From Fourth International, vol.5 No.12, December 1944, pp.361-369.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.
The events of the past nine months have served to underline the validity of our previous analysis of the world situation and of the perspectives in Europe as embodied in the resolution adopted on November 2, 1943, by the Fifteenth Anniversary Plenum of the National Committee. The Plenum resolution has guided our analysis of the unfolding events and helped to formulate the slogans for our agitation. This resolution is a reaffirmation and an extension of the Plenum resolution.
The Italian experiences have provided the proving ground for the development of revolutionary events in Europe, of the revolutionary temper and power of the European masses, of the status and role of the European capitalist class, as well as a preview of Anglo-American aims, methods and plans. Italy provides a key to the understanding of events in France, in Germany, in all Europe.
One year ago in August, the Italian capitalist class, faced with the prospect of a revolutionary overthrow of its rule, proceeded, through the Badoglio regime, to call in the aid of the foreign imperialists. The ruling circles decided their best chance for survival lay in throwing in their lot with the Allies, and on September 3, 1943, an armistice was signed between the Badoglio Government and the Allies. At the same time, Badoglio’s generals in the North turned over the revolutionary proletariat to the Nazi wolves. With guns and bayonets, the workers were pushed back into the factories. By the timely assistance of Allied and Nazi imperialism, the Italian revolution was, for the time being arrested.
In September 1943 Allied airmen dropped leaflets in Southern Italy which stated: “We are coming to liberate you and not to conquer you.” But the Allies soon revealed themselves to be not liberators but tyrants, exploiters and conquerors. First, they imposed on Italy “Armistice”, terms reputed to be more Draconian than those Hitler imposed on France in 1940. To this day, neither the Allies nor the successive Italian governments have dared make public the full Armistice terms. After the Armistice, Italy was converted into a battleground of the second World War. The Allied military campaign was organized on the basis of a twofold objective: (1) to destroy the Nazi armies, and (2) to convert Italy into a semi-colony of Allied imperialism, imposing on the Italian people a military dictatorship based on the monarchy, the Vatican and the capitalist and landlord cliques.
In pursuit of their program the Allies systematically employed all their power, prestige and armed might to impose on the Italian people the dictatorship of Badoglio and the House of Savoy. To this end they conducted virtual warfare against the civilian population. While systematically disarming the fighters of the independent anti-fascist militia, they supported Badoglio in his attempt to reconstitute an army under the leadership of monarchist and ex-fascist generals. The Allies shielded the Black Shirt cut-throats from the wrath of the people and returned to public office many of the selfsame rascals, crooks and tyrants who had lorded it over the Italian masses under the Mussolini regime. A new brazen attempt was launched to refurbish the power of the Church. Thus far the AMG has permitted only religious schools to reopen and education to be conducted under the direction of the ecclesiastical authorities. At the same time a reign of terror was carried on against the Italian masses: the suppression of strikes, the disarming of anti-fascist militants, the arrest of political opponents. Such is the sum and substance of Allied political “liberation” of Italy.
In the economic field, the Allies quickly dispelled the illusion that under their rule living conditions would improve. With Italy a battleground, her cities destroyed and fields devastated, with the Italian people paying the full costs of Allied occupation, if not additional huge war-indemnities, the economic situation in Allied-occupied Italy has not improved but drastically worsened. One year of Allied rule of Italy has made it unmistakably clear that the Anglo-American imperialists, in this sphere, will continue the robbery, looting and oppression practised by Nazi imperialism in its rule of occupied Europe. The Allies moreover will take advantage of the hunger of the masses and utilize their control of the food supplies at their disposal as an additional lever for counter-revolution.
The first important economic measure introduced by the Allies – in emulation of Hitler’s occupation of France – was the setting of the exchange rate at 100 lire to the dollar. This measure immediately accelerated the inflation. All metal currency vanished. The Italian farmers, losing all faith in the currency diverted their produce to the black market. Prices immediately soared, goods were unobtainable except on the black market, the daily bread ration was reduced to 100 grams per person – three slices of bread – about a third of what the average Italian received under Mussolini. The daily food ration in Allied-occupied Naples is reputed to be one of the lowest in Europe – lower even than the food ration in Warsaw under the Nazis.
The Allied authorities declared all wages frozen as of September 1, 1943.These wages had been set under contracts during Mussolini’s regime. With prices soaring, with goods obtainable only in the black market, and black-market prices averaging ten times the legal maximum prices, the working class is reduced to abject starvation. The white-collar, salaried and professional workers, ruined by the inflation, suffer a similar fate. Conditions are further aggravated by mass unemployment. Over 100,000 workers are unemployed in Naples alone. Disease is ravaging the population. The death rate has increased about fourfold. The masses of Naples are facing famine.
In Rome the cost of living, which has gone up 749 percent between November 1940 and June 1944, registered a further sharp increase, as soon as the Allies entered, owing to the same causes that operated in Naples. Pietro Nenni, pro-Allied Social-Democratic leader in Rome, declared: “If eight or ten more Italian cities get into the state of Naples, where three-quarters of the citizens live by beggary, prostitution, peddling and black marketing, Italy will cease to exist.”
Hunger grips the land. The thieving fascist officials and businessmen who made price control and rationing a mockery under the Mussolini regime, continue, with Allied blessings to fleece the Italian people and pile up profits through black market operations. Such is Allied “liberation” of Italy in the economic sphere.
And Italy, it must be remembered, has become a “co-belligerent” of the Allies and thus comes under the provisions of the Atlantic Charter. What the Allies plan for Germany can well be imagined from the fact that the German people have already been declared outside the pale of humanity and the Atlantic Charter declared not applicable to Germany. The projected dismemberment of Germany spells economic ruin and starvation not for the German masses alone, but for the masses of all Europe. The highly developed German industry constitutes the indispensable backbone of Europe’s economy.
The Allied program of counter-revolution and the conversion of Italy into a semi-colony of Anglo-American imperialism has produced a political crisis of the greatest tension and explosive power. The early sympathy of the Italian people for the Allies, based on the hope that conditions would improve, soon turned into consternation, bewilderment, distrust and hostility. Today the masses of Allied-occupied Italy understand that Roosevelt and Churchill are not liberators, but imperial plunderers and enslavers. Even the capitalist correspondents report that the political temper of the Italian masses is white-hot, that the masses are turning to Communism.
Politically, this is translated into the fact that of the six “opposition” parties that make up The Committee of National Liberation, only the two “working class” parties, the Social-Democratic Party and the Stalinists, have any measure of mass support and following in the cities. The fact that the liberal politicians of the Sforza type continue to walk the political stage is to be explained solely by Allied support of those politicians and the perfidy of the so-called working class parties.
The Italian masses are today ready for another gigantic step forward on the road toward their political and social emancipation. What, then, accounts for the present slow tempo of development of the Italian revolution? This is explained primarily by the treachery of the so-called working class parties that at present dominate the political stage in Italy, and by the absence of a mass revolutionary party.
No sooner did the workers begin to participate actively on the political arena after the fall of Mussolini, than they brushed aside the liberal capitalist parties and politicians (who paved the way for fascism after the first World War) and in the main gave their support and allegiance to the traditional parties of the Italian working class-the Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party. (Under the fascist regime the Italian masses were for twenty years forcibly deprived of the opportunity of testing the various programs, leaders and parties through their own experience.) in this was revealed the leading role of the proletariat that has characterized every revolution of modern times; it also testifies to the fact that the Italian working masses ardently desire a decisive revolutionary change. They give their backing and support to the parties that in their minds stand for Socialism and Communism, in the mistaken expectation that these parties will lead them in revolutionary struggle.
How terribly have these so-called working class parties betrayed the Italian proletariat! The workers supported the “Socialists” and “Communists” because they wanted a leadership in their fight for peace, bread and freedom. The Social Democratic and Stalinist traitors assumed the leadership of this struggle only to behead it.
Organized in the underground, the Social Democrats and the Stalinists emerged in the open immediately after Mussolini’s downfall as part of a five-party (later six-party) coalition: The Committee of National Liberation. This miserable replica of the People’s Front – the bloc of the working class with the liberal bourgeoisie-lacks even the alibi given in 1935 for the formation of the People’s Front of France. The primary power and mass following in Italy reposes in the so-called working class parties. The liberal bourgeoisie enjoy no mass support. Actually the “People’s Front” bloc has only one purpose- to rehabilitate the liberal capitalist politicians of the Sforza-Croce stamp and to use their presence in the coalition as justification for the policies of upholding capitalism and supporting the war.
In the course of a single year, The Committee of National Liberation has piled up a long record of sellouts. The Stalinists, who comprise the most important party in the coalition and exercise the most extensive influence over the working class, have already emerged as the spearhead of the counterrevolution inside the working class movement.
When in June the Badoglio government simply melted away under the hostility of the masses, it was the six-party coalition with the Stalinists in the van, who stepped in to break the deadlock for reaction. For a brief period they served to prop up the Badoglio dictatorship by providing the façade of a six-party “coalition” cabinet. When the Allies entered Rome, the city was already under the control of a working class anti-fascist Junta which refused to tolerate a government of Badoglio and the monarchy. After the Allies disbanded the anti-fascist Junta, they called in their lackeys of the six-party coalition. A new government, headed by the liberal Bonomi, made up of the representatives of the six-party coalition, again stepped in to fill the political vacuum. In other words, the Stalinists, Social Democrats and their liberal allies directly took over the task of keeping the Italian masses subservient to the Allied invaders, of carrying through the infamous Armistice terms and acting as lackeys, helping prop up the disintegrating rule of Italian capitalism.
Already in this initial stage, the Anglo-American imperialists have been compelled in Western Europe and the Kremlin bureaucracy in Eastern Europe, to call in the Stalinist and Social Democratic lackeys in order to provide a “democratic” veneer for their hand-picked cabinets. This creation of class-collaboration coalition cabinets to screen their military dictatorships testifies not to the “popular” or “democratic” character of these regimes, but to the cynicism and corruption of the Stalinist and Social Democratic misleaders, to the shakiness and decay of capitalism in Europe and to the revolutionary temper of the masses.
The Bonomi government, like its predecessor, is a shadow government. It is a miserable caricature of a coalition government. First, it has no power. It is merely the servant of the Allied military authority, pledged to carry out the conqueror’s demands and terms. Second, it is a hand-picked government, with no mandate from the people or even its own party constituencies. It “rules” by decree. The real power continues to reside first, in the Allied military authority and in the second instance the officer corps, the monarchist camarilla, the church hierarchy. The new coalition merely serves as a screen for the military dictatorship of the Allies and their Italian accomplices.
The Bonomi government is no more able than its predecessors to solve one single problem which confronts it. It cannot give the people bread because it is committed to supporting Allied looting of Italy under the terms of the Armistice. It cannot abolish the black market and fight the high cost of living because the Italian capitalists, with Allied protection, are making fortunes in the black market. It cannot purge the fascists and give democratic rights to the Italian people because the Allies are returning the fascists to the seats of power and are determined to prevent the masses from exercising their democratic rights and electing a government of their own choosing. The Bonomi government cannot abolish the monarchy smeared with the crimes of fascism because it is pledged not to raise the question of the monarchy until after the war. The Bonomi government cannot struggle for peace. It openly and brazenly demands that the Allies equip a new army so that the Italian people may again be hurled, as full participants, into the imperialist slaughter. The Bonomi government is a government of betrayal and impotence.
Masses learn very rapidly in a revolutionary period. In Italy they have seen several changes of ministries; they have even seen the representatives of the supposed working class parties enter the capitalist government. And yet everything remains as before. The people are still starving, they have no freedom, Italy remains a battleground. The wrath of the masses is sure to rise against the new government of repression and hunger, the pitiful lackey of the Allied imperialists and the Italian capitalists. The Bonomi government will prove no more stable or durable than did its predecessors.
The proletariat of the Northern cities has for many months fought with the greatest heroism against the Nazi butchers and their Black Shirt accomplices. In March this struggle culminated in the calling of a general strike. 6,000,000 workers downed tools and presented their demands to the Nazi command. Despite the Nazi terror, they won significant concessions.
As soon as the separation between Northern and Southern Italy ends, the Northern proletariat, imbued with the ideas of Socialism and comprising the most militant and decisive section of the population, will take its rightful place at the head of the struggle. Italy stands on the verge of a new forward development of the revolution.
This makes the creation of a new revolutionary party the most immediate and unpostponable task for the Italian proletariat. The pernicious influence of the Social Democrats and the Stalinists must be fought and destroyed. For victory in the struggle, the Italian proletariat must have a firm, honest, devoted, revolutionary leadership. Such a leadership can be provided only by the Marxist revolutionary party.
The sources for the formation of the new revolutionary party exist and are numerous: among revolutionary elements inside the Communist and Socialist Left who have become disillusioned by the treachery of their leaders; among the leading militants of the trade union movement; in the ranks of the anti-fascist militia.
The advanced workers of Italy do not have to invent a new program and a new banner for the revolutionary party of Italy. Such a revolutionary program and banner exist. The revolutionary working class party will be organized on the tested program and methods of Lenin and Trotsky, the program and methods of the Great Russian Revolution of 1917. The revolutionary workers party of Italy will be a Trotskyist party, because Trotskyism is the only movement of genuine Marxist Internationalism today.
The Trotskyists have prepared themselves during the years of reaction for the revolutionary upsurge. The Trotskyist movement has a tested program, a firm cadre and an international organization. Upon its shoulders rests an historic responsibility. It must render every assistance to our Italian and European co-thinkers to assemble the forces for the revolutionary Marxist parties and strengthen those that already exist. Toward this end, the Trotskyists will pay the closest attention to all the new manifestations of the European labor movement, and work with the greatest energy to attract all leftward-moving groups to the Trotskyist program and banner. This work the Trotskyists will carry through with the greatest tactical flexibility and in a comradely spirit. At the same time the Trotskyists intend to wage unremitting struggle against centrist charlatans, professional confusionists and sterile sectarians. Through all the abrupt turns and tactical readjustments necessary to aid the rapid crystallization of the revolutionary forces, the Trotskyists will remain programmatically irreconcilable.
Today the Fourth International is confronted with tremendous tasks, opportunities and responsibilities. The decks must be cleared for action. There is no room for careerists, adventurers, cowards, philistines, petty-bourgeois windbags and quacks or sectarian incorrigibles. Long ago the Fourth International turned its face toward the fresh revolutionary forces of the European proletariat. All its time will be devoted to rallying the fresh layers of workers in the struggle for Socialist emancipation. That is how the Trotskyist parties will grow strong!
The Italian revolutionary party, unfurling the glorious banner of Trotskyism, will call on the masses to struggle for the program of Socialist revolution and working class internationalism. The party will explain that Italy can avoid disaster and famine only by a program that leads to the abolition of the capitalist system and the establishment of a Socialist Italy based on the workers’ and peasants’ councils; that only by a firm alliance with the revolutionary masses of the rest of Europe can the imperialist invaders be driven out and peace, economic security and freedom be achieved in Europe. Herein lies the motive power of the slogan of the Socialist United States of Europe.
The Socialist United States of Europe is the central unifying slogan of the European revolution; the cooperation of the European proletariat and their combined forces are needed to drive out the imperialist invaders and oppressors; the proletariat of any single European country will be forced to safeguard and secure their victorious Socialist revolution from the military assaults of the imperialists by calling for immediate revolutionary assistance and support of the European proletariat, by boldly disregarding the outlived and reactionary national boundaries and working to extend their revolution on a continental scale. The Socialist United States of Europe is the revolutionary answer, the only alternative to the imperialist schemes of Balkanizing Europe and enslaving its peoples. It corresponds to the needs and experiences of the European masses who are learning that only by the destruction of the outlived and reactionary national state and through the economic unification and Socialist collaboration of the free peoples of Europe can the menace of recurrent, devastating wars be abolished and freedom and economic well-being assured. The slogan, Socialist United States of Europe will become the great rallying cry to unite the European masses against the despotic schemes and counter-revolutionary designs of Anglo-American imperialism; and to inspire and guide the working class, through every stage of the struggle for Socialist emancipation.
To rally the masses for the 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, e.g. free election of all officials, freedom of the press, armed workers’ militia, nationalization of industry under workers’ control, etc. It will audaciously put forward those partial, sharp fighting slogans dictated by the circumstances of the day and the mood of the masses in order to advance the struggle and prepare the proletariat for power. It will become the leader of the masses in all their partial struggles, strikes, demonstrations, protests. It is in the tumultuous revolutionary battles that the proletariat will gather experience, cohesion and strength, that the revolutionary party will win the masses to its program and establish its right to revolutionary leadership.
The revolutionary Marxist party will be the leader in agitating for and building Soviets (Workers’ Councils). Soviets may begin on a very modest and elementary scale. They may begin with Consumers and Price Committees to fight the black market and the high cost of living. They may be set up as factory committees to establish workers’ control and to fight unemployment. They may be set up as committees to fight for the free election of all officials. They may be set up as unions of farm workers to confiscate the landlords’ estates and to operate them cooperatively or to combat and resist the disarming of the masses and to organize an armed workers’ militia.
Thus in the very process of propaganda, agitation and struggle, the revolutionary fighters will become not only the propagandists but the foremost organizers of the Soviets (Workers’ Councils). The Soviets, in the course of the struggle, will clash with the government apparatus and the Allied military authorities. They will be forced to reach out ever further in their fight for the people’s rights. Thus, and only thus, will real meaning and revolutionary significance be lent to the slogan, “All Power to the Workers’ Councils!” Only through the struggle and in the struggle will the Italian revolutionary party grow, learn how to lead the masses and how to conquer. There are no blueprints on how to make a revolution. We do have, however, the program, strategy and tactics which brought victory to the Russian Revolution. These need to be mastered and correctly applied. What is necessary now is to organize the party and plunge into battle!
Let skeptics shrug their shoulders! The Trotskyist fighters will conduct their revolutionary struggle with the conviction that they have every opportunity to build, in the crucible of events, a revolutionary party, fully capable of leading the revolution to victory. The Trotskyist need only display the necessary programmatic intransigence and loyal adherence to Marxist principles, the necessary audacity and energy in action, the necessary flexibility in their agitation and organization.
Trotsky taught us that:
“The October Revolution also once began with its swaddling clothes ... The mighty Russian parties of Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks who made up the ‘People’s Front’ with the Cadets, the Russian Sforzas, crumbled into dust in the course of a few months under the blows of a ‘handful of fanatics’ of Bolshevism.”
The Trotskyists in the United States, as well as our British co-thinkers, bear an especially heavy responsibility. They must expose and struggle relentlessly against the counter-revolutionary aims of American and British Big Business. Around the slogans: Hands Off the Italian Revolution! Hands Off the European Revolution! the Trotskyists will conduct an energetic campaign to rouse the working class to fight against all counter-revolutionary intervention.
Despite the degeneration of the Soviet Union under the rule of the counter-revolutionary Stalinist bureaucracy, the Red Army and the Soviet masses have found sufficient resources within the economy nationalized by the October revolution to deal devastating blows to the Nazi military machine and to smash Hitler’s attempt to destroy the Soviet Union and subject this one-sixth of the earth to capitalist exploitation and oppression. The heroic feats of the Red Army soldiers and the Soviet masses in the field of battle have revealed to all who have eyes to see that the Russian Revolution, though stifled and desecrated, still lives. The Soviet masses who have rallied to the defense of the remaining conquests of the October Revolution, have proved that their instinctive understanding of the class nature of the Soviet Union is far superior to that of all the renegades, skeptics and turncoats who deserted the Soviet Union in its hour of mortal peril and gave up the Russian Revolution for lost.
The Trotskyists stand for the unconditional defense of the Soviet Union against imperialist attack. Despite Stalin’s crimes and betrayals, the Trotskyist everywhere urge the masses to work and fight for the victory of the Red Army against the military forces of imperialism, for the preservation of the nationalized property relations of the Soviet Union against all imperialist assaults from without or counter-revolution from within.
The victories of the Red Army have inspired the masses of Europe and provided a powerful impulse to their revolutionary struggle. The Stalinist bureaucracy, nationalistic and counter-revolutionary through and through, has utilized its enhanced prestige derived from these victories, to seize control of the liberating movements in Europe in order to betray them and sell them out to the capitalists as chattels of Stalinist diplomacy.
In Yugoslavia, the Stalinists, headed by Tito, took the leadership of the revolutionary mass movement under the guise of aiding and organizing it and then proceeded to bend it to their own reactionary purposes. They were able to do this because they are still able to cloak their reactionary designs with the moral authority of the October Revolution. The Yugoslav Partisan movement originated as an indubitable movement of the masses, whose worker-peasant sections aspired not only to drive the Nazi conquerors out of their country, but to abolish the rule of the rapacious and reactionary landlord and capitalist cliques represented by King Peter and his Government-in-Exile. The determination of the masses to drive out the imperialist invaders and to win national freedom was fused with the social struggle against the native exploiters. The Stalinists have betrayed the aspirations of the masses; they have already united with the hated regime of King Peter, set up a class-collaborationist government, and have proclaimed their intention of preserving the capitalist setup, dominated by the same old crew of monarchists, landlords and capitalists. Utilizing the slogan of national liberation, the Stalinists are working to deliver the Yugoslav masses into the hands of their oppressors.
The Stalinist program of betrayal is not, however, proceeding unchallenged. Already in Greece active opposition and resistance has appeared in the ranks of the Greek Partisan movement to the Stalinist leaders who have conspired to perpetrate a betrayal similar to Tito’s and to unite with the Greek Government-in-Exile, representative of the Greek capitalists and landlords. Undoubtedly, similar developments, to one degree or another, are taking place in all the movements of struggle which the Stalinist head in order to behead.
In Rumania, the Stalinists are carrying through the program proclaimed by Molotov in April 1944 when the Red Army first entered Rumanian territory. Molotov assured the capitalists that the Stalin bureaucracy will not alter “the existing social structure of Rumania.” Stalin is keeping this promise. The Stalinist military authority is preserving the totalitarian filth of the semi-fascist regime of the Rumanian landlords and capitalists. The Stalinists are pursuing similar reactionary aims in Poland and are pledged to the same policy in Czechoslovakia and elsewhere. Stalin thus assures the Allies that under his file the Red Army will be used in Europe as a gendarme of capitalist property.
The catastrophic defeats which the Red Army has dealt the Nazi military machine, the impending defeat of Nazi Germany and the emergence of the Soviet Union as a first-class military power has dazzled many and provided the Soviet Union with the appearance of unlimited strength. The appearance does not correspond with reality.
Stalin’s foreign policy was based on an attempt to avoid war, to secure for the Soviet Union neutrality in the coming world conflict. For this, Stalin perpetrated his worst betrayals of the international proletariat. In the utopian quest for “peace” in a world dominated by imperialism, the Kremlin’s agents were assigned the task of organizing pacifist show congresses, pretentious disarmament conferences, “Peoples Front” Leagues against war – all for the sake of currying favor with the “democratic” imperialists. This “peace” program was crowned by the Soviet Union’s joining the “thieves kitchen of imperialists,” the League of Nations. Stalin’s policy thus consisted in selling out the proletarian masses, the only reliable allies of the Soviet Union, for the sake of illusory “Peace Pacts” with the “democratic” imperialists. This course of betrayal was carried. through under the high sounding slogan “Collective Security Against Aggressors.” The Kremlin’s “Peace” policy collapsed ignominiously at the 1938 Munich Conference. Stalin then frantically turned to Hitler. He granted impermissible concessions to Nazi Germany in the shameful Stalin-Hitler Pact, which provided the signal for the opening of the Second World War. All of Stalin’s treacherous maneuvers and betrayals proved impotent, however, in securing peace for the Soviet Union. It was precisely the Soviet Union that was converted for more than three years into the main battlefield of the second World War. As in all other spheres, Stalin’s foreign policy proved thoroughly bankrupt.
The Soviet Union is emerging from the war a devastated country. Millions of the flower of its manhood are dead, wounded or missing. A great section of its industry is destroyed, and innumerable cities as well as great sections of the countryside lie in ruins. Far from having increased its independent strength, under Stalin the Soviet Union has been debilitated and is today weaker than ever in relation to the capitalist world.
The Kremlin bureaucracy is fully aware of the fact that with the defeat of the Axis, their ability to maneuver between the imperialist groups becomes very sharply restricted and the Soviet Union will face the concentrated pressure of the victorious Anglo-American imperialist camp. Stalin attempts to secure himself against this new threatening danger by guaranteeing the preservation of the capitalist system in Europe while employing the Soviet military power to establish “friendly” governments under its influence on the periphery of the Soviet Union (Poland, Rumania, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, etc.).
At the same time, fearing the independent action of the masses and the approaching Socialist revolution, Stalin has given guarantees to Roosevelt and Churchill – and that is the major significance of the Teheran Conference – that he will join with them in their program of trying to strangle the European revolution, dismembering Europe, subjugating its peoples and propping up subservient regimes.
Paralleling his program of counter-revolution and capitalist rehabilitation in Europe, Stalin has taken further steps inside the Soviet Union toward the destruction of the remaining conquests of the October Revolution and toward arrogating to the Kremlin bureaucracy added powers and new privileges. In the past year the Stalinist bureaucracy has issued new reactionary decrees governing education and other fields; the Bolshevik divorce laws and much of the progressive legislation for women have been abolished. Alongside of, this increased regimentation of Soviet life, Stalin is making renewed frantic efforts to build up stable bases of support for the parasitic bureaucracy. The past year has witnessed a monstrous extension of the highly privileged officer caste, standing above the population. The bureaucracy is further attempting to strengthen its hold on the most backward sections of the population by encouraging the Holy Synod and Greek Orthodox Hierarchy to extend its influence and by facilitating the campaign of glorification of the church institutions and “holy places.”
Stalin seeks to preserve his rule by reintroducing, encouraging and propping up all that is most reactionary and backward. In place of the liberating internationalist ideas of Bolshevism, Stalin disseminates among the Soviet masses the doctrines of Pan-Slavic chauvinism and war revanche, deifies the old Czarist butchers and oppressors, glorifies a privileged military caste, reintroduces the obscurantism of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Stalin’s program both internal and external is reactionary through and through. It represents a terrible danger for the European revolution, and to the further existence of the Soviet Union itself. This program only plays into the hands of world capitalism and, if successful, would help convert Europe into the vassal of Anglo-American imperialism. If the dastardly conspiracy which Stalin hatched with Roosevelt and Churchill at Teheran to crush the European revolution were to succeed, it would simply open the road to capitalist restoration inside the Soviet Union itself, by internal counterrevolution or military intervention or both. The Anglo-American imperialists cannot – any more than could the Nazis – reconcile themselves to the existence of nationalized property for any extended period in the territory comprising one-sixth of the earth’s surface. As for the “friendly” coalition capitalist governments, which the Kremlin bureaucracy is propping up with the Red Army bayonets, they will prove no more trustworthy than the alliance with Anglo-American imperialism. In the event of future conflict, these spurious “friends” of the Soviet Union, representing the capitalists and landlords of Eastern Europe, will act in accordance with their class interests and needs: they will join with the Anglo-American imperialists in the assault against the Soviet Union. Stalin’s elaborate structure will collapse like a house of cards. The alliance of the Soviet proletariat with the insurgent masses of Europe is thus indispensable for the preservation of the Soviet Union.
The Bolshevik fighters inside the Soviet Union face the paramount task of organizing the revolutionary forces to oust Stalin and his arch-reactionary gang and to restore the Soviet Union on the principles of its founders, Lenin and Trotsky. In the words of the 1940 Manifesto of the Fourth International on The Imperialist War and the Proletarian Revolution:
“The preparation of the revolutionary overthrow of the Moscow ruling caste is one of the main tasks of the Fourth International.”
We call on the Soviet workers to organize the forces for the revolutionary overthrow of the oligarchy in the Kremlin and set up a genuine Soviet democracy as the essential condition for the preservation of the Soviet Union and of Socialist construction.
The Stalinist bureaucracy is not a new class with a historic mission to perform, but simply a parasitic caste, transitory in nature, which has no future. This caste came to power only as a result of an entirely exceptional conjuncture of historic circumstances. The theory of the emergence of a new “bureaucratic class” – the managers – who will interpose themselves between defeated capitalism and the Socialist society has received annihilating refutation with the collapse of Italian Fascism after a rule of twenty years and the imminent collapse of German Nazism after a rule of eleven years. This theory of Bruno R., Burnham etc., not to speak of their Shachtmanite imitators, with their “theory” of the new managerial class “only in one country,” has already been consigned by events themselves to the garbage heap of history.
The Social Democrats and renegades from Marxism who propagate the idea that the Kremlin bureaucracy intended to “Sovietize” Europe under Stalin’s Bonapartist dictatorship misrepresent both the nature of Stalinism and the meaning of Stalinist foreign policy and they slander the European proletariat. The European revolution cannot be harnessed by any bureaucracy. If Stalin with the aid of his henchmen succeeds in betraying and beheading the proletarian revolution, he can do so only for the benefit of the bloodthirsty capitalists and the Allied imperialists. Out of a defeated revolution will arise not a Stalinist dictatorship but the most savage capitalist military dictatorship. This theory of the social Democrats, which can only disorient the proletariat and divert it from its necessary tasks, represents in essence a theoretical “justification” for their own abject surrender to Allied imperialism.
Stalin is betraying the European revolution through his agents from within and has given clear warning that he will if necessary attempt to drown it in blood from without. The decisions of the Teheran Conference as well as the actions of Stalin’s agents in Yugoslavia, Greece, Rumania, Poland, Italy, etc., constitute unmistakable danger signals that Stalin is prepared to repeat his hangman’s work in Spain on a continental scale.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed. The advanced workers of Europe must sound the alarm! They have the clear duty of warning the working class against the counter-revolutionary schemes of Stalin and his native henchmen. The working class must be prepared to combat Stalinist treachery and sellouts. The Fourth Internationalists will work unceasingly to destroy the Stalinist influence in the labor movement. This is an indispensable prerequisite for healthy growth and all future successes.
In the countries under Red Army occupation, the advanced workers will have to organize workers and peasants councils, factory committees, trade union bodies, etc. in a spirit of deepest distrust of the Stalinist agents, They will warn that Stalinist promises of fundamental reforms are lies. They will urge the massesto organize their independent actions to confiscate the landlords’ estates, to place factories under workers’ control, to arm the masses. In this independent activity of the masses lies the only guarantee for the success of the European revolution and its protection from the Stalinist hangmen.
Through these measures and in no other way, will the European masses be able to approach the Red Army soldiers and organize fraternization with them in order to protect the European revolution. Only in this way, and in no other, will the European proletariat be able to forge bonds of solidarity with the Red Army soldiers and the Soviet masses and help the latter settle accounts with the murderous Stalinist bureaucracy.
And what if Stalin nevertheless succeeds in using Red Army troops to suppress workers revolts? How will we reconcile our position on the defense of the Soviet Union with support of the European revolution? There is no contradiction between the two. The Trotskyist movement has long since given a precise answer to this question.
Trotsky wrote in 1939:
“What does ‘unconditional’ defense of the USSR mean? It means that we do not lay any conditions upon the bureaucracy. It means that independently of the motive and causes of the war we defend the social basis of the USSR if it is menaced by danger on the part of imperialism .... And if the Red Army tomorrow invades India and begins to put down a revolutionary movement then shall we in this case support it? .... Is it not simpler to ask: If the Red Army menaces workers’ strikes or peasant protests against the bureaucracy in the USSR shall we support it or not? Foreign policy is the continuation of the internal. We have never premised to support all the actions of the Red Army which is an instrument in the hands of the Bonapartist bureaucracy. We have promised to defend only the USSR as a workers’ state and solely those things within it which belong to a workers’ state .... In every case the Fourth International will know how to distinguish where and when the Red Army is acting solely as an instrument of the Bonapartist reaction and where it defends the social basis of the USSR.” (In Defense of Marxism, pp.29-30.)
The independent revolutionary action of the European masses, in deadly combat against the Stalinist scoundrels, will assure the victory of the European revolution and the survival and further development of the October Revolution inside the Soviet Union.
Of all the “programs” and “theories” on the Soviet Union and the Kremlin bureaucracy, only the Trotskyist analysis and program have been confirmed by events and have provided the revolutionary vanguard with a correct guide to action. The fair weather “friends” of the Soviet Union, the petty-bourgeois confusionists and cowards turned their backs on the Soviet Union in its hour of mortal peril, thereby going over to the other side of the barricades in the class struggle. Only the Fourth International remained true to the program of revolutionary defense of the Soviet Union.
Our active political slogans of the day are always consistent with our program and are derived from it, but express that phase of the program which has the greatest urgency. Therein is the art of politics; to apply the general program to the specific questions of the day.
Throughout the period when the Nazi military machine threatened the destruction of the Soviet Union, we pushed to the fore the slogan: Unconditional Defense of the Soviet Union Against Imperialist Attack. Today the fight for the defense of the Soviet Union against the military forces of Nazi Germany has essentially been won. Hitler’s “New Order in Europe” has already collapsed. The present reality is the beginning of the European revolution, the military occupation of the continent by the Anglo-American and Red Army troops, and the conspiracy of the imperialists and the Kremlin bureaucracy to strangle the revolution. We therefore push to the fore and emphasize today that section of our program embodied in the slogan: Defense of the European Revolution Against All Its Enemies. The defense of the European revolution coincides with the genuine revolutionary defense of the USSR.
The Soviet Union is today more than ever confronted with the sharp alternative: Forward to Socialism or Backward to Capitalism. The present transition period cannot long endure. We, mindful of the counter-revolutionary role of the Kremlin bureaucracy both inside and outside of the Soviet Union, remain ever vigilant to all developments in the Soviet Union. Our policy of unconditional defense of the Soviet Union against imperialist attack retains all its validity, however, while the nationalized property relations remain. The struggle for the preservation of the first workers’ state remains an essential task of the world proletariat. We fulfill this task by working to develop and heighten the European revolution and to secure its victory.
European capitalism has been in a state of sharp decline since the first World War. Today, after five years of slaughter, Europe is in the throes of disorder.
Hitler, as the representative of resources-starved and colonies-hungry German imperialism, attempted to unite all of European industry and agriculture around the highly industrialized economy of Germany. Despite German economic and military hegemony in Europe and the tremendous initial victories, which established Nazi Germany as the temporary master of the continent, Hitler could only bring havoc to the occupied countries. Nazi imperialism could not unite Europe and stimulate economic development. It only enslaved the European masses, further wasted the resources of European economy and converted the unhappy continent into a prison-house of tortured peoples.
Today, the Allies, under the hegemony of the Wall Street plutocracy, enter Europe as the new imperialist overlords. For their part, they aim not to unify Europe, but to keep it Balkanized. The Allied imperialists do not desire the revival of European economy to a competitive level. On the contrary, the program of the Allies calls for the dismemberment of the continent to render impossible the revival of an economically strong Europe. Their program of dismemberment, despoliation and political oppression can only deepen Europe’s ruination. Allied occupation, as already demonstrated in Italy, spells not the mitigation of Europe’s catastrophic crisis, but its aggravation.
This cold-blooded program of the Anglo-American imperialists is supplemented by Stalin’s program of chauvinism, oppression and brutality. Stalin proposes to plunder Germany and her war-partners by the imposition of war reparations and slave labor. Stalin has joined with the imperialists in their efforts to plunge Europe into permanent ruin.
The program of the economic and political unification of Europe, under the aegis of the Socialist United States of Europe is today the only alternative to a descent into barbarism. Working class internationalism is thus no academic issue in Europe today, but an imperative necessity. By their combined efforts the European masses will drive out the foreign conquerors and succeed in tearing power from the hands of the capitalist exploiters. Economic and political necessity push the masses of Europe toward the acceptance of the Socialist United States of Europe as the only program that can save Europe.
The Italian proletariat was the first to take the revolutionary road. One year after the downfall of Mussolini and the destruction of the fascist apparatus, Nazi Germany finds itself in the throes of a similar mortal crisis. A group of Junker generals, fearing the collapse of German capitalism, organized a coup d’etat to remove the Nazi leaders and make peace with the Allies. The fact that this initial conspiracy failed does not detract from its deep symptomatic significance.
That section of the German ruling class which seeks to overthrow Hitler, aims solely to preserve German capitalism by setting up a Badoglio-type dictatorship in order to forestall the maturing uprising of the German masses. The fact that the Junker and capitalist circles have initiated and carried through this desperate conspiracy, in the midst of Germany’s colossal military defeats, is an unmistakable indication that the pressure of the masses is reaching the bursting point and that the revolutionary explosion is near.
The German revolution is the key to the European revolution. Because German industry is the backbone of European economy and above all because of the dominant position of the German proletariat, by virtue of its numbers, its revolutionary traditions and organizing capacities.
Both the imperialists and the Kremlin bureaucracy are fully aware of the preponderant position of Germany in Europe and the decisive role which the German proletariat is destined to play in the coming revolution. That is why they attempt to saddle the German masses with responsibility for the crimes of Hitler and German imperialism. The formula of “unconditional surrender” is directed first and foremost against the anticipated workers’ revolution.
The German masses, who have been tortured by Nazism for eleven years, are not moving to overthrow Hitler in order to accept the rule of foreign dictators. In 1918, over twenty-five years ago, the German toilers first proceeded to take their destinies into their own hands and set up Workers’ Councils. The Social Democratic traitors aborted the revolution and cheated the workers out of their victory. This time the workers will secure their victory and carry though the revolution to the very end.
The Anglo-American imperialists as well as the Kremlin bureaucracy, fearing the sweep of the proletarian revolution, are preparing in advance to isolate the German workers. They seek to utilize the hatred of the European masses toward Nazism and all its fiendish works as a weapon against the German masses, who were the first victims of Hitlerism. The German workers will break through this dike of hatred by raising the banner of the Socialist United States of Europe. The German working class will find allies in their revolutionary struggle throughout Europe, including the ranks of the occupying troops. The proletariat, not of this or that country, but of the entire continent is in a revolutionary mood. The German masses, as the masses throughout Europe, will frustrate the plans of the counter-revolution, by organizing systematic fraternization with the rank and file of the occupying forces.
The petty bourgeoisie, especially the peasantry, are likewise seeking a way out of the madhouse of capitalism, starvation and war. In the course of the last years they have lost faith and hope in the capitalist system. Fascism, the last bulwark of capitalism, has pauperized and disillusioned one layer of the population after the other. Bereft in its last days of all mass support, fascism could rule only as a naked military-police dictatorship. The leading capitalist circles have discredited themselves in the eyes of the masses by collaborating with Hitler and will disgrace themselves further by collaborating with the Allied invaders.
In the Twenties it was possible for American imperialism, whose economy was still rising and expanding, to stabilize capitalism in Europe on a lower foundation through loans and credits. This stabilization was achieved on the basis of the defeated revolutions and by means of a bourgeois democratic regime in Germany. American capitalism, however, began its absolute decline in 1929 and for ten years thereafter found itself in the throes of a major crisis. Unable to extricate itself, it plunged into the war to secure world domination. Torn by its own contradictions and driven by its necessities, American imperialism today has no program for Europe other than its further dismemberment and degradation, and the propping up of the capitalist system with American bayonets. Here is a measure of the further terrible decay of world capitalism in the last 20 years.
The disintegration of British imperialism and the insuperable contradictions of American imperialism have already led to the sharpening of the class struggle in both England and the United States, especially the former country. This sharpening class conflict will be increasingly reflected inside the armed forces. The American and British Trotskyist movements will conduct a bold propaganda exposing the reactionary aims of Anglo-American imperialism and will work in a spirit of international solidarity to defend the European revolution.
Bourgeois democracy, which flowered with the rise and expansion of capitalism and with the moderation of class conflicts that furnished a basis for collaboration between the classes in the advanced capitalist countries, is outlived in Europe today. European capitalism, in death agony, is torn by irreconcilable and sanguinary class struggles. The Anglo-American imperialists understand that democracy is today incompatible with the continued existence of capitalist exploitation. Economic and political conditions forbid the restoration of bourgeois democracy for any extended period, even to the extent that it existed after the last war. 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, however, can only be very unstable, short-lived and transitional in character. They will constitute a brief episode in the unfoldment of the revolutionary struggle. Inevitably, they will be displaced either by the dictatorship of the proletariat emerging out of triumphant workers’ revolution or the savage dictatorship of the capitalists consequent upon the victory of the counter-revolution.
There will be no lack of opportunities in Europe to lead the masses in victorious struggle. The only question is: Will the advanced workers succeed in building strong revolutionary parties, and will the revolutionary parties display the necessary courage, energy, programmatic firmness and tactical flexibility to unite the masses behind their leadership and successfully lead the fight for the Socialist revolution?
We cannot anticipate how long the revolutionary process will take. That will be decided only in the struggle. The European revolution is not to be viewed as one gigantic apocalyptic event, which with one smashing blow will finish with capitalism. The European revolution will probably be a more or less drawn out process with initial setbacks, retreats and possibly even defeats.
The might of the Anglo-American imperialists and the Kremlin oligarchy, and their joint plans of counter-revolution represent only one side of the European situation. Far more decisive is the other side; the continued disintegration of capitalism, the inexhaustible resources of the European proletariat and the power of the European revolution. There is absolutely no foundation for pessimistic conclusions.
The Trotskyist fighters build on the heritage of the Russian Revolution and the Bolshevik Party, as well as Leon Trotsky’s struggle for re-creation and rebuilding of the international revolutionary movement. The Trotskyist fighters of all countries are part and parcel of the programmatically grounded and organizationally stable international Trotskyist movement. They have the opportunity of telescoping their revolutionary tasks and building the revolutionary party by bold methods, in the very heat of the coming revolutionary battles.
The Fourth International stands today on the eve of its greatest struggles and triumphs. Europe is on the verge of stupendous revolutionary developments. The reserves of capitalism are melting before our eyes. Out of the agony of the battlefields, out of the devastation, horrors and ruins of the second World War, is being shaped the anger and determination of the peoples which will burst in a revolutionary storm. When that avenging storm breaks, it will sweep away all the tyrants and exploiters, The Trotskyist party of the Socialist revolution, like the Bolsheviks of 1917, will take its place at the head of the people and ride the revolutionary storm to victory. Under the banner of Trotskyism, the people of Europe will wipe out the rule of the capitalists and rebuild the continent on new Socialist foundations.
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Last updated on 4.9.2008