MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: FI: 1938-1949: World War II declarations, discussions, articles and documents

Revolutionary Policy in Western Europe:

An Answer to Comrade Morrow

By William F. Warde [George Novack]

Written: 1946
First Published: January 1946
Source: Fourth International, New York, January 1946, Volume VII, No. 1 pages. 22-28.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Daniel Gaido and David Walters, February, 2006
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskism On-Line, 2006. 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 address of this work, and note the transcribers & proofreaders above.

Note by the transcriber: This article was written in response to Felix Morrow, “Tactical Problems of the European Movement,” Fourth International, Vol. 7, No. 1, January 1946, pp. 18-22.

The discussion article by Comrade Morrow published in this issue continues his criticism of the positions taken by the Socialist Workers Party majority on several important issues of European politics. In order to deal with the questions of revolutionary policy he raises, it is necessary to have a clear and accurate picture of the present political situation in Western Europe. That in turn requires a survey of the main trend of events since the downfall of Italian Fascism in August 1943.

The final stage of the war gave rise to a mighty offensive of the masses beginning in Italy and extending to all the occupied countries. The workers of Italy, France, Belgium, Greece, Holland acquired arms and created their own military formations; took possession in many places of the factories, means of transportation, etc.; established popular control over the distribution of food, the dispensing of justice, the administration of local affairs. These embryonic elements of dual power, if coordinated, developed and expanded, could have provided the basis for the complete overturn of capitalist rule and the institution of the sovereignty of the toiling masses in these countries.

Three main factors prevented the victorious consummation of the uprising of the workers. First, the full weight of the preponderant military forces of the Anglo-American invaders in counter-revolutionary alliance with the Kremlin was flung against the insurgent masses to arrest their struggles. The Big Three conspired to set up puppet regimes obedient to their will. Second, the Stalinist and Socialist parties which commanded the allegiance of the working masses worked hand in glove with the Allied powers to save capitalist rule by disarming the workers militarily and politically. Third, the Trotskyist groups and parties were too weak and immature to intervene as a decisive force and head off this disaster.

For these reasons the first wave of revolution fell short of its goal throughout Western Europe. The bloody crushing of the ELAS-EAM in Greece, combined with the cowardly capitulation of its Stalinist leadership before the British-backed capitalist monarchist counter-revolution, marked the close of this first period. Since then a marked recession in the revolutionary tide has set in. The repulse of the proletarian offensive has afforded the capitalist rulers a breathing spell and enabled them to regain a transitory and precarious equilibrium.

Aided by Anglo-American imperialism and the complicity of the Stalinist and Socialist misleaders, the Western European bourgeoisie are utilizing this pause to strengthen their shaken positions, to further undermine the power of the proletariat, and to prepare for the launching of their own counter-offensi~es. The capitalists, the church, the army are mobilizing their forces to fortify and reestablish their dictatorial rule. In Belgium they are plotting to bring back King Leopold. In France they support de Gaulle’s drive to legitimatize and buttress his Bona-partist aspirations. Under British tutelage in Italy and Greece the monarchists and other reactionaries are displaying growing impudence and activity.

However, it is extremely important to note that in no case has the native bourgeoisie as yet succeeded in stabilizing its rule. The resistance of the masses frustrated the plans to restore Leopold to his throne. The majority given the Communist and Socialist parties in the elections to the Constituent prevents the consolidation of de Gaulle’s personal power. In Italy, although the downfall of Parri has resulted in a slight shift to the right, the six-party coalition is impotent as ever to create a stable governmental combination. A similar series of cabinet crises keeps unsettling Greece. Arbitrary rule persists in HoI1and in the face of the mounting demand for immediate elections which the bourgeoisie seeks to postpone until a more propitious occasion.

These political developments show that, despite the setbacks suffered by the workers of Western Europe, they have not undergone a definitive defeat. The decisive class battles lie ahead.

The fundamental cause of the instability of bourgeois rule is the continuing and deepening social crisis ravaging these ruined and impoverished countries. The capitalist regimes are manifestly incapable of solving, or even indicating a solution, to the most pressing problems. They cannot give peace, freedom, bread, work, shelter to the peoples. Economic reconstruction lags amidst raging inflation and black markets.

These conditions keep the toiling masses in a constant state of unrest. The strikes which erupt against all opposition from above, the demonstrations, the results of the French elections, show the will of the workers. They are ready to struggle for their demands. They want socialism. They are looking for leadership in their instinctive striving for power. Revolt in the colonies accompanies this incessant ferment at home.

While the entire objective situation remains revolutionary, the dominant working class organizations do their utmost to stifle the revolutionary sentiments of the masses by diverting them into the safe channels of parliamentary maneuvers. They restrain the combativeness of the workers and barricade the road to power. Although the workers have time and again signified their determination to break once and for all with the bourgeoisie and its parties, the CP and SP cling to collaboration with them. Their Popular Front coalitions are supplemented by class collaboration on the industrial field. Instead of taking power and initiating a revolutionary reconstruction of the social system, these perfidious parties work to shore up collapsing capitalism and content themselves with meagre reforms and governmental posts.

This in brief is the political situation within which the revolutionary vanguard of the Fourth International must operate and work out its policy today in the Western European countries. Only against this background can our differences with Comrade Morrow be properly explained and understood.

Two Different Methods

Morrow states that our disagreements arise from “differing estimates of the present stage of political consciousness of the European proletariat.” We have such differences; they flow from our divergent analyses of the present objective situation and its main lines of development. Morrow denies that the prevailing situation in Western Europe is revolutionary. We maintain that despite the temporary ebb in the tide of struggle, it remains objectively revolutionary.

Morrow contends that the dominant trend is “an evolution toward bourgeois democracy in Europe as the objective resultant of the class struggle and of the struggle between the contending capitalist classes.” ( Fourth International, May 1945.) Why must this be the organic and inevitable development? The European bourgeoisie, he tells us, is pushing in this direction. U.S. imperialism favors democratic methods of rule. The workers are dominated by democratic illusions. The CP and SP are pulling the masses into this channel. Finally, the Trotskyist parties are too weak to change this course of events.

In our opinion this appraisal is false and misleading. The main lines of political development in Europe do not converge on the single track of bourgeois democracy, as Morrow’s scheme depicts it, but diverge sharply according to the interests and aims of the principal contending classes. The capitalists seek the solution to their problems, not in bourgeois democracy, but through military-monarchist dictatorships. They find a rearguard and reserve in Anglo-American imperialism. But owing to the depth of the social crisis, their discreditment and manifest incapacity, the revolutionary temper of the workers, the discontent of the middle class, the capitalists are not now in a position to carry through their own political plans. They are thus forced to resort to democratic maneuvers and play around with parliamentary forms in order to dupe the workers and obstruct independent working class action. Meanwhile they are building up their own forces in the army, the police, the bureaucracy, and even within the masses (the Mouvement Republicain Populaire in France, l’Uomo Qualunque movement in Italy, etc.). Resisting to the utmost the efforts of the people to democratize political life, they are nevertheless compelled by the relationship of class forces to yield concessions here and there in order to gain time for the organization of their counter campaigns.

It is true that the Stalinists and Socialists seek to solve the crisis by means of social reforms through “democratic” collaboration with the bourgeoisie and its “liberal” parties. But this program is nothing but the reactionary utopia of the petty-bourgeoisie covered with socialist phrases. It is reactionary because this policy runs counter to the basic course of development which imperiously commands the proletariat to take power in order to lead the nation on to the road of socialism. It is utopian because it fails to reckon with the acuteness of the social crisis and the sharpening of the class antagonisms which forbid the restoration of durable bourgeois-democratic regimes based upon class collaboration. It is petty-bourgeois because it rests upon a denial in theory and a blunting in practice of the class struggle.

At the bottom of all our differences with Comrade Morrow is the question of method. As scientific socialists, we proceed in all questions from an analysis of the objective situation which is determined by the class relationships. From the results of this analysis we derive our program, strategy and tactics.

Morrow here as elsewhere proceeds in a different fashion. He takes as his point of departure, not a rounded examination of the existing economic and political conditions, but his impressions of “the present stage of political consciousness of the European proletariat.” This is the method of literary impressionism, not Marxism.

When Trotsky first projected in 1938 the program of transitional demands which was later adopted by the Founding Conference of the Fourth International and is today its political guide, certain comrades objected that the program was too advanced for the mentality of the American workers. “We have repeated many times,” Trotsky replied, “that the scientific character of our activity consists in the fact that we adapt our program not to political conjunctures or the thought or mood of the masses as this mood is today, but we adapt our program to the objective situation as it is represented by the economic class structure of society. The mentality can be backward; then the political task of the party is to bring the mentality into harmony with the objective facts, to make the workers understand the objective task. But we cannot adapt the program to the backward mentality of the workers. The mentality, the mood is a secondary factor—the prime factor is the objective situation. That is why we have heard these criticisms or these appreciations that some parts of the program do not conform to the situation . . .

What Kind of Illusions?

“Question: Isn’t the ideology of the workers a part of the objective factors?

“Trotsky: For us as a small minority this whole thing is objective, including the mood of the workers. But we must analyze and classify those elements of the objective situation which can be changed by our paper and those which cannot be changed. That is why we say that the program is adapted to the fundamental stable elements of the objective situation and the task is to adapt the mentality of the masses to these objec¬tive factors. To adapt the mentality is a pedagogical task. We must be patient, etc. The crisis of society is given as the base of our activity. We must change it. We must give a scientific explanation of society, and clearly explain it to the masses. That is the difference between Marxism and reformism.” ( Internal Bulletin No. 6 of the Socialist Workers Party, July 1938.)

The capitalist crisis in the United States at that time was far less grave than in Europe today. The American workers were incomparably less ready for the socialist revolution. Yet, as Trotsky affirmed, Marxist science demanded that the program be fitted to the needs of the objective situation and not be bent to suit the passing moods of the masses.

But even in regard to “the present stage of political consciousness of the European proletariat” Morrow is incorrect. All his arguments and tactical proposals hinge upon the assertion that the mind of the masses is dominated by democratic illusions.

This appraisal is wide of the mark. The people of Western Europe have passed through an extensive experience with bourgeois democracy. It has brought them two world wars, a world depression, loss of liberties, catastrophic ruin, hunger and hopelessness—all in a generation. They have seen with their own eyes how bourgeois democracy transforms itself into outright dictatorship. The workers have long-established socialist and communist traditions. At the same time they have been deeply impressed by the results of the first successful socialist revolution in so backward a country as Russia which even under Stalin displayed such economic and military power.

Morrow asserts that the war has wiped out the lessons of these events in the minds of the masses and led to a tremendous revival of bourgeois democratic illusions. We have not denied the existence of such illusions nor of the need to reckon with them. But they are a minor and not a major factor. The political swing of the masses away from such traditional bourgeois democratic parties as the Radical-Socialist party, which has suffered total eclipse, and their entrance by the millions into the Socialist, and especially the Communist parties, provides both negative and positive proof of this fact. They have discarded the bourgeois democratic outfits and adhered to the working class parties not because they yearn for a return to the prewar days of decaying democracy but above all because they want to go forward to socialism.

This does not mean that the workers are free of illusions. On the contrary, their movement has been derailed precisely because of their lack of political clarity. Morrow’s error on this question comes from his misunderstanding of their principal illusion. What so cruelly deceives the workers is not naive trust in bourgeois democracy, as he declares, but their misplaced confidence in the Communist and Socialist parties.

The Communist Party is today the most powerful party in France, the continental home of bourgeois democracy. It has a million members and received five million votes. The working masses have not swarmed into this party because it appears to them as the champion of bourgeois democracy but because they regard it as the party of communism, as the opponent of capitalism. The urge to satisfy their social needs is so compelling that it serves to override revulsion against the monstrous crimes of Stalinism and its totalitarian regime in the USSR. In the eyes of millions of workers and peasants the Communist parties in Western Europe appear not as the counter-revolutionary agencies of Stalin but as the Bolshevik combat parties of Lenin. They support the CP not because they want to maintain private property and revitalize bourgeois rule under democratic forms but because they desire to take over the means of production and establish workers’ democracy. Similar anti-capitalist sentiments, although to a lesser degree, animate the Socialist Party ranks. But instead of leading the workers forward to their own October Revolution, the Stalinists—and Socialists—pull them backward through the People’s Front coalitions into collaboration with the capitalists.

Leninist Tactics

Thus the European workers have been led into their present blind alley primarily because of their erroneous belief that the CP and SP could satisfy their demands for a revolutionary change and show them the way to socialism. This is the illusion which must be broken down. This is the great tactical problem now confronting the Trotskyist.

Morrow’s recipe is simple. The Trotskyist must take the lead in fighting for democracy, more democracy, and still more democracy. “In the fight for the most complete democracy, the Bolsheviks can demonstrate to the workers that it is the revolutionists and not the reformists who are the most devoted fighters for the needs of the people.” This is Leninism a la Morrow.

But Leninism proceeds from the proposition that even the broadest arena of democracy under capitalist rule cannot satisfy the pressing needs of the people. It certainly cannot overcome the profound economic, social and political crisis gripping Western Europe. This is not an anarcho-syndicalist error, as Morrow asserts, but sober socialist truth which must be hammered home to the masses. They must be taught that the fight for democracy acquires significance and can have fruitful results only in connection with their class struggle for power, for the expropriation of the capitalists, and the establishment of worker’s control over economic life.

What the working class must do now is fight for power, more power and still more power. In order to accomplish this central task the workers must first free themselves from captivity to the Popular Front alliances which shackle them to the bourgeoisie. They must regain their independence of action. That is why the Trotskyist parties in Western Europe address the following slogans to the workers who adhere to the CP and SP: “Force your parties to break the coalition with the capitalists and expel their representatives from the government. Let the worker’s organizations take power on a socialist program of action. Form a Communist-Socialist Government.” This is Leninist tactics because it is based upon the dynamics of the class struggle and directed toward the conquest of power.

Our divergent estimates of the political situation and our contrasting conceptions of the tasks confronting the revolutionary vanguard have naturally also engendered disagreements over the application of the program of the Fourth International in Western Europe today. In words it appears that we subscribe to the same formula expressed in the resolution adopted by the 11th Convention of the Socialist Workers Party: “to rally the masses for revolutionary struggle, the revolutionary Marxist party will elaborate a bold program of transitional and democratic demands corresponding to the consciousness of the masses and the tempo of developments. . . .” But the differences in our viewpoints emerge as soon as it comes to the practical application of this formula.

Transitional and Democratic Demands

In general, we consider it necessary for the revolutionary vanguard to place its emphasis upon the transitional demands which can mobilize the masses in struggle under the leadership of the advanced workers for the conquest of power. It is necessary to place before the masses a program of revolutionary action which clearly poses the problem of power. This is the key question in political life today. That is why, as Comrade Simmons insists, the parties of the Fourth International must put forward as their most pressing demand the expropriation of the capitalists and the socialization of the means of production.

Does this mean that we ignore the value or deny the necessity for democratic demands? Not at all. Such sectarianism and ultra-leftism is totally alien to the realistic revolutionary politics of Bolshevism. We fight for democratic demands just as vigorously as for immediate economic demands. It is obvious that the more democracy the workers can wrest from the capitalist rulers, the more their confidence in their independent strength will be enhanced, the easier will be the further struggle for power, the greater prestige will accrue to the party which heads the fight for democratic rights.

Parenthetically we may add that it is odd of Comrade Morrow to attribute such ultra-left infantilism to our party which in the Minneapolis Labor Case under conditions of wartime repression and reaction conducted the most intransigent fight in defense of democracy the American labor movement has ever known. To be sure, Morrow may object that this was done in the United States from 1941 to 1945 while we are here concerned with Europe in 1945. Nevertheless how does he account for the apparent contradiction that the same party which stands in the forefront of the fight for democratic rights in the United States has, if he is to be believed, suddenly denied the necessity for an equally uncompromising struggle for democracy in Europe today?

But even from the standpoint of democracy this is only one side of the question. As Comrade Simmons pointed out, at the present stage of social developments the success of the fight for democratic liberties is itself bound up indissolubly with the success of the struggle for socialism. The bourgeoisie will grant political and economic concessions only bourgeoisie tow loss of all its privileges. Thus the democratic concessions which have already been won and will be won by the masses must be viewed as by-products of their revolutionary struggle. Moreover, they can be secured and guaranteed only by the complete conquest of power.

Democratic slogans, properly employed, can promote the class struggle and have an important place in any realistic program of revolutionary action today. But by themselves such slogans are entirely inadequate to meet the needs by the present revolutionary situation. They have only a subordinate and episodic role to play in comparison with the transitional demands which correspond to the vital economic needs of the workers and clearly indicate the path to power.

For Comrade Morrow, however, they have a quite different significance. He maintains that democratic demands and slogans must be emphasized above all and made predominant in the activities of the vanguard during the present period. He is very explicit on this point. “The way (to win the masses) lies through the struggle for the republic and the Constituent, there is no other way (our italics),” he tells us. “The slogan of the republic ... is today in Italy the lever for the other slogans.” The primary and central role he assigns to the democratic demands leads to the inescapable conclusion that the transitional demands must be subordinated to them.

This program which Morrow proposes as the master key to the present stage of the class struggle in Western Europe could only serve to divert the workers from the correct course and hamper the growth of the Fourth International. The future of the Fourth International can be assured only along the road of intransigent struggle for socialism at the present time. While fighting for the widest extension of democracy under bourgeois rule, while defending the immediate interests of the masses, the Trotskyist must come forward first and foremost as the tireless champions and organizers of the revolutionary struggle for state power through independent mass action. This is the method by which they can liberate the masses from the deadly influence of the Stalinists and Socialists; mobilize them against the unfolding bourgeois reaction; win them to the revolutionary ranks; and rearm them for the new offensive.

In this connection it is relevant to recall that in Whither France Trotsky lashed the Stalinist leaders for proposing a program of “immediate demands” when the situation demanded a broad political offensive to capture power based upon a well-elaborated transitional program. “The chief obstacle on the path to the development of the revolutionary struggle right now,” he wrote, “is the one-sided, almost maniacal program of ‘immediate demands,’ which contradicts the whole situation.... A revolutionary offensive, which opposes one class to another, cannot be developed solely under slogans of partial economic demands”.—pp. 61-62. In what respect is Morrow’s program of “democratic demands” superior to the Stalinist program of that time? It may not be amiss to mention that the theoretical motivation for Morrow’s program of “democratic demands” is the same as the Stalinists then gave for their program of “immediate demands”.; the situation is not revolutionary.

Morrow attempts to fortify his position by means of a theory of stages. First, the European proletariat must pass through a period of bourgeois democracy and later will launch into a direct struggle for power. Now the revolutionists must go along with the masses in their democratic illusions to help get rid of them. The main theme of his reply to Simmons is that the masses are too immature, too unprepared, too unclear in their consciousness to realize the necessity to fight for power. To date they’ve advanced only far enough to demonstrate for the democratic republic and the Constituent Assembly. Their understanding that these democratic institutions are insufficient “still lies in the future.”

Even if this were so, it would not obligate the revolutionary party to subordinate the transitional demands to the democratic ones. But the most pernicious feature of this theory is its misrepresentation of the mood of the masses. They are not simply demanding greater democracy, as Morrow would have it. In France, Italy and elsewhere they are insistently clamoring for the nationalization of the banks and key industries. This is not a democratic but a socialist demand. So powerful is their pressure that even de Gaulle is obliged to appease them by sham nationalization measures. Here the task of the revolutionists is to expose the fraud of such measures and lead the struggle for genuine socializations under the control and through the class action of the workers.

But “of what body ... do you demand expropriation of the capitalists and socialization of the means of production?” Morrow inquires with an air of triumph. He infers that this demand can only be presented either to “non-existent soviets” or to already established Constituent Assemblies. In reality; the demand for expropriation must be directed at the Communist and Socialist parties, whether they are in the Constituent or in the Soviets. They have the majority; they presumably base themselves on a socialist program. Bolshevik tactics teaches that the most effective way to expose the servility of these parties to capitalism is to demand that they carry out their professed program.

Morrow’s attempt to impose upon the unfolding class struggle the idea of two separate stages—the present when democratic demands are paramount and the future when the transitional program will be pushed to the fore—would be disastrous. It would in practice place the Trotskyist vanguard in the shameful position of trailing behind the reformist parties which are forced to pay lip-service to the masses’ desires for such thoroughgoing social demands as nationalization. It would facilitate the schemes of the bourgeoisie and their agents to confine the struggle exclusively within the restricted parliamentary framework where they hope to strangle it. At every turn of events today the unpostponable need to reconstruct the shattered national economies on new foundations raises the questions of property and state power. Recognition of this fundamental fact which determines the character of the present stage must be the point of departure for revolutionary tactics.

This brings us to our third main point of difference with Comrade Morrow. He does not share our conception of the tasks of the American party in regard to the European struggle and therefore follows a different procedure than we do. The conditions under which the class struggle unfolds and with which the revolutionary vanguard must reckon in Europe today are extremely complex, unstable and shifting. Sharp and abrupt turns are inherent in the situation. It would be highly doctrinaire to lay down in advance tactical recipes for the conduct of this struggle in any country. It would be no less foolhardy for any person or party removed from the theater of action to do so.

Tasks of the American Trotskyists

To issue the right slogans at the right time it is necessary to be in intimate connection with the developing struggle, to feel the inner rhythm of events, to know the temper, the moods, the willingness of the masses to engage in action. We do not intend to offer detailed advice from afar to our European comrades on questions of the tactical application of the program of the Fourth International. Such advice would be gratuitous and presumptuous on our part. They can feel much better than we the pulse of the masses in their own countries. Our resolution on “The European Revolution and Tasks of the Revolutionary Party” was designated to set forth the strategical line which in our opinion the Trotskyist should follow. The political resolutions adopted by the European Trotskyist essentially coincide with our positions. What combination of tactics can best serve to promote the strategy of the struggle for power outlined in our respective resolutions only the individual parties are competent to determine and decide.

That is why we have steadfastly rejected every proposal made by Comrade Morrow and others to prescribe tactical in. junctions to our co-thinkers abroad. That is the meaning of the position we took in the case of Belgium which Morrow singles out as “an acid test of the difference in approach” between us. The practical question involved was how to treat the events surrounding the Leopold crisis in our press. We proceeded from the premise that the chief agitational task of the American revolutionists is not to lay down tactical steps for the Belgian militants but to arouse the workers in this country against the conspiracies of U.S. imperialism. That is why the Political Committee motion stressed our campaign around the slogan: “Withdraw All American Troops From Europe.” That was the slogan required for our sector of the international class struggle in connection with the Belgian events. We left to our Belgian co-thinkers the task of deciding what slogans were most fitting in their country.

Morrow, however, has a different conception of the tasks to be undertaken by the American Trotskyist and the functions they must perform in relation to Europe. In addition to collaborating in the development of a strategical line, he proposes to instruct the European sections of the Fourth International on how to apply it in detail. This is to be done in accord with his tactical blueprint for this period which consists in pushing to the fore a random collection of democratic demands.

We are opposed both to Morrow’s procedure and Morrow’s program. Instead of fitting slogans to the real development of the class struggle, Morrow proposes to subject the struggle to a preconceived set of democratic slogans. This is formalism of the worst kind. What we have said about Belgium applies by and large to Italy as well. But our respective views can best be put to the test by applying them to France where the situation is most favorable for Comrade Morrow since there democracy has already had the chance to express and prove itself in life through the recent elections. In the May 1945 Fourth International Morrow defined Gaullism as “a bourgeois-democratic tendency” whereas we together with the French Trotskyist characterize it as essentially Bonapartist. What do the results of the elections show? These elections are supposed to be the quintessence of bourgeois democracy. Yet de Gaulle’s government coupled the elections to the Constituent Assembly which is to draft a new Constitution for France with a disguised plebiscite for himself. Thus in the very process of gestation the new bourgeois democracy in France bears the stigmata of personal dictatorship.

The governmental crisis following the elections confirmed this even more strongly. In “free and democratic” elections the voters gave an undisputed majority to the workers parties. This majority has therefore been delegated by the people to rule the country. The Constituent Assembly presumably possesses sovereign powers. But what has actually happened?

In a contest for power de Gaulle challenged the right of the workers parties to decide either the composition or policies of his government. He impudently indicated that he holds himself above the Constituent, above its CP-SP majority, above the democratically manifested will of the people. Is de Gaulle’s victorious defiance a mark of bourgeois democracy or of Bonapartism?

De Gaulle’s regime does not directly and immediately rest upon the democratic Constituent Assembly or its democratically elected majority but upon the reconstructed professional army, the bureaucracy still staffed with ex-Vichyites and representatives of the banks and trusts, and the police. In the newly-risen MRP it has mobilized a supplementary base among the masses. Moreover, de Gaulle remains dependent upon the Anglo-American imperialists who originally placed him in power. When on December 11 he called upon the American troops to stay in Europe “until peace is secure,” he had in mind not only their usefulness as gendarmes of the capitalist counter-revolution in other countries. He counts upon the Anglo-American forces as a reserve to uphold the present precarious “class peace” within France.

The most significant feature of de Gaulle’s Bonapartism is its extreme shakiness. All his support on the right would mean very little without the support he receives from the left through the CP-SP leaderships. He could not long maintain his lofty position without their sanction because these parties command the allegiance of the most active class force, the proletariat, and have the bulk of the nation behind them. The actual power therefore resides in the principal working class parties from whom de Gaulle has obtained it at second hand.

That is why the present governmental combination of Bonapartism-plus-democracy is so unstable. The slightest conflict threatens to upset its equilibrium. The momentary show of opposition put up by the Stalinists shook the regime to its foundations. The abyss of civil war opened up before the contending parties. The subsequent capitulation of the Stalinists to de Gaulle cannot obliterate this fact which arose from the objectively revolutionary situation.

Whatever kind of constitution emanates from the Constituent Assembly, this is the real constitution of the political regime in France today. In a Bonapartist government covered with a few democratic fig-leaves Morrow sees a bourgeois democracy in flower. It is evident that not all the “democratic illusions” are in the heads of the French workers.

Political Trends in France

What are the perspectives of political development in France? Morrow forecasts without reservations the strengthening of a stable bourgeois democracy within which the masses must shed their democratic illusions before they can become a full-fledged revolutionary force. He leaves out of account the sharpening conflict of the classes which expresses itself on the one hand in de Gaulle’s efforts to heighten his personal power and on the other hand in the urge of the workers to escape from capitalist domination and create a government of their own. This conflict may be concealed by cabinet combinations and postponed by parliamentary maneuvers but it cannot be fundamentally resolved except by direct class struggle. The problem of state power has never been settled in any other way, and that is the key question at issue not only in France but throughout Western Europe today.

The representatives of capitalism are seeking to save their society and consolidate their rule by first deceiving and then brutally subjugating the toilers. The Stalinists and Socialists hope to continue their policy of compromise and capitulation within a bourgeois-democratic framework. The Trotskyist must expose the fallacy of such a policy and perspective by teaching the workers that they cannot realize any of their basic economic and political demands except through the conquest of power and the victory of the socialist revolution on a continental scale.

The emergence of a Constituent Assembly or any other democratic institution does not alter this perspective. Even if the French Constituent should give birth to a new Republic, it is doomed in advance to impotence and destruction because it cannot settle a single important problem. Torn by irreconcilable class contradictions, such a Republic could only pave the way for the final showdown between the capitalist counter-revolution and the resurgent proletariat. For this reason, whatever stages intervene and whatever political combinations and groupings may take the helm in France, our analysis and prognosis retains its full validity.

The resolution adopted by the 11th Convention of the SWP last year said:

Bourgeois democratic governments can appear in Europe only as interim regimes, intended to stave off the conquest of power by the proletariat. When the sweep of the revolution threatens to wipe out capitalist rule, the imperialists and their native accomplices may attempt, as a last resort, to push forward their Social Democratic and Stalinist agents and set up a democratic capitalist regime for the purpose of disarming and strangling the workers’ revolution.

Such regimes can only be very unstable, short-lived and transitional in character. They will constitute a brief episode in the unfolding of the revolutionary struggle. Inevitably, they will be displaced either by the dictatorship of the proletariat emerging out of the triumphant workers’ revolution or the savage dictatorship of the capitalists consequent upon the victory of the counter-revolution.

These are the real perspectives arising out of the present critical situation in France and Western Europe. They are based upon the logic of the intensified class struggle, and not upon the false assumption of a progressive amelioration of the social crisis and moderation of class conflict which really lies at the root of Comrade Morrow’s glib and unwarranted assurance that Western Europe is irresistibly “evolving toward bourgeois democracy”—and in several countries has already arrived there.

The Main Danger

Our controversy with Comrade Morrow takes place at a time when other individuals and groups are shouting to the world that the program of the Fourth International has become outmoded, unrealistic, inadequate to cope with the problems of European politics. This is not a new cry and this time too it has produced familiar results. In their quest for a new revelation, the would-be innovators have fallen back upon the tattered formulas of democracy.

Comrade Morrow’s “method of democratic demands,” sanctified as a panacea for the solution of the manifold problems confronting the European revolutionists, can only help to feed and fortify these revisionist tendencies. But there is a still greater danger. Life for the worker and peasant masses in Europe has become intolerable under the existing capitalist chaos. Having turned to the Stalinist and Socialist parties for a radical way out of their terrible predicament, they are already exhibiting signs of disappointment. The Popular Front coalitions are aggravating the crisis and not alleviating, let alone solving, it. If the Fourth International should follow Morrow’s prescriptions and appear as nothing more than the extreme left-wing of the “democratic front,” the advanced workers would find no alternative party to lead them in the coming revolutionary struggles. The masses, bereft of firm revolutionary socialist leadership, could then again become the prey of neo-fascist formations which will demagogically promise to satisfy their social needs by direct action. Such tendencies have already sprung up in Italy and elsewhere.

Only by resolutely adhering to the program of the Fourth International and correctly applying it can the Trotskyists frustrate further disillusionment of this kind and become mass revolutionary parties in Western Europe.


Last updated on 02.01.2006