MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: FI: 1938-1949: 1951 3rd Congress of the FI
The International Situation and Tasks in the Struggle against Imperialist War
Resolution Adopted by the
Third Congress of the Fourth International—Paris, April 1951
First Published: 1951.
Source: Fourth International, Vol.12 No.6, November-December 1951, pp.189-198.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Daniel Gaido & David Walters, November 2005.
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.
The international situation is characterized by the accelerated preparations of imperialism for war; the almost consummated rupture between the imperialist bloc on the one side, and on the other side, the USSR around which are grouped the “People’s Democracies” and China, to which it is allied (despite the possibility of a limited compromise before the outbreak of the general conflict); the sharpened polarization of the social forces in all countries; the spread of the anti-imperialist and revolutionary movement in the countries of the Far East and the Near East, in the African colonies and the semi-colonial countries of Latin America; and the new upsurge of the workers’ movement in the metropolitan centers under the impact of the anti-imperialist victories of the colonial masses and of the implementation of the armaments program of the bourgeoisie.
The unfolding period is a period of the alignment of opposing social forces engaged in partial struggles which will tend to spread into a decisive general encounter.
The quickening of the march of imperialism to war is the result of the defeats of all its attempts to establish a new equilibrium, to halt the process of its own decomposition, to checkmate the powerful movement of emancipation of the colonial and metropolitan masses, and to conjure away the threat of economic crisis.
Underlying this evolution is the exacerbation of the fundamental contradiction of the capitalist system increased production and productivity in a market which is constantly narrowing due to the loss of a series of essential colonial reserves and of the Soviet European buffer zone and to the constriction of the buying power of the masses because of the continual rise of the cost of living, which has assumed a universal character during and after the Second World War. Above all, it is due to the swollen apparatus of production of American imperialism which is choking within the already too narrow boundaries of the capitalist world and which can find no other solution for its contradictions than the conquest of the entire world.
The armaments economy and the war itself are envisaged by imperialism as its last resort for eliminating the threat of the economic crisis, for recuperating lost territories and for crushing the revolutionary movement of the masses, which is the precondition for a real stabilization.
I. The Evolution of World Economy
Between 1948 and June 1950, when the Korean War broke out, world capitalist economy was threatened with a depression to the degree that production attained and surpassed its prewar levels without a compensating enlargement of markets.
Above all it was the capitalist economy of the United States, with its faltering and even frequent declines of production, which most clearly foreshadowed during this period and especially in 1949-50 the approach of a depression.
European capitalist economy, which continued to benefit from massive American aid, seemed to follow an ascending course. However, the rhythm of the increase of production was everywhere diminishing. Production reached a plateau in certain countries (Belgium, France), while in some important sectors (steel and coal) it had already attained the saturation point. Unemployment developed in many countries. On the other hand there was a world overproduction of agricultural products and of certain raw materials.
The reconversion into armaments economies, begun with the Korean War, has upset this tendency in all spheres.
It has imprinted on raw materials, which are sought in all markets and stockpiled with frenzy, a firm upward curve which has simultaneously revived and inflated the previously depressed economies of the producing countries, particularly those of South East Asia, Latin America, Australia and Africa.
It has permitted American economy a considerable expansion of its production whilst it has arrested the first declines of production in Europe.
But at the same time, new contradictions have arisen counter-balancing these favorable effects, which also aggravate the disequilibrium as well as the social crisis of the system.
Inflation, somewhat slowed down between 1949 and 1950, has revived everywhere and assumed a universal character. This is developing due to the combined effects of the rise of the price of raw materials, the unproductive character of the armaments economy, the constriction of civilian production, and the lowering of the buying power of the masses as a result of new taxes and of a tendency to freeze wages.
It has already led to a notable reduction of the living standard of the masses, including to a certain degree that in the United States itself, even though the implementation of the armaments program is still only at its beginning.
To the degree that this program is realized, civilian production, including that of the United States, will necessarily be constricted, while on the contrary the expenses of the state will rise to the detriment of the buying power of the productive population, an ever larger part of this buying power going to finance the armaments sector.
Within this general evolution, the different constituent elements of capitalist economy describe varied trajectories and often in the inverse sense. The United States which, during and after the Second World War, had acquired a crushing preponderance in world capitalist economy, now exercises a more rigorous control than ever over the whole of world capitalist economy.
If the development of production in other capitalist countries, as well as the first phase of the new economic conjuncture accompanied by the drainage to the United States of all raw materials originating in these countries and their colonies, has reduced their deficit in dollars between 1949-50, American monopolization and the stockpiling of these indispensable raw materials have resulted in a greater dependence than ever of the rest of the capitalist world on the U.S. Naturally this concerns above all the industrialized countries of Western Europe. On the other side, the colonial and semi-colonial countries producing raw materials are experiencing a revival of economic activity but must once more sacrifice all hope of industrialization to the intensified production of raw materials.
The United States is becoming the storehouse of raw materials, the factory and the bank of the entire capitalist world to the detriment of the colonial and semi-colonial countries.
Thus the bloated development of American imperialism, far from easing the internal contradictions of the capitalist system and leading to a kind of inter-imperialist planning, which has been the dream of the apostles of “super-imperialism,” is leading on the contrary to the aggravation of the contradictions of world imperialism.
The very logic of this new orientation of capitalist economy toward an armaments economy carries within itself an ineluctable drift toward a pure and simple war economy. On the other hand, once this orientation becomes a fact and is put in operation it creates an irreversible process; its cessation would inevitably cause a fall of prices, unemployment, and economic crisis rebounding from the United States to the entire capitalist world.
Economic Trends in the Soviet Orbit
Contrary to these parasitic tendencies, predominantly those of unproductive investments of the capitalist economy, the statified and planned economy of the USSR and of the European “People’s Democracies” have experienced an important and more balanced development, despite the burdens imposed by armaments, by the upkeep and the waste of the bureaucracy and by the absence of conscious and willing participation of the masses in the functioning of the economy. This is the proof of the intrinsic superiority of this economy despite its bureaucratic management.
In the USSR, the industrial goals of the five-year plan have been attained and surpassed, bringing industrial production well over the level attained in 1940. For the first time, on the other hand, since the years 1936-38, the living standard of the masses, especially of the urban masses, is beginning to show some improvement due to the stabilization and even the lowering of prices, the increase of buying power and the greater supply of consumer goods like foodstuffs and clothing. On the contrary, the agricultural goals of the plan do not seem to have been realized, and the problem of increasing agricultural production, to provide for the heightened needs of industrial and civil consumption, continues to remain an acute one.
The reforms undertaken in the sphere of the collective farms with the aim of centralization and a more advanced mechanization of agriculture, have as their economic purpose, on the one side, an increase of agricultural production and, on the other side, the furnishing of a needed labor supply to industry. Moreover, they will cut the peasant’s ties with his old kind and will represent a new stage in the stabilization of collective farm property.
The European “People’s Democracies” have made notable progress in repairing the destruction of the war, in their industrialization which has already begun to considerably alter the economic structure and the social composition of these countries. The short-term plans, whose goal was to restore the economies of these countries to pre-war levels, have in general attained this limited objective. The new long term plans, now in operation, are progressing and in some cases extending their initial objectives, especially in the domain of industrial production.
However the international conjuncture which makes obligatory an enhanced armaments effort, the exploitation of a part of the resources of these countries by the Soviet bureaucracy, as well as by their own bureaucratic rule, impose heavy sacrifices on the masses and have led to a lowering of the standard of living varying according to the country and to the different categories of the working masses. The removal of these countries from the world market, in the absence of effective aid from the USSR, acts as a brake on their industrial development while accelerating the integration of their economies into that of the Soviet economy.
Progress is the slowest and difficulties the greatest in the agricultural sector. That is because effective and harmonious collectivization depends above all on an important previous rise in industry and on education by example of the peasantry and not on administrative measures and bureaucratic and police pressures.
Pressures on Yugoslavia
In Yugoslavia, the Kremlin blockade, the onerous conditions imperialism has imposed on its limited aid, the high objectives initially fixed by the CPY and the government, have resulted in repeated changes and limitations of the plan. Although readjusted, the plan is being realized amidst constant difficulties and delays, and its very existence is now at stake. The living conditions of the masses have suffered much, while the concessions the government was forced to make to imperialism and particularly on the countryside have strengthened the tendencies of primitive accumulation of the peasantry and of the speculators, disorganizing the economic planning as a whole, which is translated into a growing pressure by alien class forces on the political and social plane.
Progress and Difficulties in China
Concerning the economic situation in China, the stabilization of prices, the stopping of inflation and a better provisioning of the market with agricultural and industrial products should be written down to the credit of the Mao Tse-tung government. These results are the more remarkable if one takes into consideration the condition China was in after the defeat of Chiang Kai-shek, the war effort undertaken more than one year ago to support the Korean people in their struggle against imperialism, the blockade which has been erected against China, and the minimum material aid thus far granted the Peking regime by the USSR.
The international conjuncture since the Korean War has naturally upset the plans for the economic revival of China and has also drained a large part of the resources of the country into the war effort. The realization of agrarian reform south of the Yangtse, which has led to the resistance of the bourgeoisie allied to the landed proprietors against this measure, implies a slower general economic revival for southern China than the one experienced by northern China and especially by Manchuria, which has had a full industrial revival. The role of the state, because of its economic trump cards (statification of important sectors of industry) and especially because of its political trump cards, has proved, to a great degree, to be that of controller, regulator and stimulator of all the economic life of the country which is moving by stages toward a statified and planned economy.
Naturally in China, this problem proves to be infinitely more difficult than in the European “People’s Democracies” because of the very low level of the productive forces and the existence of a still very vast domain of agricultural and urban economy which functions on the basis of private property and which the state is trying to control.
II. The Evolution of International Relations
The new element in international relations which has become more and more manifest since the Korean War is the aggravated rupture between imperialism and the Soviet bloc allied to China, which removes and renders improbable the prospect of any really durable general compromise between the two camps.
This trend is the reflection of the absence of a basis for such a compromise, the relationship of forces having evolved to the disadvantage of imperialism whose decomposition is so far advanced that it is impossible for it to stabilize itself even if the Soviet bureaucracy were disposed to respect the line of division of influence in the world established after the last war and to prevent the collapse of capitalism in other parts of the world. The status quo is not only an impossible situation for imperialism but it is not a viable one. On the other hand, the Soviet bureaucracy can no longer reopen the European “People’s Democracies” to imperialist exploitation without gravely compromising its own security, and even less can it conclude a compromise at the expense of China and of the colonial revolution (which is developing according to its own logic) without encountering resistance from the regimes established in these countries and especially from that of Mao Tse-tung.
This resistance would lead to a break with the Kremlin and to its isolation within its own camp. The Korean War itself reveals how mightily the colonial revolution comes into conflict today directly with the armed forces of imperialism. The Soviet bureaucracy has been unable to openly betray a movement of such scope without placing its own existence at stake, and it has taken care to intervene as little as possible in the conflict while favoring the exhaustion of both the imperialist and the revolutionary forces.
There remains the possibility of an extended compromise on Germany, once again the pivotal point of all Western Europe. This compromise was possible before the Korean War and the implementation of the gigantic imperialist armaments plan with all its consequences. This possibility now appears less and less likely, with each of the two camps proceeding in practice to speed up the integration of the German zone under its control.
Behind a camouflage of attempts to revive diplomatic talks between the two camps, “peace” proposals and “pacifist” chatter each side derives various advantages in gaining time and in propaganda, while in reality both sides push their military preparations to the utmost. Both proceed fundamentally from the point of view of an inevitable war in the near future.
Korea and Possibilities for a Compromise
It is because there is no longer a basis for an extended compromise that the war in Korea has degenerated into a war of attrition and the Big Four Conference has failed. However, this does not exclude the possibility of a limited compromise but one which will not in any way alter the fundamental and inexorable march of events.
The cease-fire negotiations in Korea occur within the framework of such compromises which are still sought by both sides. In Korea, backed by almost the entirety of the capitalist world, American imperialism has committed the largest part of its existing military establishment which has been more and more powerfully reinforced as its colossal armaments program takes shape.
It has thus brought to bear an inordinately heavy preponderance of military force against the Korean masses and the Chinese forces which joined the latter in their struggle against imperialism, while the assistance of the Soviet bureaucracy has been dispensed only in doses, deliberately calculated to permit the war to continue but insufficient for victory.
On the other hand the inability of imperialism to achieve any decisive result in Korea, despite the very important forces it has committed to the war, has divided its ranks on the problem of how to extricate itself from this blind alley: the MacArthur wing of imperialism proposing the immediate extension of the war to China; the most important wing represented by the Democratic administration and leading European circles seeking for the moment to circumscribe the Korean conflict and to limit the effort brought to bear on this secondary point of the world front.
China on its side will not be able to continue the struggle in Korea without a total effort of the country or substantial aid from the USSR.
The Soviet bureaucracy which has profited during the entire first period of the conflict by a simultaneous weakening of imperialism and of the young Chinese revolution, finds itself between the double danger of an extension of the war and the threatening pressure of Peking, and is thus also in favor of a truce. That a truce, a pause, before the resumption of the struggle in Korea itself or elsewhere, is what is involved becomes clear by the maintenance of the opposing armed forces on a war footing and by the difficulties of arriving at a “peace” settlement for Korea, as well as by the uninterrupted war preparations of imperialism, which have been accelerated precisely during the truce negotiations, by the creation of new American bases in Africa and in Europe, by the preparation of the peace treaty with Japan, the resumption of discussions for the rearmament of Germany, the projected inclusion of Greece and Turkey and indirectly even of Spain in the Atlantic Pact and finally by the more intensified prosecution of the armaments program.
Over and above the growing tension caused in international relations by the conflict in Korea and the situation in the Middle East, the rearmament of Japan, the principal base of imperialism in the Far East, and even more the rearmament of Western Germany, aggravate this tension still further and will force it to the breaking point. Insofar as the rearmament of Germany in particular is undertaken on a large scale, which is now the intention of the whole “Atlantic community”—the American point of view on this question having definitively overcome the resistance of the French bourgeoisie—this will constitute the sign of a speeding up of the pace toward war and of the consummation of the rupture between the two camps. In this case, one cannot completely exclude the eventuality that the Kremlin, driven to the wall, despite its sincere and tenacious efforts to do everything possible to prevent such an outcome, will risk a preventive action.
Submergence of Differences
The imperialist camp, within the framework of this trend, is becoming more and more homogeneous around and under the leadership of the United States. This is not to say that all interimperialist antagonisms have disappeared, but rather that the still existent antagonisms are being more and more subordinated to the common struggle in prospect, to the significance and the gravity of this struggle for the very existence of the capitalist system as a whole.
On the other hand, the disproportion between American imperialism and the other capitalist powers has now reached that paint where all resistance to Washington ends in capitulation.
British imperialism, which has not ceased to nourish the hope of playing the role of a brilliant second, tries on every occasion to preserve the appearance of independence. But even London has now so limited a base and is assailed with such difficulties in its still remaining colonial domain that it is impossible for it to offer the slightest effective resistance to the invading protection of its American ally.
The capitulation of London to Washington on Chinese and Korean policy in order to be able to obtain the help of America in coping with the dangers which have arisen in Iran is symptomatic of the manner in which the antagonisms and passing frictions between the two allies are finally settled and of the real relationship of forces between them.
This tendency toward homogeneity is also proceeding within the ranks of each bourgeoisie, bringing together the points of view of the different factions of the class and establishing a stricter discipline over it as a whole. This tendency breaks down as a result of struggles and frictions but it is reasserted again by the rallying to a common, fundamental line as the chances of war become greater.
Thus, for example, in the United States, the “Great Debate” which took place within America’s ruling circles has clarified the scope of the differences among them as to the time element of the outbreak of the war and as to the principal front (Asia or Europe), but at the same time it has permitted the working out of a more considered and better formulated strategy for the whole of the American and world bourgeoisie, to which the principal nucleus of this class has now rallied.
Only the strongest reactions of the masses, and especially a strong reaction of the American masses, can once again endanger the cohesion of the bourgeoisie, as well as the concrete military plans of imperialism, their timing and their implementation.
Kremlin Hegemony Tightened
An analogous centripetal process to the evolution of inter-imperialist relations has occurred in the Soviet camp shied to China. As a result of the “cold war,” the Kremlin’s control over the European “People’s Democracies” has been tightened in the sense of a growing isolation of these countries from the rest of the capitalist world, including in the economic sphere. The governments of these countries have been led to tighten their economic ties with each other and with the USSR and to elaborate a common program of military preparation strictly controlled by the Kremlin. Hence, the Kremlin’s grip on these countries, which for a long time was thwarted by an undercurrent of opposition among the masses and even among a section of the indigenous apparatus of the Communist parties, has been temporarily reinforced by the international evolution toward war.
The pro-imperialist turn of the leadership of the Yugoslav Communist Party and of the Belgrade government has also considerably aided this process.
This does not at all signify that the opposition of the masses to the Soviet bureaucracy and to the native bureaucracy has been weakened or that the crisis even within the apparatus of the Communist parties has been overcome. It signifies merely that the factors favoring the broadening and the deepening of this crisis in the masses and in the party have been modified, and that the perspectives for the development of a substantial “Titoist” opposition in this period or in the early future are no longer justified.
In China also, the aggravation of the international situation tends in the direction of maintaining ties with the Kremlin. Insofar as China is isolated from the world market by the imperialist blockade and is drained by its war effort in Korea of a large part of its resources to the detriment of a rapid economic revival, it is obliged to temporize with the Kremlin even if the latter’s attitude toward China, determined by the self-interest of the Soviet bureaucracy, becomes ever clearer and ever more intolerable in the eyes of the militants of the Chinese CP and even of a section of its leaders.
III. Evolution of Social Struggles and Situation in the International Workers’ Movement
The Asian Revolution
The anti-imperialist and revolutionary movement of the colonial and semi-colonial countries is at the center of the present upsurge of the international movement of emancipation of the exploited masses and is favored by the accentuated crisis of the capitalist system. Far from experiencing a lull, this movement is spreading and winning new territories.
While the conquests of the revolution are being consolidated in China and while the war in Korea, accompanied by the imperialist blockade, is imposing a more leftward course on the Mao Tse-tung, regime both on the economic and on the political planes, the armed struggle of the masses against imperialism and its native agents is being continued in Korea, in Vietnam, in Malaya, in Burma, in the Philippines and no stabilization favoring imperialism is in prospect.
The workers’ movement in Japan is now being subjected to the combined pressure of the native ruling classes and of the imperialist occupation which has used all means to arrest the stormy upsurge of the proletariat at the conclusion of the last war.
But above all it was the Stalinist and reformist leadership which curbed its general development and prevented the consummation of a broader unity of action against the offensive of its class enemies.
Nevertheless the process of the radicalization of the Japanese masses continues, far surpassing the pre-war level, and remains the most powerful obstacle to the war preparations and the war plans of American imperialism and its Japanese allies.
In India, Ceylon and Indonesia, countries where imperialism was obliged to cede power directly to the native bourgeoisie, there prevails a pre-revolutionary situation containing highly explosive possibilities. This is the expression of the organic incapacity of the bourgeoisie, closely tied to imperialism, to accomplish the democratic, economic and political reforms which would attenuate the extreme misery under which the peasant and worker masses live in these countries and would satisfy their profound aspirations for freedom and self-government.
Near East Enters Ferment
The Near East, up to now the private preserve of imperialism supported by the native feudal-capitalists, has entered the ferment. The anti-imperialist movement of the masses is growing in scope and is obliging the most farsighted elements of the propertied classes to project an anti-imperialist policy. These circles thereby hope on the one hand to moderate the financial crisis which rages in these countries, through expropriating imperialism of a part of the wealth which it derives from the exploitation of their resources, and on the other hand to prevent the development of a revolutionary leadership of the national movement of the masses.
In the French North African and equatorial colonies, the strengthening of administrative oppression has not succeeded in crushing the profound liberation movement of the native masses. For identical reasons to those existing in the Near East, this movement draws behind it a more and more important section of the feudal capitalists and the petty-bourgeoisie, government employees, small businessmen, native intellectuals. The so-called concessions and reforms of the administration have shown themselves to be illusory and once again push the native propertied circles, who had wanted to collaborate, into opposition. This is a result of the extremely narrow base of French imperialism and because its general impoverishment obliges it to engage in an intensified exploitation of its African colonies and in a more severe policy of repression than ever.
In the semi-colonial countries of Latin America, the attempts of American imperialism and of the collaborationist ruling circles—which are once again profiting from the international conjuncture of war preparations—to dragoon the masses into a common “defense” of the Western Hemisphere and the anti-Soviet war is encountering very strong resistance as is illustrated by the struggles which have recently taken place in all of these countries as well as by the significant results in the elections in Brazil and even more in Bolivia.
In Australia and New Zealand, countries where there has grown up a more and more numerous and vigorous proletariat without a past of defeats, widespread struggles have demonstrated its resistance to the war policy of the bourgeoisie and its effects.
New Upsurge in Western Europe
In Western Europe great struggles have pointed to a new upsurge of the proletariat in the wake of the victories won in Asia and because of the implementation of the armaments program of the bourgeoisie with all its consequences on the already very low standard of living of the masses.
In England, the proletariat shows an unremitting resistance to this war policy which finds its expression not only in a series of struggles conducted under an independent leadership against the bourgeoisie and its reformist agents in the trade unions but also in the ferment which is taking place in the Labor Party and in the development of a left wing in its ranks.
Bevan’s resignation and his new “socialist” program, by means of which he hopes to refloat the Labor Party in the next elections and to appease the discontent of a large part of its rank and file, is a culminating point in the differentiation towards which events are moving within the Labor Party.
This is only the beginning of a process which will be speeded up as the execution of the war policy of the English bourgeoisie and its increased difficulties in the colonial domain demonstrate the incompatibility of such a policy with the maintenance of a social, let alone a “socialist,” program.
In France, the recent great strike struggles have demonstrated what the reaction of the masses will be to the strong inflationary pressure in that country. Under the combined effect of economic developments, difficulties in the colonial domain and the strengthening of reaction in the new parliament which emerged from the June 1950 elections, the class struggle in France is moving toward a climax.
In Italy, the elections have demonstrated a new strengthening of the workers’ parties and a notable decline of the principal bourgeois party, that of de Gasperi. This contrasts with the strengthening of the right wing in the French parliament with its massive presence of Gaullist deputies.
In Western Germany, the workers’ upsurge, induced by the pressure of inflation, unemployment and the reactionary policy of the imperialist occupation and the collaborationist bourgeoisie, is still circumscribed in nature. The speeded-up integration of Germany into the “Atlantic community” and its war policy will not fail to intensify the resistance and the reactions of the German masses who are more than ever opposed to a new carnage.
In Belgium, Austria, Holland, in the Scandinavian countries, in Greece, the war policy of the bourgeoisie is giving rise to similar reactions in varying degrees among the masses who do not feel themselves in any way beaten or demoralized.
But it is especially in Spain that the new upsurge of the European proletariat has shown itself in all its actual scope. Twelve years of ferocious repression have not. been able to prevent the rebirth of the resistance of the Spanish masses who from one end of the country to the other, in imposing formations, have mightily demonstrated their will to struggle and their indomitable opposition to the Franco regime. A new revolution is now maturing in Spain and its outbreak should cause no surprise. It can occur as the result of certain fortuitous internal condition, or as a result of new extensive struggles in Western Europe, or through new anti-imperialist victories. In any case, its outbreak from the very beginning will impel the present upsurge of the workers’ movement of Western Europe to a very high pitch and will profoundly alter the situation, particularly in France, Italy, England and Germany.
Armaments and American Workers
In the United States and in Canada, the workers’ reactions, being stirred up again by the inflation which is developing in these countries, still remain at a relatively low level, both of these countries benefiting from exceptional conditions. The buying power of the masses in a period of full employment has not yet been seriously affected by the process of inflation. On the other hand, the violent reactionary offensive of the bourgeoisie, the anti-communist witch-hunt, the drastic measures of regimentation and the accelerated militarization of the life of these countries, particularly of the United States, weighs on the masses who do not yet fully realize the meaning and the end-result of the new conjuncture. Nevertheless, the first effects of the armaments program have produced a sharp reaction from the reformist bureaucracy which is concerned with safeguarding its own privileges and its base in the mass movement. More important reactions will arise in the United States only at a more advanced stage of the execution of the armaments program and the militarization of the country.
Although with a more important and inevitable delay than in the other capitalist countries, the United States is moving nonetheless inexorably toward a profound transformation which will undermine the standard of living as well as the way of life of the masses, and will make them taste the bitter fruits which rotting capitalism is now dispensing in abundance everywhere else: abysmal pauperization, long years in the barracks, police terror, repression.
Degeneration of Reformism
The situation within the workers’ movement itself is characterized by the disproportion which now exists between objective revolutionary possibilities, the more and more widespread struggles of the colonial and metropolitan masses and the constant policy of betrayal, cowardice and opportunism of the traditional reformist and Stalinist leaderships.
Reformism shows itself to be incapable of detaching itself in any decisive way from moribund capitalism, which drags it down into its own decadence, even in those countries where the masses accord it a powerful support and demand from it daring measures as in England, Belgium, Austria, Germany, the Scandinavian countries, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and to a lesser degree in India, Japan, Palestine. With minor reservations here and there, it has consented to serve the armaments and war policy of the bourgeoisie against the USSR, the “People’s Democracies,” China, the colonial revolutions, the international revolutionary movement. In its propaganda it uses the same “ideological” arguments as the bourgeoisie in order to dragoon the masses into the war.
The recent revival at Frankfort of the defunct Second International has, according to its own declarations, no other aim than to give a certain measure of coordination to this propaganda which is designed to once again chain the masses behind the war effort of imperialism and to dragoon them into the war itself, and to attempt to disguise it behind a “left” cover.
As the effects of the war preparations of the bourgeoisie weigh more and more heavily on the masses, this policy of the social democracy will result in the loss of a section of its workers’ base in those places where it has been able to retain it or to reconquer it from Stalinism, and will give rise to even more serious internal ferment than that which has thus far manifested itself, us for example in England.
In cases where the discontent in the ranks of the reformists assumes important proportions and where the resistance of the masses runs the risk of being polarized by other parties or tendencies, it is not excluded that the reformist leaders will go into temporary opposition to the policy of the bourgeoisie and that they will carry their parties into the opposition. In certain cases the bourgeoisie itself would like to rid its governments of their presence which is often the source of obstruction and of latent opposition to a firm preparation for war.
For these reasons, the evolution of each reformist part should be specially studied by our movement in order to formulate the tactic to be followed toward it.
Contradictions in Stalinist Movement
As far as Stalinism is concerned, it is necessary to point out and to insist upon the following considerations:
- The fundamental policy of the Soviet bureaucracy at the present time is determined by its fear of the revolutionary consequences which would arise from a world war with imperialism, shattering all equilibriums, embracing immense masses and uncontrollable forces. For this reason and not mainly out of fear of the military strength of imperialism, the Soviet bureaucracy abstained from exploiting the unfavorable relationship of forces for imperialism and its evident lack of military preparation. At present, for this reason as well as because of the fear induced by the growing military potential of imperialism, the Soviet bureaucracy is oriented toward delaying the outbreak of war by means of a compromise; and it assigns to the Communist parties as their fundamental task the campaign for “peace” through a conference of the “Big Five.” But on the other hand, the Soviet bureaucracy, faced with the obvious and accelerated preparations of imperialism for war and with the revolutionary reactions of the masses, is obliged to curry on a red struggle against these preparations through the medium of the CPs and to a certain extent to take into account the reactions of the masses. Hence the combined character of its present policy, which is a mixture of pacifist, petty-bourgeois opportunism and of “anti-imperialist” and “anti-capitalist” leftism leading to class actions against the preparations for war.
- On the other hand, in countries where objective conditions impel the masses to an open revolt against capitalism and imperialism, and to armed struggle, as is now the case in the Far East, the Soviet bureaucracy, despite the dangers that it runs in its relations with imperialism and by the extension of the revolution in the world, is obliged not to purely and simply sabotage these struggles but rather to try to use them to its best advantage.
The situation imposes this dangerous and contradictory game on the bureaucracy which like capitalism is in the grip of inextricable contradictions and is swept along by forces it cannot rigidly control.
Thus the Communist parties, although subordinated by their leaderships to the Kremlin, and although acting basically as agents of the interests of the Soviet bureaucracy, are thrust into new conditions and are in turn affected by them. They are obliged, while insisting on a compromise, to struggle against the war preparations of the bourgeoisie, and feeling the effects of the pressure of the masses they become the vehicle for a revolutionary potential which can drive them beyond the intentions of the Kremlin and of their own leaders—a situation which is not without its dangers for bureaucratic conformist.
Policy and Influence of the Communist Parties
In general, the present conjuncture of accelerated preparations for war favors a revival of the influence of the Communist parties, varying in degree in a series of countries. This is clearest in the colonial and semi-colonial countries. The attraction of China and the war in Korea has first of all made itself felt in the Far East and in all of Asia where the indigenous nationalist parties have shown themselves incapable of any effective struggle against imperialism and against the native propertied classes.
In Italy, France and Greece there has been a slight revival of the Communist parties, which either have maintained their positions or have even made moderate gains as against the decline of their influence prior to the accentuation of their leftist course, and especially before the implementation of the armaments program of the bourgeoisie. In the rest of Western Europe and in the Anglo-Saxon countries, the Stalinist parties continue to decline for the same reasons which caused their weakening since 1947-49.
The limits of this leftist course are now quite clear. Given the fact that an extended compromise with imperialism is more or less excluded and given the fact that the war preparations of the bourgeoisie will continue in its accelerated pace, this course will persist in its basic form. Nevertheless, it will undergo oscillations from left to right and vice versa, but always on the base of this fundamental line and in keeping with the possibilities of limited and ephemeral compromises and in conformity with the “peace” offensives the Soviet bureaucracy will continue to launch up to the outbreak of the conflict, as is now the case with the truce negotiations in Korea. This results not in the disappearance of the crisis of Stalinism but in a transformation of its form. The possibilities of important splits in the CPs, which existed before the Korean War and during the progressive evolution of the Yugoslav affair, are replaced by a leftward movement within the Communist parties among its rank and file.
This evaluation of the present course of the policy of the CPs is not without significance for the development and the tactic of our movement in the countries where there is a strong Stalinist influence insofar as the immediate future is concerned.
Centrism in Present Epoch
Besides reformism and Stalinism, the two still fundamental currents of the international workers’ movement, the old centrist formations of the London Bureau variety have either completely disappeared or are stagnating. They have shown themselves completely incapable of any revival through the assimilation of the experience of events and thus vitiate their possibilities of playing an important role in their own country.
Between 1949 and the outbreak of the Korean war, the Yugoslav CP gave the appearance of being able to head a regroupment of revolutionary forces independent of capitalism and of the Kremlin and of playing a major role in the formation of a new revolutionary leadership. This possibility, however, was soon bungled under the combined pressure of the turn in the international situation, the internal difficulties in Yugoslavia and the deep-going opportunist training of the Yugoslav leadership in the school of Stalinism. The progressive repercussions of the Yugoslav affair made themselves felt in several European countries and gave rise to a regroupment of certain elements of the revolutionary vanguard, particularly of former Stalinists. It was particularly in Germany and to a lesser extent in Italy, Spain, France and Sweden that this new centrism manifested itself. But thus far it is practically only in Germany that this tendency has found an important base, due to the crisis of Stalinism which is more acute there than anywhere else in Europe. In a period of extreme tension of the class struggle, of an equally extreme polarization of social forces, centrism has less place than ever before, and all attempts to recreate it are doomed to rapid and miserable failure.
Only the movement of the Fourth International, rooted more seriously than ever in important circles of the international revolutionary vanguard, and in several countries even in the real workers’ movement, has maintained and augmented its forces and is preparing to exploit to the utmost the chances offered by the present revolutionary period for the construction of a new revolutionary leadership which will assure the final victory of world socialism over the ruins of capitalism and Stalinism.
IV. Orientation arid Tasks of the Fourth International
In its orientation as well as in the definition of its immediate political tasks, our movement should proceed from the immense revolutionary perspectives opened by the crisis and rapid decomposition of capitalism which has proved incapable of changing the present relationship of forces in its favor and this holds true for the present period as for the one approaching.
On the other hand, in the concrete conditions in which this decomposition occurs, with the USSR and Stalinism exploiting part of this crisis for their own benefit, the role of our organizations in the rising revolutionary movement varies according to the influence of Stalinism in the areas involved.
In the second case, which includes countries such as the USA, England, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, the Scandinavian countries, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, all of Latin America, Africa and even India, Indonesia, the Middle East, our movement must act in the years ahead with the determination to become the revolutionary leadership of the masses whose task will be to organize the struggle for power in all of these countries. Unless this role is performed audaciously and unless preparations for it are begun now, there is the danger that the inevitable spread of the crisis of capitalism into these countries will benefit centrist or even Stalinist organizations which are now in a state of stagnation and even of decay in these countries.
Penetration of Stalinist Movement
In all other countries where the revolutionary mass movement still remains mainly in the channel of Stalinist or Stalinist-influenced organizations, our essential preoccupation should be to keep from being cut off from these masses, to seek to intermingle with them and to profit from the common struggle against capitalism and imperialism in order through this struggle to set them against the Soviet bureaucracy and Stalinism. The fate of Stalinism is at stake in the global encounter now joined, an encounter which will go through a series of phases and stages before its inevitable denouement.
Our movement will not be able to take advantage of the present revolutionary period unless it succeeds in finding its way to the masses wherever the really essential class movement—or important currents of this movement—exists. On the other hand it must combine this organizational and tactical flexibility with a solid ideological cohesion of its cadres and its militants, the reflection of their profound comprehension of the concrete conditions in which the struggle for socialism is now unfolding. Only such an organization of cadres and members will not under any conditions be isolated from the masses, and will not waver either under the pressure of imperialism or under the pressure of Stalinism.
In a general sense, in the immediate future, the essential political task of our movement will be to impel, organize and lead, wherever conditions permit, the struggle of the masses for the defeat of imperialism in its war preparations, and in the war if it breaks out by the joint action of all the revolutionary masses opposed to it.
Our movement aims, wherever it is able, to head the movement of the masses against the war of imperialism and for its disarmament by the revolution and the workers’ power.
War and the USSR
Our movement will denounce the counter-revolutionary character of the war being prepared against the USSR, China, the “People’s Democracies,” the other colonial revolutions, the international revolutionary movement. It will summon the masses to the defense of these conquests and will explain the progressive meaning of this defense which is both anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and against the Soviet bureaucracy.
Our conception of the defense of the USSR naturally remains as in the past subordinated to the defense of the general interests of the world socialist revolution. This is impossible without the free deployment and the broadest revolutionary mobilization of the toiling masses in the world against their own bourgeoisie and against imperialism in general, a mobilization which reaches its peak in armed insurrections.
Because, in the final analysis, it is this mobilization which will decide the outcome of the world war and the fate of the USSR in particular, we will, as in the past, oppose any attempt of the Soviet bureaucracy to suppress, restrain or divert such a mobilization of the proletarian and colonial masses, and we will organize their resistance against such measures, up to and including their armed resistance, even independently of the effects this could have on the purely military conduct of the war, provided they do not compromise the final result of the war and the victory over imperialism.
For the same reason the Bolshevik-Leninists in the USSR, while fighting in the front lines against imperialism and while subordinating the moment of the overthrow of the Bonapartist bureaucracy to the question of the military security of the country and to conditions which will not compromise the victory over imperialism, will not interrupt their political struggle for the overthrow of Stalin and for the whole of the program of the political revolution which we put forward in the USSR.
On the other hand, the defense of the European “People’s Democracies” is conceived by us in a similar spirit.
Defense of Colonial Revolutions
Insofar as the defense of China and the colonial revolution against imperialism is concerned, these precautions, limitations and reservations as regards the military actions of these revolutions are not generally applicable. The possibility of a counter-revolutionary action and a counter-revolutionary mobilization of these armed forces are naturally not completely excluded as long as these colonial revolutions are led by non-Bolshevik-Leninist parties. But this possibility occurs within an entirely different framework from the military action of the Soviet bureaucracy. This is because the military action of these revolutions against imperialism, even when these parties have conquered political power but have not yet cut all their ties to the Kremlin and are not genuinely Bolshevik-Leninist parties, is essentially directed against imperialism in a war with the latter for the defense and the extension of the revolution.
From this point of view, this action differs fundamentally from that of the Soviet bureaucracy which is mortally frightened by the extension of the revolution and is prepared to oppose this extension of the revolution whenever the relation of forces between it, imperialism and the movement of the masses permits.
The Fourth International cannot but give its unconditional support to the military action of all colonial revolutions against imperialism.
As against the pacifist propaganda by means of which the Stalinists and the bourgeoisie seek to paralyze the masses, our movement everywhere will unfold the perspective of the seizure of power and of the proletarian revolution, more necessary than ever before. At the same time, and within the framework of this perspective, it will put forward the appropriate slogans, varying according to the country, of struggle against the economic and political consequences of the preparations of the bourgeoisie for war.
Tactics toward the “Peace” Movement
This conception of our struggle against the war of the imperialists offers us both the possibility of fundamentally delineating ourselves from Stalinism and its “peace” campaigns and of finding a favorable echo among then masses it still influences by joining them in the struggle with a clear strategy and appropriate tactics.
The problem of the tactical approach to the masses and the movements under Stalinist influence should become a preoccupation of those of our sections in accordance with the importance and peculiarities presented in this domain in these countries.
Our fundamental demarcation from Stalinism, including that on the question of “peace,” should be presented tactically to the masses under its influence by beginning with a recognition of their preoccupations and aims in such a manner as to demonstrate to them that we share their revolutionary preoccupations and aims.
Our organization should explore the means of contacting these masses wherever they are, in their “peace” campaigns and demonstrations, and should guard against the adoption of a purely negative attitude.
On the other hand, special attention should be given to the Stalinist youth organizations which incontestably influence the most dynamic section of the laboring youth in a number of European countries and especially in Asia.
Within the framework of these considerations our various organizations and the Trotskyist forces should attempt to accomplish the following specific tasks:
In England, the Trotskyist forces should work for the strengthening of a broad tendency in the English workers’ movement organized in the Labor Party against the war policy of the bourgeoisie and its agents, the reformist leaders. Above all it will attempt to influence the proletarian ranks of the left wing of the Labor Party.
They will adopt a flexible tactic toward the Bevan tendency so as to assure it as broad a development as possible. On the other hand, they will seek to avert the crystallization of this tendency on a centrist position as is expressed in the platform “One Way Only” by counterposing to it a positive criticism which, while introducing our principled point of view, will unfold the real socialist perspectives of England in economic collaboration with China, the “People’s Democracies” and the USSR.
In France, our independent organization will pay special attention to our propaganda and our action among the workers influenced by the CP. It will develop a systematic campaign especially addressed to the ranks of the CP and the SP with the aim of realizing extra-parliamentary proletarian unity of action against the otherwise inevitable and more and more reactionary orientation of the policy of the bourgeoisie and its new parliament, which is heavily weighted with a mass of Gaullist and other reactionary deputies. It will promote this campaign around the program of a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government. On the other hand it will accord a central place to the defense and the freedom of the peoples of North Africa, Negro Africa, Vietnam and Madagascar; it will also seek to establish close ties with the North African workers residing in France.
In Italy, our organization must concern itself primarily with consolidating its organizational structure and its bases among the workers in the factories and the unions. It will develop a campaign for unity of action and a Workers’ Government similar to that in France directed toward the members of the CP and the Socialist parties. On the other hand it will accord the same attention as in France to systematic, patient work among the workers and peasants influenced by the CP and the PSI (Socialist Party of Italy) in particular.
In Germany, key country for the future of the European proletariat, our forces will have to boldly take advantage of the opportunities which present themselves, and especially those created by the decomposition of the CPG, toward the end of building a revolutionary leadership. While consolidating their ideological cohesiveness, they will not hesitate to make any organizational turn with this end in view. They will seek to win solid positions in the unions and to regroup the new generation of leaders of the workers’ struggles who are now coming forward. They will unfold before the German proletariat the grandiose perspective of a unified socialist republic after the withdrawal of the occupation forces, and of the extension to the entire country of the economic and social reforms achieved in Eastern Germany on the basis of workers’ control and the establishment of a genuine workers’ democracy. They will conduct a campaign against the rearmament of their bourgeoisie, imposed on the German masses by, international and German capitalism, and for the arming of the proletariat as the best means of defense against the war plan of the imperialists and against the counterrevolutionary plans of the Kremlin regarding Germany.
In Holland, our organization will continue the work of consolidating its positions among the workers and in their organizations while at the same time attentively following the evolution of the Labor Party (social democracy) in order to be able to exploit in time any possible development of a broad left-wing current in this organization.
In Switzerland, our forces will continue and amplify their recent turn toward broad and open activity, and the formation of the revolutionary party of the Swiss proletariat with all revolutionary elements who are oriented in the same direction.
In Greece, forced to operate in conditions of illegality, our organization should make every effort to find the possibility of breaking out of its isolation and of taking advantage of all forms of legal activity within the organizations influenced by the CP or even by the CP.
In Belgium and Austria, the Trotskyist forces should remain within their respective SPs and work to strengthen the left wings of these parties.
In Spain, our reorganized forces will advance the tactic of the overthrow of Franco by The workers and Peasants Alliance to the exclusion of all bourgeois formations; they will propose the elaboration of a program for this Alliance to all tendencies of the Spanish revolutionary vanguard and will unfold the perspective of a government of this Alliance, the only possible alternative for the masses to the Franco government or to any other bourgeois government.
In all European countries, the propaganda campaign for the Socialist United States of Europe should be constantly promoted in opposition and as a concrete proposal for the defeat of bourgeois unification plans, and against the militarization and the reduction of Europe to the status of vassal and of enhanced dependence on American imperialism, as well as the best means of nullifying any chance of success by the Soviet bureaucracy among the masses of these countries.
In the European “People’s Democracies,” our forces, on an individual basis, will seek to avoid exposing themselves to Stalinist repression and will work in the mass organizations where they will develop their activity in line with the possibilities and the level of understanding of the advanced worker elements. Our organizations, which are obliged to function underground in these countries, while being for the defense of their conquests against imperialism and the remnants of the former ruling classes, will have the same program of political revolution and proletarian democratization of these countries as in the USSR.
In Yugoslavia, where the workers’ conquests are now doubly threatened by the Kremlin and by imperialism, which is exploiting the prostration of the CPY leadership and the government toward it in order to attain its aims, we will work for the creation of a Bolshevik tendency in the CPY against the policy of surrender and capitulation of its leadership and for its removal. This is the precondition for a genuine defense of Yugoslavia.
In the event that the leadership of the CPY and the Yugoslav government, in the imperialist war against the USSR, the “People’s Democracies,” China and the colonial revolutions, by ranging itself on the side of imperialism, opens the country to imperialist troops or transforms it into a military base of operations against these countries, thus at the same time creating an immediate mortal peril to the existence of the Yugoslav workers’ state itself, we will call upon the masses to overthrow this government by arms and to join in the world struggle of the anti-imperialist forces.
In the eventuality of such a treacherous attitude of the Yugoslav leaders, and before the masses of the country can overthrow them, it is possible that the armies of the USSR and the neighboring “people’s Democracies” will come to grips with the imperialist armies and the forces remaining loyal to the Yugoslav leaders on the soil of Yugoslavia itself.
In such a case we will be for the defeat of the imperialist forces and their auxiliaries, while at the same time summoning the masses to have the utmost vigilance, up to and including armed resistance against the armies of the USSR and the “People’s Democracies.” If the relationship of forces permits, they will attempt to abolish the conquests realized by these masses, which have given them some control and even some direct self-management of the economy and the policy of the Yugoslav workers’ state, and to establish a regime of national oppression over the Yugoslav masses.
Generally speaking, in all of these countries the essential task of our organizations and our forces in the period ahead is to advance from the stage of propaganda groups to that of the revolutionary leadership of the masses, to become able to impel, organize and lead their struggles for all their anti-imperialist, national, democratic and economic demands, and to unfold the perspective of the Socialist United States of Latin America. This requires a prior political clarification (in which considerable progress has been made since the Second World Congress) as well as a serious and effective organizational structure. Our forces should consider themselves as the nuclei of genuine proletarian parties in their respective countries, and henceforward act as such. It is only by taking this road that they will surmount the remnants of sectarianism, opportunism and confusion and will find their way to the broad unorganized and leaderless masses of Latin America. In this way they will neutralize the existing petty-bourgeois parties whose congenital incapacity leads all progressive mass movements to defeat.
Insofar as the particular situation in Argentina is concerned, our forces will seek to develop still further their roots in the rapidly evolving working class of the country and to create a class current among the organized workers influenced by Peronism with the aim of isolating this reactionary government of the industrial bourgeoisie—which opposes the domination of American imperialism—from its principal base in the masses.
In Bolivia, the inadequate demarcation of our forces in the past from all political tendencies exploiting the mass movement, the lack of clarity in our aims and our tactics as well as the absence of systematic, patient work among the workers, and the loose organization structure have brought on a certain decline of our influence and a crisis of the organization. Our reorganized forces should remedy, all these defects without however slipping into sectarianism or isolating itself from the masses and their movements which are often ideologically confused and under the leadership of the petty-bourgeoisie (MFJR: National Revolutionary Movement). Special tasks for the other Latin American countries are indicated in the Third World Congress resolution on Latin America.
In the French North African Colonies, as well as in those of French Equatorial Africa, our forces should integrate themselves into the national movement and into those organizations which are its best expression in order to develop a consistent Marxist wing within them and to prevent their exploitation by Stalinism.
In South Africa, our forces, which are already seriously rooted in the national movement, should strengthen their ideological cohesiveness while guarding against any possibility of loosening their ties with the rest of our international movement.
In Egypt, our reorganized forces should envisage the best means of integrating themselves into the national movement and especially of attaching themselves to the organizations of the young Egyptian proletariat in the workshops and factories.
Australia and New Zealand
The Trotskyists will persevere in the task of strengthening a revolutionary left wing in the respective Labor Parties of these countries and in the unions under their influence.
In China, our reorganized and reoriented forces will give unconditional support to the struggle for the defense of the Chinese revolution against imperialism, against the native reactionary forces and against the maneuvers and pressures of the Soviet bureaucracy which is seeking to reduce China to a state of dependence. They will have to clearly define their line in relation to the victory of Mao Tse-tung, i.e., our line in the past and as regards the present regime. They should find the means of working in the mass organizations under the influence of the Chinese CP, including the CP itself, with the aim of aiding a more radical development of the militants of these organizations and of organizing them against all bureaucratic measures of their leadership. They will accord critical support to the Mao Tse-tung regime and will center their main opposition on the character and organization of the government. They will call for all power to the democratically elected people’s committees. They will develop a more concrete program of economic and political demands and for the reconstruction of China, with the chief aim of satisfying the needs of the workers and poor peasants of the country.
In Vietnam, our reorganized forces will also attempt to work in the organizations influenced by the Stalinists, naturally including its armed formations. They will grant critical support to the Ho Chi-min regime in its struggle against imperialism, while distinguishing themselves from it on the goal of this struggle and the best means to lead it to victory.
In India, the Trotskyists, conscious of the pre-revolutionary situation which prevails in the country and of the crisis now raging in the Congress Party as well as in the Socialist Party and of the danger potentially presented by Stalinism in the absence of any other effective revolutionary leadership, should very carefully follow the evolution of the situation in the country and should determine to play the role of revolutionary leadership of the masses. This calls for a clear, firm and bold political and organizational orientation.
In Ceylon, the constant progress of our forces, which goes hand in hand with the disillusionment and rising discontent of the masses toward the government and the satellite bourgeois parties of British imperialism, opens the perspective for great coming victories. The condition for this victory is that our forces have confidence in the masses, organize and lead their daily struggles, avoid tactical errors especially as concerns our immediate rivalry with the CP and boldly affirm their will to power. The trend in this country can enormously influence the revolutionary process in India, as well as the powerful rise of Trotskyism there.
In Japan, the Trotskyist forces will integrate themselves into the SP.
In Indonesia, where there is a situation similar in several aspects to that of India, with the considerable difference that the bourgeoisie is not as influential and the organization and spirit of the masses are better, our forces will work for the creation of a consistent Bolshevik tendency within the Partai Murba with the aim of influencing the party as a whole and of avoiding its disruption by Stalinism.
In Israel, the Trotskyists will explore the possibilities of work in Mapam.
In Cyprus, our reorganized forces will try to adopt a more positive attitude toward the national movement of the masses and their right of self-determination. At the same time they will fight against the prevailing illusions regarding the unification they are demanding with Greece by putting forward a program of economic and political demands, by the struggle against war and for self-government.
In the Middle East, our available forces will integrate themselves into the powerful national movement of the masses and will attempt to create a revolutionary tendency within it.
Last updated on 13 April 2009