MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: International Communist League/Spartacists—PRS 4

Appendix I

The British Revolutionary Communist Party

Written: 1993
Source: Prometheus Research Library, Prometheus Research Series No. 4, New York, 2000
Transcription/Markup/Proofing: John Heckman.
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2007/Prometheus Research Library. You can freely copy, display and otherwise distribute this work. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive & Prometheus Research Library as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & editors above.

In digging up the history of the discussion in the Fourth International about Yugoslavia and East Europe, we have discovered that the positions of the Haston/Grant RCP were not only ignored, they were systematically distorted. Thus Morris Stein claimed, during the continuation of the discussion on East Europe in the SWP leadership, that “To the RCP, Stalinist control of state power also amounts to an automatic social change but they term it a workers’ state.”[1] Ernest Germain (Mandel) likewise claimed that, for the RCP, “Since from all evidence the bourgeoisie of the buffer countries no longer controls the state apparatus which has now fallen into the hands of the Stalinists...it logically follows that the state has ceased being a bourgeois state.”[2]

Following this same characterization we have ourselves written that

...the analysis of the British Haston-Grant RCP majority, borrowed by the SWP’s Los Angeles Vern-Ryan grouping, achieved the beginning (but only the beginning) of wisdom in recognizing that in the immediate post-war period an examination of native property forms would hardly suffice since the state power in Eastern Europe was a foreign occupying army, the Red Army.[3]

Yet the RCP's amendments at the FI's Second World Congress (which were never published by the SWP) did not say that the countries of East Europe became deformed workers states with the Red Army victory in 1945 (as Vern-Ryan did), but rather that this was a process still under way in 1948. As the basis for the overthrow of capitalist rule, the amendments listed not only the preponderance of Soviet military force, but also “the balance of forces between the workers and Stalinist forces and the residues of the ruling class.”[4] Moreover, Bill Hunter's May 1949 document, written for the RCP majority, noted that it was the change in the international situation—namely, the onset of the Cold War—that led Stalin to change his policy from coddling the East European bourgeoisies to expropriating them:

True, for a period there existed Stalinist coalitions with the bourgeoisie, or with the shadow of the bourgeoisie.... In the first period following the war, the shadow of the bourgeoisie could have gained and was gaining substance. Given a different relationship of forces internationally, developments could have been entirely different to those which actually took place. However, because it could not afford to share the power, and because of its struggle against world imperialism, the bureaucracy, calling on the pressure of the masses, shattered the bourgeoisie completely. [5]

It is indeed unfortunate that the RCP's writings on East Europe and Yugoslavia were ignored, dismissed and largely suppressed.  The Haston/Grant grouping was characterized by impressionism, earlier supporting the rightist Goldman/Morrow opposition in 1945-46 and later liquidating into the Labour Party. Moreover, a political tendency is more than just its stated program—and there is much we don't know about the actual functioning of the Haston/Grant-led RCP.  But the struggle in the Fourth International might have followed a different course had their voices been around in 1951-53 to add theoretical understanding to the fight against Pabloism—and Pablo's bureaucratic treatment of them certainly foreshadowed the organizational methods he was to use again on the French PCI, and attempt to use on the American SWP. It is suggestive that, explaining the “impasse” of the RCP in 1950, Ted Grant pointed first of all to the “capitulation to Tito-Stalinism internationally.”  Among the factors which permitted the rise of Stalinist-ruled, bureaucratically deformed workers states in the postwar period, he listed:

The fact that the revolution in China and Yugoslavia could be developed in a distorted and debased character is due to the world factors of
   (a) The crisis of world capitalism
   (b) The existence of a strong, deformed workers state adjacent to these countries and powerfully influencing the workers' movement.
   (c) The weakness of the Marxist current of the IVth International.
These factors have resulted in an unparalleled development which could not have been foreseen by any of the Marxist teachers: the extension of Stalinism as a social phenomenon over half Europe, over the Chinese sub-continent and with the possibility of spreading over the whole of Asia.
This poses new theoretical problems to be worked out by the Marxist movement. Under conditions of isolation and of paucity of forces, new historical factors could not but result in a theoretical crisis of the movement, posing the problem of its very existence and survival.[6]

These comments could have been the beginning of wisdom, and they foreshadow in many respects the Spartacist analysis of the formation of a deformed workers state in Cuba a decade later. But by then the ravages of Pabloism had destroyed the Fourth International.


1 “Stenogram of Discussion in the Political Committee of the Socialist Workers Party on the Buffer Countries,“ SWP Internal Bulletin, Vol. XI, No. 5, October 1949, 23.

2 Ernest Germain (Mandel), “The Yugoslav Question, the Question of the Soviet Buffer Zone, and Their Implications for Marxist Theory,” SWP, International Information Bulletin, January 1950, 15.

3Genesis of Pabloism.”

4 “RCP Amendments to the Thesis on Russia and Eastern Europe.”

5 Bill Hunter, “The I.S. and Eastern Europe,” 8.

6 Unsigned (Ted Grant), “Statement to the BSFI [British Section of the Fourth International].”