasant in the position of virtual serfdom and make the agrarian revolution the motor force of the revolutionary struggle against imperialism. The agrarian question is further aggravated by the existence of extreme rural concentrations, especially in the Far East. Hence results a particularly explosive nature of class relations in the countryside.
b) These are the countries where national consciousness is just beginning to awaken, notably in the countries of so-called Darkest Africa.
These countries are characterized by a much less advanced social differentiation and by the survival of ancient tribal structure (French Equatorial Africa, Belgian Congo, Portuguese West and East Africa, British possessions in East and West Africa).
The great mass of the population lives on the land under archaic conditions, often as a collective, based on the village. They suffer from the abuses of colonial administration (limitation of agricultural rights, forced sale of their products at rates fixed by the administration, taxes, forced labor, etc.).
Big estates are mainly in the hands of the colonial companies. There is only a budding bourgeoisie, primarily commercial, crushed from birth by the competition of the big companies (prohibition to import or export except through these large concerns). Those individuals who rise above the mass are as a rule the village chiefs appointed and paid by the administration which uses them chiefly as tax collectors.
The proletariat is extremely limited, being concentrated in a few transport enterprises (railways, ports, post offices), etc.
The struggles in the colonial countries have invariably confirmed the permanent character of the revolution through experiences, often costly ones, of the oppressed masses of these countries. The peasant revolts and uprisings to seize the land for those who till it, a problem which is tied up with the issue of national independence, have been unable as yet to reach their goal for lack of an alliance with the proletariat. As it is stated in the resolution of the Founding Congress of the Fourth International in 1938 entitled, “The Class Struggle and the War in the Far East.” “It is on the shoulders of the proletariat that the twofold task rests of achieving the solution of the national problems and of clearing the way for the socialist reconstruction of society by elevating itself to the position of ruling class in alliance with all the exploited masses of the cities and villages.” The agrarian revolution is permanent in character. It comprises a whole series of economic and social measures and transformations whose very nature is such that they can only be a part of the socialist reconstruction of society. These changes are inconceivable in the epoch of cataclysmic capitalist decline, within the framework of capitalist property and social relations in the countryside. The agrarian revolution embraces the expropriation of big landowners; the nationalization of the land; the division of this nationalized land among the peasants on an equalitarian basis and the cancellation of mortgages and other debts; the conversion into state farms, to start with, of that part of the land which at the time of nationalization had been farmed on a modern capitalist basis; the establishment of collective farms on other sectors of the land; the industrialization and mechanization of agriculture; the development in a harmonious way, from small-scale agriculture to state farming, while at the same time extending the fullest possible aid to the poor peasants in low-priced fertilizers and equipment; the leveling of the economic and cultural gap between city and country; and the fostering of closest ties between the workers in the cities and the small farmers.
The agrarian revolution may thus be viewed as a component part of the socialist reconstruction of society. Hence follows the necessity for the dictatorship of the proletariat allied with the peasantry through a Workers and Peasants Government, that is to say, in general for a State equipped to carry out the complex tasks of the agrarian revolution, as an integral part of its whole economic policy. The alliance of the proletariat and the peasantry is indispensable not alone for a consistent struggle against feudalism, semi-feudalism, and capitalist oppression of the peasant. The proletariat is not only the sole class able to lead the scattered, unstable, hesitant and dependent peasantry on the road toward the agrarian revolution, by introducing the class struggle into the countryside. But, what is more, this alliance under the leadership of the proletariat must be continued in the shape of the Workers and Peasants’ Government. State power in the hands of the leading working class —here is the precondition for carrying through and consummating the agrarian revolution.
3. The upheavals produced by the war have accelerated the numerical growth of the proletariat, its concentration as well as its class consciousness.
If the numerical weakness, on the one hand, along with the absence of basic industries, on the other hand, weigh against the colonial proletariat, then, contrariwise, its union with the poorest layers of the peasantry is made extremely easy because of its own recent peasant origins and its still very powerful ties with the villages.
In many colonial countries of the Far East there have existed, since the creation of the Third International, communist and revolutionary movements which have sunk deep roots into masses of workers and through them among certain peasant layers.
But the most striking fact of the progress as a class accomplished by proletarians in colonial countries is the powerful growth of the trade union movement after World War II.
The rise of this unique movement is a great factor in the education of the masses and it spurs the struggles to higher levels. In the Far East, the downfall of Japan’s rule brought with it the establishment of powerful trade union movements, especially in Japan herself and in Korea. These movements have shown a magnificent spirit in their demands and are very dynamic in their aggressiveness. Korea witnessed the first general strike in its history in March 1946. In Japan, there is unceasing ferment. In China, too, the proletarian struggles have revived in the great industrial centers. In India, the end of the war has also brought with it a large scale development of trade union struggles in the great industrial centers, especially in Madras and Bombay. Characteristically enough, the mass influence of Indian Trotskyists was able to grow principally through trade union struggles.
In the semi-feudal and reactionary states of the Far and Middle East, the workers face the greatest difficulties in wresting the recognition of their trade union rights or their right to set up central trade union bodies.
In Iraq, where a strong trade union movement developed from 1941 to 1944, the government undertook vast repressive actions. Unions also took a giant forward step in Egypt, where since 1945 unceasing strike waves have taken place, drawing into the struggle tens of thousands of workers (Shubra-al-Kairna textile mills near Cairo). The Egyptian Government has answered with the most ferocious repressions.
Only Syria and Lebanon enjoy a legal development of the trade union movement, and here it has become entrenched.
In French North Africa, the trade union movement has existed as an affiliated branch of the French CGT (Confederation of Labor). In Tunisia, the branch attached to the CGT in October 1946 decided to constitute itself as an autonomous center, directly affiliated to the World Trade Union Federation. In Morocco, trade union rights are not yet recognized for Moroccans and any Moroccan trade unionist is liable to imprisonment although this law is not generally applied. Trade unions have grown despite these difficulties and they have led important strikes recently.
In the French East and Equatorial Africa, trade union rights were only granted in 1945. The unions immediately experienced a stormy growth, making possible a veritable leap in political consciousness among large masses in regions which had been extremely backward, such as Cameroon. In September 1945, a decision was made to form trade union organizations amongst the Africans. These developed particularly in the metal industry, transport and building employees.
In South Africa, where the color problem predominates, the African trade unions lead a barely legal existence, and suffer ferocious repressions. Nevertheless, they and other non-white unions are growing (250,000 members in 1947). In. August 1946, 125,000 African miners went on a heroic strike; the repression was bloody. The process of unionization continues despite new laws which threaten to illegalize the movement completely.
Finally, it is noteworthy that a Pan-African Trade Union Conference was held in April 1947 at Dakar, under the auspices of the WTUF, attending were 50 delegates who represented 21 trade union organizations with a total of 800,000 members. The independence of the Trade Unions Movement in the French colonies in Africa free from control of the French CGT is an indispensable condition for its free and full development. Coupled with the need for this independence is the need of greater centralization of the trade unions, corresponding with growing union organization of the African workers.
VI. Stalinism, Social Democracy and the Colonial Problem.
1) Stalinism in the Colonies
It is in colonial and semi-colonial countries that Stalinism started in 1925 to apply a policy of class collaboration and to elaborate a theoretical justification for it (the Bloc of Four Classes in China). To this end, the Stalinists had to idealize, among other things, the role of the national bourgeoisie. The degeneration of Stalinism in its collaboration with the bourgeoisie found a most repugnant expression during the war, when the Communist parties pronounced themselves in favor of accepting colonialism, so as to give full satisfaction to their imperialist allies. To illustrate, the Indian Stalinists declared themselves against the 1942 uprising and for supporting the war to the bitter end alongside of British imperialism and under its orders. Similarly, in 1945, the Algerian Stalinists approved the massacres of French imperialism and condemned the Algerian mass protest demonstrations as fascist intrigues. Thus, likewise, the Indo-Chinese Stalinists (who had dissolved themselves into the Viet-Minh) advocated the incorporation of Viet Nam in the French Union, against the will of the Viet-Nam working and peasant masses.
In fact, the policy of the Stalinists in the colonies—as everywhere else—was above all dictated by the nationalist interests of the Moscow bureaucracy. In China they subordinated the war against Japanese imperialism and the national struggles against Chiang Kai-shek to the wartime alliance with imperialism. The Stalinist intervention in the Viet Nam is also dictated by the needs of Soviet diplomacy to occupy an important strategic position in southern China. The policy of the Stalinist parties in the Middle East and Egypt is also dictated by the rivalry between the USSR, on the one hand, and the U.S. and Great Britain, on the other.
In some African countries where Soviet interests are not involved directly, the native Stalinists align themselves with the requirements of Stalinist policy in metropolitan countries rather than in accordance with the interests of the exploited masses.
The pro-colonial policy of the Stalinists has led to such disastrous consequences for these parties that they had to execute a turn, corresponding more or less to the one that had to be carried out in Europe following the increased tension between the USSR and the USA. In this way, the Stalinists in Algeria, for instance, tried again to draw nearer to nationalist formations (Friends of the Manifestom, Algerian People’s Party—the PPA) by a display of greater militancy against imperialism; but they refuse to come out in favor of a break with the metropolitan country and they remain the defenders of the “French Union.” Amongst the tendencies of Stalinist policy in the colonies is their inclination not toward the poor peasants, but certain well-to-do layers. The most characteristic example is that of Chinese Soviet territories. The “Chinese Soviets” started as peasant revolts. Consequent to the defeated revolution of 1925-1927 these revolts led to the establishment of peasant bands who became more or less settled in certain regions of Northern China. In the “Soviet territories” the policy of Stalinist leaders (Mao Tse-tung), was oriented toward the constitution of a layer of well-to-do peasants.
The agrarian program of Viet-Minh sponsored by the Stalinists is aimed at winning the support of tile landowners. From the start of the revolution, Viet-Minh leaders banned the division of land and refused to cancel debts and mortgages or to suppress usury.
The Stalinists in colonial countries defend the Menshevist theory of revolution by stages, the theory that native capitalism has to develop before there can be any talk of fighting for socialism (cf. Ho Chi-Minh’s statement).
2) Stalinist Parties in Mother Countries and the Colonies
The policy of Stalinist parties in metropolitan countries in relation to the colonies is equivalent to a policy of an agency of imperialism. Especially in the early postwar days, the Stalinist parties in the metropolitan countries championed colonial policies indistinguishable from the traditional reactionary colonial policies of the Social Democracy.
Operating within the limits of class-collaboration with imperialism and on the ground of the theory of “Socialism in one country” and its twin the “peaceful co-existence of the USSR and of world capitalism,” the metropolitan Stalinist parties unconditionally and absolutely subordinate, adjust and gear their policy toward the countries in accordance with the Kremlin’s own policy toward their respective imperialist power and their resultant relationship with this imperialist power.
Thus from 1939 to 1941 the metropolitan Stalinists from time to time would rehoist their soiled flag for the independence of the colonies. But they never did so in order to promote the liberation of the colonies, but exclusively for the sake of embarrassing imperialism and preparing the soil for a rapprochement, for collaboration and horse-trade between the Western imperialist powers and the Kremlin. They kept their propaganda strictly within the scope of their fundamental policy of class collaboration.
From 1941 to 1945 the metropolitan Stalinists threw overboard the slogan of independence and strove might and main to shackle and yoke the colonies and semi-colonies to Roosevelt and Churchill.
In the post-1945 years when the Stalinists entered bourgeois cabinets in a number of countries in Europe, the full measure of their treachery toward the colonies and even toward their sister parties in certain colonies (Viet Nam) became quite apparent.
The French C.P. Ministers and Deputies aided in quelling the Algerian uprising; they voted war credits for the infamous campaign against the Viet-Namese struggle for independence; they came out in favor of the “Union Fran¨aise"; they took part in the administration of colonial rule in French West Africa.
The Italian C.P. Deputies clamored not for the independence—but for a partial restoration—of Italy’s lost African empire.
The Dutch Stalinists, did not ever lift their little finger to assist Indonesia, but, on the contrary, helped suffocate Indonesia within the confines of the “Dutch Commonwealth.” They condemned the heroic struggles of Tan Malakka and of the resolute revolutionists. They voted for nationalists (the Treaty of Linggadjati). They sanctioned the unholy collaboration between the Indonesian-bourgeois capitulators and the Dutch Government.
Such has been, to a greater or lesser degree, the shameful record of the metropolitan Stalinists toward the colonies from the day they rejected independence for Morocco during the Spanish Civil War, through their treacherous “sanctions” campaign during Abyssinia’s struggle against fascist domination, down to the unprecedented postwar betrayals of the colonies by the Stalinists in the metropolitan countries. The sum-total of their colonial policy is to function as agents of imperialism on the basis of class collaboration inside their own country, while acting throughout as agents of the class-collaborationist foreign policy of the Kremlin.
3) The “Left” Turn of 1947 and the Colonies
Stalinism marked the beginning of its latest “left” turn with the creation of the Cominform. This 1947 turn opens a phase of political acts of treason by the Stalinist parties in colonial as well as metropolitan countries. Continuing a quarter of a century of incessant betrayals, the Stalinist conduct and leadership of the struggles under the “left” turn must inescapably reveal its limitations, its inability to complete the agrarian revolution in China and Indo-China; its role as a brake (e.g., the acceptance of compromises with the Dutch in Java and the French in Viet Nam); and its naked counter-revolutionary character (e.g., assassinations of Trotskyists and other militants, frame-ups, imprisonments, military intervention against the masses, and the rest). Stalinism must continue, as in the past, to reveal itself as utterly incapable of carrying out the major tasks in colonial and semi-colonial countries, namely, the agrarian revolution, the solution of the national question, the struggle for full democracy, the overthrow of imperialism.
The Communist parties, however, especially in the colonies, play dual and self-contradictory roles: There is the Stalinist ideology and policy at one pole; and a great proletarian and mass base, at the other. This mass base must repeatedly collide with the ideology of the “bloc of many classes,” and of “revolution by stages.” In the days to come, in the race between revolution and World War II, the Stalinist parties will be driven, on the one hand, to cling tenaciously to their mass base and to engage this base in struggles; and, on the other hand, to limit persistently these self-same struggles as befits any new agreements and deals between the U. S. and the Soviet Government.
In the revolutionary crisis in the colonies the Stalinists at the head of these struggles must come into collision with the momentum of the masses themselves, who will at certain times go into action spontaneously. This revolutionary momentum, born of the masses’ aspirations, will have repercussions among the “rank and file” militants of various Communist parties.
If a Fourth International party is lacking, sections of these militant fighters in CP ranks, will be either physically destroyed by the Stalinist apparatus, or isolated, or fall hack disillusioned and demoralized. The intervention of a revolutionary party in such crises will not only rescue millions of militant CP’ers from Stalinist terror and despair, but will draw them into a genuine revolutionary party. Participating shoulder to shoulder with millions of courageous militant communists in colonial and semi-colonial countries in their struggles against imperialism; relentlessly exposing and attacking Stalinist policies and ideology, driving deeper and deeper the wedge of its own program between the militants and the leaders of Stalinist parties-here is the way whereby the Fourth International will, in the colonial and semi-colonial countries where Stalinism is a force, be able to overcome the obstacle of Stalinism and find a bridge to the masses as well as to the mass parties of action. In this era of colonial struggles, many opportunities to wean the militants and the mass base away from the CP will undoubtedly occur. Combining a firm, unbending, implacable opposition to Stalinism with the most flexible tactics in approaching the members and the mass base of the CP, the parties of the Fourth International in the colonies and semi-colonies will overcome Stalinism and lead the proletariat, in alliance with the peasantry and all the oppressed, to the fulfillment of the tasks of the permanent revolution in the colonies.
4) The Social Democracy
Traditional Social Democracy never struck root in the colonies. Such a formation as the Socialist Party of India, although it operates essentially on the basis of reformist ideas, has arisen not as a wing of metropolitan Social Democracy but as a petty bourgeois, left wing of the national bourgeoisie on the basis of the national emancipation movement.
Nevertheless, the role of Social Democracy in the mother countries, in relation to the colonies, possesses a real meaning for the colonially oppressed. In relation to the colonies, the Social Democracy—whether it be the Labour Party of Britain or the Socialist Party of France or Holland or Belgium—has invariably appeared and functioned as an agency of imperialism. The policy of the Social Democracy differs in no fundamental respects from the colonial policy of the Stalinists in the instances already cited or taking it overall.
The ground for Stalinist treachery is class-collaboration deriving from ties with the Kremlin. Conversely, the ground for Social Democratic treachery and reaction with regard to the colonies is, in its turn, likewise class-collaboration, but one which derives from material ties between the labor aristocracy and the bourgeoisie engendered by the imperialist super-exploitation of the colonies. This factor demarcates the Social Democracy from Stalinism in relation to the colonies and invests the Social Democratic colonial policy with a greater consistency, continuity and stability. A typical example is that of the French Social Democracy which has, since the liberation, furnished French imperialism with the bulk of its leading cadres (Ministers of the Colonies up to 1947, Governors, Generals, etc.). They are the ones who directed the most bloody repression against the colonial masses (Texier, Chataigneau, Naegelen in Algeria, de Coppet in Madagascar, Maes in Tunisia).
The classic case is that of the British Labour Party. It was the progeny of the labor aristocracy fattened by a share of the superprofits which a rising British imperialism drained from the colonies. It attained its peak strength at a moment when the British Empire is shaken and weakened to its foundations. Radicalized, in the last analysis, by the profound dislocation and retreat of British imperialism in the Far East, the British working class heaved into the scats of power to solve their problems, the very party which is historically the child of imperialist superprofits, which has had inexorably to strive to reestablish the domination of imperialism over its weakened colonies; and which is therefore utterly incapable of liberating British labor from the boons of colonial exploitation—a liberation which is the necessary, premise for emancipating the British proletariat from wage-slavery.
To the colonial masses the Labour Party has demonstrated that it is the continuator of British imperial policy. To the metropolitan workers the Labour Party will more and more demonstrate the all important fact, namely, that the revolt of the British proletariat, and indeed of the privileged proletariat throughout Western Europe, against colonial slavery, that their rejection of any benefits from or share in the colonies, is a basic condition for their own class emancipation.
Furthermore, the lesson of the Social Democracy in general and of the British Labour party in particular is this, that not only must metropolitan labor break with imperialism in order to overthrow its own capitalist masters; not only must metropolitan labor recognize its capitalist class as an imperialist class, but to the extent that the metropolitan proletariat does break with imperialism, to the same extent it is necessary for it to link itself with the proletariat and the oppressed in the colonies, the imperialist slave-link between mother country and colony, must not only be decisively broken. It must be replaced by a class link of solidarity and joint struggle between the metropolitan and the colonial workers. Historical development itself assists this process. But the more conscious it becomes, all the more speedily will the metropolitan proletariat liberate itself. Generally speaking, this task assumes the shape of a break with the Social Democracy, in the metropolitan countries for the sake of uniting with the colonial toilers for the overthrow of imperialism. This is the major lesson which must be learned from the five decades of experience with the Social Democracy in relation to the colonies.
VII. Tasks of the Fourth International in the Colonies
The program of the Fourth International in the colonies and semi-colonies flows from an understanding of the law of uneven and combined development, and from the theory of tile Permanent Revolution.
(1) The revolutionary party in the metropolitan countries has among its tasks the following:
To support unconditionally the anti-imperialist struggles of the colonies; to fight jointly with and assist in every way the colonial masses in their struggle for complete independence from the imperialist yoke; to lead the class struggle in their “own” country against capitalism and patiently teach the workers that this is the best means of giving practical aid to the colonial movements, struggles and revolutions. All this is in the best traditions of working class internationalism.
Wherever imperialist armies occupy a colonial or semi-colonial country, the revolutionary party in the metropolitan country, in close collaboration with the colonial section, must struggle for the withdrawal and return home of all imperialist troops. At the same time it conducts revolutionary agitation for—and in collaboration with the colonial section strives to bring about—solidarity between the metropolitan soldiers and the colonial struggle, calling upon them to fraternize with the insurgent masses of the colonies and semi-colonies.
In event of war by an imperialist power against a colony or semi-colony, our section in the metropolitan country shall work for the military defeat of the imperialist country.
(2) The general task in the colonial and semi-colonial countries is to struggle for the expropriation and overthrow of imperialism, for national independence and self-determination for each and every oppressed colonial country and nationality. In this struggle, the agrarian revolution acts as a motor force in such predominantly peasant colonies and semi-colonies (Far East, Middle East, Near East, North Africa). In Southern Africa, however, the primary dynamic factor of the anti-imperialist struggle is the movement against racial and color oppression and for equality and democratic rights. The parties of the Fourth international adapt to the existing conditions in each country the Transitional Program, estimating the maturity of the struggles in applying correctly the more advanced transitional slogans.
Parties of the Fourth international fight to defend the interests of the young working class in the colonies and semi-colonies, especially by demanding progressive labor legislation, (shorter working-hours, shop stewards, social security, and so on).
In certain colonial and semi-colonial countries like China serious convulsions of the regime can precipitate a revolutionary situation, posing the question of armed revolution. The Fourth International prepares itself and strives to mobilize the proletariat for such eventualities by calling for the organization of workers, peasants and soldiers into committees; and for the establishment of a Workers and Peasants Government based on these armed committees.
In China the Fourth International stands opposed to imperialist intervention and domination (that is to say, in the first instance, the U. S.); and against the comprador bourgeoisie (the Kuomintang) and landlords in their combined assault, backed by imperialism against the peasants and workers of “Red China” and of “Kuomintang” China itself. Whilst supporting and participating in every mass struggle against Chiang Kai-shek and his imperialist backers, the Fourth International wages a determined struggle against Stalinist policies and terror, calling for the alliance of the proletariat and the peasantry in order to realize agrarian revolution in life, win national liberation and struggle for a Workers and Peasants Government.
The revolutionary party of China “supports” the Stalinist-controlled peasant armies and vigorously fights against Kuomintang landlords who want to reestablish the old order in the villages. It declares that despite the reactionary leadership of the Chinese Stalinist party, its miserly agrarian-reform policy does, nevertheless, bear a progressive significance and the peasants’ defense of these meager gains is, of course, wholly just.
Therefore, the Trotskyist in “liberated” areas will fight without hesitation on the side of the peasants to resist the Kuomintang’s reactionary offensive, while, at the same time, in the course of the resistance, exposing the compromises and betrayals of the Stalinist party and fighting its reactionary policy. In the rear of Chiang Kai-shek the Trotskyists advance the slogan for an unconditional armistice, while supporting every anti-war and pro-peace movement of the masses (See, Resolution of the Communist League of China, February 13, 1948). The Chinese Trotskyists struggle to push every reform timidly projected by Stalinism and bring it to its logical conclusion. In doing so they emphasize that agrarian reforms are unattainable without a firm alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry. They struggle for the democratization of the Red Armies and for placing the power in the hands of democratically elected Peasants and Soldiers Committees in the “liberated” territories.
In Viet Nam the Fourth International stands for the struggle against French imperialism as Enemy No. 1. While supporting and participating in every real struggle against French rule it denounces the counterrevolutionary maneuvers and the nationalist monarchy of Bao Dai who aims to win the support of American imperialism. It constantly exposes the compromising policy and weak comprador character of the bourgeoisie and of the Stalinist-led Viet Minh. It rejects in total any acceptance of the “French Union.” It fights against all opportunist and rotten compromises, and for the agrarian resolution; for a complete severance of ties with France; for a united Viet Nam and for a Workers and Peasants Government.
In Indonesia the Fourth International regards Dutch imperialism as the main enemy, combats every reactionary deal between the national bourgeois parties with the imperial overlords and consistently counterposes to the “Dutch Commonwealth” the struggle for Indonesian independence.
In India the Fourth International poses as the major task the overthrow of British imperialism and its Indian bourgeois collaborators. This implies the expropriation of all foreign-owned enterprises. It regards the national bourgeoisie of India and Pakistan as no longer capable of playing a progressive role in the anti-imperialist struggle. It endeavors to win the leadership of the proletariat in its social struggles against the national bourgeoisie and their imperialist chiefs. It calls for the agrarian revolution and sees in the proletariat the sole class capable of solving the land question, in an alliance with the peasantry. The peasantry cannot play an independent and leading role. In India the Fourth International stands for the fullest democracy in India, Pakistan and Ceylon and against all take Constituent Assemblies. It stands for full independence, denouncing all forms of imperial domination such as Dominion Status. It fights for the right of autonomy and of self-determination, up to and including the right of secession for each constituent state. It fights for the unity of India based on the right to independent statehood and secession. It denounces the arbitrary partition of India into Hindustan and Pakistan and seeks to promote the United Socialist States of India with full rights of statehood for every nationality.
In the Arab States of the Middle and Near East and in North Africa the sections and groups of the Fourth International stand for the unification of Arab countries into a Federation of Free Arab Republics. These sections struggle for the ousting of British and French imperialism—and against the imperialist intervention of the United States. They struggle against the landlords—accomplices of imperialism; against their tool, the Arab League; and for Constituent Assemblies and for the widest democracy.
As for Palestine, the Fourth International rejects as utopian and reactionary the “Zionist solution,” of the Jewish question. It declares that a total renunciation of Zionism is the sine qua non condition for the merging of Jewish workers’ struggles with the social, national and liberationist struggles of the Arab toilers. It declares that to demand Jewish immigration into Palestine is thoroughly reactionary just as it is reactionary to call for immigration of and oppressor people into colonial countries in general. It holds that the question of immigration as well as the relations between Jews and Arabs can be decided adequately only after imperialism has been ousted by a freely elected Constituent Assembly with full rights for the Jews as a national minority.
On the African Continent the revolutionary party fights for a Free Africa. It struggles for full democratic rights for all. It consistently and uncompromisingly fights against racial discrimination, segregation or color bars in every single walk of life. It strives to organize in trade unions and to win the leadership of the rapidly growing young and strong proletariat—the only class able to lead the tribal and peasant toilers in their agrarian revolution; the only class which can lead the African masses to national liberation and freedom. The only class that is thereby able to consummate the great struggles which this profound awakening to national consciousness already heralds to the world. It struggles for the total ousting and overthrow of British, French, Belgian, Spanish, and Portuguese imperialisms. It fights for independence and self-determination for the toilers of all the States in Africa.
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The complex tasks of colonial revolutions are impossible of solution without the leadership of the revolutionary party, based on Marxist theory and Bolshevik organizational methods. The only parties resting on these twin pillars in the colonies are the sections of the Fourth International. These parties, however, while equipped with the indispensable theoretical, political and organizational ideas and methods are still faced with the task of transforming themselves into mass parties of the proletariat. The history of colonial struggles has repeatedly shown in a negative way, the necessity of a revolutionary party to lead these struggles and their tasks to a successful completion.
The building of mass parties of the Fourth International in the colonies takes place not as an offshoot of its sections in the metropolitan centers but on the soil of indigenous conditions, peculiarities, complexities, and problems. In harmony with all this, each Trotskyist colonial party must integrate and adjust and apply the world program of the Fourth International.
The revolutionary party does not turn its face toward those layers of the population which are bound up, by privileges or social and political ties, with imperialism and its allies. On the contrary, such a party turns to those who are the most exploited and oppressed, socially and nationally in city or country. The revolutionary party is, in the first instance, rooted in the proletariat of the big cities and rests on the growing alliance of the urban proletariat with their agricultural brothers, and the alliance of both of them with the peasant poor and with the urban oppressed in general. This party undertakes to lead to victory the struggle of all the toilers and all the oppressed in these countries.
The Fourth Internationalist parties orient themselves in this direction, and direct their labors, particularly among organized union workers whose best elements provide their firmest cadres, along this path. Wherever the trade union movement has developed, the sections of the Fourth International orient themselves to gaining the leadership of the organized workers; and undertake the organization of the unorganized workers. This orientation is the sole guarantee for steering the party clear of petty-bourgeois nationalist illusions in the colonies and semi-colonies. Wherever the workers are divided along racial or caste or religious lines, the sections of the Fourth International at all times wage an uncompromising struggle against racial and caste prejudices, basing themselves on the historic destiny of the proletariat in general, and in particular on that section of the proletariat who actually have nothing to lose but their chains.
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On the shoulders of the Fourth International rests the task of building for the first time the revolutionary class party in the colonies and semi-colonies. Its mission is to spare the colonial working class the dire defeats of the European proletarians. It is the first International which has actually brought into its leadership the most qualified representatives of the young colonial proletariat. Its ideas have today the capacity to expand beyond the iron curtain, through the jungles and across oceans with an astonishing speed, leaping from “Dark” Africa to Japan, from Korea to Egypt. The Fourth International will prepare on these lands, which know nothing of working-class defeats, the most radical upheavals that history has ever known.
Through revolutions led by the proletariat, the colonial and semi-colonial countries of the world will be raised to the industrial and cultural levels of the advanced countries. By combined and complementary revolutionary struggles in America, Europe, Asia, and Africa the system of world capitalism, with its imperialist and colonial slavery, will be hurled away as a thing of the past. And the socialist reconstruction of all these Continents, modern and backward alike, shall take place.
Last updated on 12.01.2005