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Fourth International, August 1946


Review of the Month

Stalinism in Western Europe


From Fourth International, August 1946, Vol.7 No.8, pp.228-229.
Transcribed, edited & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


The Path Of Stalinist Degeneration

The Stalinist parties in Europe are moving ever further down the road of nationalism and social imperialism. An instructive episode, illustrating the depths of this political depravity, was the action of the Italian Communist Party, as reported in the New York Times of July 4, in repudiating its own section and membership in the territory of Venezia Giulia, which includes the Adriatic port of Trieste. The episode developed in connection with the decision of the “Big Four” in Paris to detach Trieste from Italy and convert it into a “free city” of the Danzig type. This cynical “Power Politics” decision has aroused tremendous anger among the Italian masses who are infuriated at the proposed dismemberment of Italy.

The Italian Stalinist leaders did not denounce the dirty deal consummated in Paris, for the simple and obvious reason that one of the parties which engineered it was the Stalinist clique in the Kremlin. Togliatti and his cronies could hardly be expected to oppose any action by Moscow, no matter how much it violates the feelings and interests of the masses they claim to represent.

Besides, there is only one real answer to the national quarrels and the bickerings between national states over disputed ports, cities and territories; there is only one way to eliminate the national animosities and dispel the hatreds – the razing of all the customs and tariff barriers, the unification of the European states and their economic collaboration. In other words, the creation of the Balkan and Danubian Federations inside of and as part of the Socialist United States of Europe. That is the only program by which Europe’s ruination can be halted and the continent lifted up again. But this program can be realized only by the working class. And since the Stalinists have long since abjured the proletarian struggle for power, they could do nothing else but follow in the footsteps of all the bourgeois and petty bourgeois demagogues and charlatans and play on and exacerbate the chauvinist feelings and national prejudices of the agonized masses.

To quiet their own following and cover up for the Kremlin, the Stalinist leaders in Italy hastened to declare publicly that the loss of Trieste and other misfortunes were due to the anti-Soviet policy of the Italian government! They were not responsible, they said, for Italian foreign policy and disapproved of it intensely (conveniently overlooking the fact that they held cabinet seats in the government which made this policy). This whole line was of course an evasion of the issue. Trieste is being severed from Italy, not by decision of the weakling Italian government, but by edict of the “Big Four” – including Stalin. (The Kremlin, as a matter of fact, had demanded cession of Trieste to Yugoslavia, one of its Balkan satellites, but agreed to its “internationalization” as a compromise.)

Stalinists Abandon Internationalism

While great crowds were demonstrating in Rome against the severance of Trieste, the Stalinists in Venezia Giulia were also organizing protest demonstrations against the “Big Four” decision, but, unlike the Romans, were demanding that Trieste be turned over to Yugoslavia! This was most embarrassing to Togliatti and company. That is why they sought to extricate themselves from their difficulties by proceeding to publish a statement disavowing their comrades in Venezia Giulia, who, they lamely explained, were Slavs (though Italian citizens) and preferred to live under the Yugoslavian flag.

This shameful incident, but a minor climactic point of the whole nationalistic course of the Stalinist movement, again throws into bold relief the blatant abandonment by the Stalinists of working class internationalism and the degeneration of the Stalinist parties along lines of petty bourgeois chauvinism. For the last six months political observers have watched how the Italian Stalinists joined the ugly chorus of Italian bourgeois nationalism in howling for Trieste. The Yugoslav Stalinists, with equal vigor and just as determined “national pride” have demanded that Trieste be ceded to them. The same cynical abandonment of the socialist program of working class solidarity, the same descent into the labyrinth of bourgeois politics can be seen in the case of Germany. While the German Stalinists are correctly demanding the unification of Germany, the Kremlin opposes such a unification, tooth and nail, and the Stalinist brothers across the border in France are uniting with Bidault and the French capitalists in demanding the dismemberment of Germany, and the “internationalization” of the Rhineland and Ruhr.

In France, furthermore, the Stalinists participate in a bourgeois coalition government which maintains the stranglehold of French imperialism in the colonies. They were the authors of the draft constitution, defeated in the May 1946 referendum, which would have sanctified colonial slavery anew. But the Stalinist leaders in the French colonies, in Morocco and Algeria and Indo-China, try to appear before the masses as champions of national freedom from French imperialism.

New Technique In Betrayal

The crimes and betrayals of the Stalinists are, of course, nothing new. But in the past, their line was always of a more or less standardized character. The Stalinists, at times, even went to ridiculous lengths to achieve an absolute uniformity. The present advocacy of conflicting national programs on the part of the Italian and Yugoslav Stalinists, and the German and French Stalinists, represents, we must acknowledge, a new departure, not to speak of a new low in Stalinist cynicism. It must not be imagined that this new technique indicates that the Stalinist parties possess a new-found independence. Not at all. The present discordant lines of the different Stalinist parties are not only approved by the Kremlin, but in many cases, undoubtedly dictated by it. The discordant voices in the ranks of world Stalinism reflect the absence of a political program based upon the interests of the international working class and the colonial masses. Stalin destroyed the Communist International and its program. The Communist parties were converted into agencies of the Kremlin and required to formulate their policies in accordance with the conjunctural needs of that regime in particular countries at particular times. Socialist internationalism, world working class solidarity, went out the window. For it was substituted an especially noxious kind of nationalist opportunism, heavily laden with the poison of chauvinism, which has become the hall-mark of Stalinism everywhere.

Having ceased to be the political instruments of the international class struggle for socialism, the Stalinist parties inevitably became tools of capitalist reaction. Each is a supporter of the capitalist status quo, an opponent of the socialist revolution; while at the same time each remains firmly attached to the purse-strings of the Kremlin and to Stalin’s GPU apparatus. They do not want to overthrow the bourgeois governments. Instead, they participate in them and use their influence with the masses to pressure those governments in directions desired by the Kremlin. To retain their influence with the masses, they sponsor mild reform programs, gently criticize the bourgeois ministers with whom they rub shoulders at banquets and cabinet meetings, and on occasion talk very radical.

Strongest Prop Of Capitalism

In recent elections the French Communist Party polled over 5,000,000 votes; the Italian Communist Party over 4,000,000, These figures represent a tremendous mass following. Yet the Stalinists, as they themselves declare, have no intention of making a bid for power. With a revolutionary program and a determination to overthrow capitalism, the Stalinists in crisis-torn France and Italy could quickly win to their banner the overwhelming mass of the population and seize power. But this is the last thing they intend to do.

In bygone days, the Stalinist leaders tried to justify their class-collaborationist People’s Front policies as necessary in order to attract the petty-bourgeois masses and thus win a majority of the population for the revolution. Today, with already tremendous mass followings, and the most feeble bourgeois governments to contend with, they pursue the same class-collaborationist policies, only in a more crass and vulgar form. Originally the instruments of social revolution, they long since became one of the strongest props of capitalism.

Trotsky once explained how a workers’ party which refuses to fight for power, necessarily, because of the very mechanism of capitalist society, becomes the tool and plaything of the capitalist powers-that-be. We see this most clearly in the degeneration of the Stalinist parties of Western Europe.

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