From Fourth International, November-December 1947, Vol.8 No.9, pp.274-282.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The documents of the April 1946 Conference of the Fourth International analyzed the changes brought about by the Second Imperialist War, correctly indicated the revolutionary perspectives flowing from them and defined the tasks of the Fourth International for the ensuing period. These remain generally valid at the present time.
The total defeat of Germany and Japan, the breakdown of France, the enfeeblement of Great Britain, have completely destroyed the old balance between the imperialist powers and opened the road to the predominant antagonism between the US and the USSR, America emerged out of the war as the main imperialist power embarked on a course of complete world domination. It confronts its chief antagonist in the USSR which despite its internal weakening, controls a vast part of Europe and Asia.
On the basis of the fundamental crisis of capitalism in the imperialist epoch, the war opened up for the world bourgeoisie a new and long period of unstable equilibrium. This means, a period of economic and political difficulties, convulsions and crises in one country after another, which inevitably set in motion great struggles of the proletarian and colonial masses. As these struggles develop and sharpen, they threaten the capitalist system as a whole.
In this period, the principal task of the Fourth International, armed with its Transitional Program, consists in transforming its sections from propaganda groups into mass parties, actively participating in the daily struggles of the proletarian and colonial masses, organizing them and leading them towards the conquest of power.
Since the April Conference, there have taken place a series of developments, both in the economic and political fields, which enable us to render more precise our characterization of the present period, as well as the perspectives and tasks of the near future. The developments unfold within the framework of the new period of unstable equilibrium opened by the war, a period which is far from closed.
The immense destruction, impoverishment and inflation caused by the war in Europe, as well as in some of the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the resulting dislocation of the world market, have been responsible for the extremely irregular nature of the revival of economic activities in these countries, as generally foreseen by the documents of the April Conference. It is further aggravated by the unbalanced economic relations between all these countries and the United States, resulting from the war.
The effort made during the year 1945 at starting up economic activity in Western Europe and the colonial and semi-colonial countries affected by the war, brought only slow and meager results. Production rose, in varying degrees from one country to another, especially during the first part of 1946. But only in exceptional cases have some countries exceeded the already very low 1938 levels of production. The development of production in all these countries, especially the European, including Great Britain, was largely due to American food shipments and the supply of industrial equipment financed by American credits.
Since the last quarter of 1946, production has shown a tendency to level off in most of these countries. In the year since then, as the last dollar reserves were being exhausted, the economic situation threatened to become catastrophic, especially in France and Italy, as well as Great Britain.
Furthermore, Anglo-American efforts to revive economic life in Germany and accelerate its reconstruction have so far not brought any appreciable results.
The Marshall Plan, i.e., the plan for new US financial aid to the Western European countries extending over a number of years, aims at delaying catastrophe, and developing European economy under American control within limits compatible with US economic interests. However, to continue for some years to subsidize essential exports to the European countries, does not in any case mean that it will be possible to restore even the prewar economic equilibrium.
Between the two world wars, the deficit in the trade balance of decadent European capitalism was made up by returns on capital invested abroad and by receipts for services rendered: freight, commissions, etc. The war has largely eliminated these sources of revenue.
Only a sizable increase in production and the opening of new markets could enable European capitalism to make up these losses and to restore a favorable balance of payments, which would save it from the necessity of constant recourse to US loans which are piling up.
The Marshall Plan does not stop the one-way traffic of goods and services to Europe and the accumulation of debts to the US. This is at the root of the complete dislocation of the world economy following the war.
The US for its part must maintain, if not increase, export of goods and services, so that its production may be maintained at its present level and the outbreak of the economic crisis may be postponed.
But even if American exports are maintained at present levels by grants of additional credits, while this deprives the other capitalist countries of the markets they need for their own development, it will not play a decisive role in forestalling the economic crisis in the US. As a matter of fact, total US exports represent only a very small part of that country’s total production. The principal market in the US is largely internal.
For some time, American economy has been showing advanced signs of the coming depression.
US production, after reaching a very high level by the second quarter of 1947, has since been stagnating, while prices continue to rise. The downward curve of the purchasing capacity of the home market is becoming more pronounced, while there is no appreciable increase in exports.
The economy of the Asiatic countries which had a powerful share in world trade before the war, continues to suffer from the consequences of the war and their troubled internal situation.
Japan, which was before the war the chief industrial and commercial country in relation to the other countries of the Far East, and whose economic position was analogous to that of Germany in Central and South-East Europe before the outbreak of the world war, has almost disappeared from the world market and her economy depends almost entirely on American imports subsidized by credits.
India is endeavoring, with little success, to fill Japan’s place remaining the only great Asiatic country which has developed considerably its industrial and financial status during the war China, exhausted by her long resistance against Japanese domination, continues to be the battlefield of a bitter civil war, which is draining its resources and preventing its economic rehabilitation. This results in astronomical inflation and increased misery for all the exploited layers of the population, thus undermining the stability of the Chiang Kai-shek dictatorship.
The troubled situation in the Netherlands East Indies, in Burma, Indochina, delays the economic reconstruction of all these countries, which are producers of important raw materials, and restricts their participation in world trade.
An analysis of the world economic situation shows that a real revival of capitalist production faces numerous obstacles of an economic and political nature. The war not only accentuated the death agony of capitalism, but it rendered it incapable of restoring the world market and a balanced development of world trade.
American economy, on which the rest of the capitalist world leans heavily, is itself threatened by the outbreak of an economic depression in the near future, that in turn threatens to upset world economy before it has reached relative stability.
Soviet economy enjoyed a favorable harvest of wheat and other agricultural products in 1947, enabling the bureaucracy to improve the supply of bread and other food for the population.
The results reportedly achieved by the five-year-plan seem to indicate that industrial production in general is proceeding according to schedule, but that certain key industries are lagging far behind, for example, timber, agricultural machinery, building materials, smelting, paper, rubber, certain coal mines. However, this production effort is due primarily to the intensification of control over the workers by the bureaucracy, while the productivity of labor continues to decline. To combat the downward trend of the productivity of labor, the Soviet bureaucracy has proceeded to a general revision of the production norms determining wages. This revision, which establishes piece rates both in industry and agriculture, proceeds from an increase in the required minimum of compulsory production in relation to the established wage and signifies an intensification in the exploitation of the labor power of the Soviet workers. Thus, an advance in reconstruction only benefits the Soviet bureaucracy and the privileged layers of the Russian proletariat, while the great mass of workers is forced to work and live under worsened economic and political conditions.
In the European countries, controlled by the USSR, tangible economic progress has been realized due to the application of various “plans” imposed by the Stalinist-dominated governments and particularly due to the social peace maintained by the Stalinist parties in these countries.
To counteract the Marshall Plan in Western Europe, the Soviet bureaucracy tries to develop trade relations between the USSR and the different countries under its control and to create a sort of closed economic circuit centered on the USSR. However, the development of production in these countries, retaining their basic capitalist structure, far from encouraging such an orientation, on the contrary emphasizes the need of trade with the West and imports of American capital and industrial products.
The antagonism between US imperialism and the Soviet Union which dominates world relations, has led to an increasingly stiffening attitude by both Washington and Moscow. US imperialism has succeeded in tightening its encirclement of the USSR and of the countries controlled by it, and has continued its offensive against the USSR in all fields: diplomatic, economic, political, military and propagandistic.
UN has become an open agency of US diplomacy, frustrating all the attempts of the Stalinist diplomats to push through their policies. The setting up of the “Little Assembly” has to all intents and purposes neutralized the operation of the veto, on which Stalinist diplomacy relied so much. The Marshall Plan for economic aid to the capitalist countries of Western Europe aims at placing these countries under exclusive American economic and political control, while eliminating the Communist parties from the governments.
The proposed reconstruction of Western Germany under the aegis of the US will create, in the heart of Europe, the most powerful lever for the future economic and political disintegration of the countries of the Soviet “buffer zone” while Germany’s counterpart in the Far East, Japan, is already under exclusive US control.
At the most exposed points of the world US-Russian front, in Greece, Turkey, Iran, China, Korea, US diplomatic, economic and political pressure is combined with the use of purely military means.
An anti-Soviet and anti-Communist propaganda campaign, set in motion with all the enormous means at the disposal of US imperialism, is in full swing in America as well as in the countries under its influence. The object of the campaign is to win public approval for the cold war America is now waging against the Soviet Union and at the same time to prepare the shooting war, when and if Wall Street finds it necessary.
US policy is becoming more aggressive as the expansionist needs of US imperialism on the world market grow and as military production acquires greater importance for American economy.
At the present time, by the use of increased pressure in every field, Washington aims to sharply change in its favor the relationship of forces between the US and the USSR established at the end of the war, and to induce the latter to negotiate as favorable as possible a compromise. US imperialism would naturally prefer to attain its objectives by peaceful means. It has cot exhausted all the possibilities for peaceful world expansion and will only feel itself in an economic impasse when the crisis actually breaks out and develops in scope. There are additional factors why US imperialism would like to postpone a military show-down. In spite of its superiority in atomic armament, the strategic US positions on the world front are yet weak. The instability prevailing in Western Europe and the Asiatic countries reduces the possibility of immediate effective aid from these countries against the powerful Soviet armies. These armies are stationed at their borders and reinforced by the as yet powerful forces of the Communist parties in all these countries.
The outbreak of a war under present conditions would result in its rapid transformation into an international civil war, with uncertain results.
Before venturing into war, US imperialism will seek to establish both in Europe and Asia, solid strongpoints to enable it to deal with the world “chaos” which will inevitably result from such a war.
Like fascism, war is the last resort of the imperialists. It comes at the end of a cycle of economic and political developments. However rapidly this cycle may come to a close, we are at present witnessing only its first stage.
The time when the economic crisis will break out in the US and its extent will largely determine the development of that country’s policy and will in any case step up the race between war and revolution.
In the face of the aggressive US policy, the Soviet bureaucracy has reacted by consolidating its control over the countries in its zone and by a stiffening of the Communist parties’ opposition in those capitalist countries which are slipping into the American orbit.
The intimidations and purges of recalcitrant or hostile political groups and leaders, which took place in 1947 in the majority of countries in the Soviet zone, aimed at neutralizing and atomizing any opposition from the right and the left. They have ended in the domination of their governments by the Communist parties. Parallel with this action, the Soviet bureaucracy, directly or through its agents, the Communist parties, has intensified the application of economic measures in all these countries. They have imposed various production “plans” and trade agreements with the aim of linking the economies of these countries more securely among themselves and of binding them to the USSR. The Stalinist bureaucracy seeks to keep them as an autonomous zone away from the attraction of the system of the Marshall Plan countries.
The Communist parties, confronted with the heightened pressure of US imperialism, the fact that they have been forced out of the governments in the capitalist countries and have become isolated from the bourgeois and “socialist” parties with which they had been in close alliance, i.e., confronted with the manifest failure of their policy since “liberation,” have decided on a turn which was proclaimed with the establishment of the Cominform in September 1947.
The antagonism between the US and the USSR, while dominating by far the international scene, does not completely eclipse secondary conflicts between the powers nor does it eliminate other important factors in the political developments in other countries.
Germany remains the focal point not only in the relations and conflicts between the USSR and the US, but also of the other powers. The increasing dependence of Great Britain and France upon American imperialism – which has grown even further in the past year – also become evident, among others, in the case of Germany. The policy envisaged by these two countries at the end of the war, aiming to take advantage of the US-Soviet conflict in order to maintain an intermediate posi-tiod in the form of a Western European bloc, has suffered complete failure.
Great Britain, whose weakened world position has imposed upon it a scries of retreats in India, the Middle East and in Europe as well as the partial abandonment of the Imperial Preference System, for the benefit of its overpowering partner, has reluctantly had to give up to the US, in addition, the economic and political control of the “Bizone” in Germany.
France, more and more forced to rely on American aid, had to confine herself to verbal protests against American policy in Germany, and to give up practically all hope of taking the lat-ter’s place as Europe’s pivot of reconstruction under US control. France has had to be content with annexing the Saar to her economic structure and with continuing to claim a share in the “international control” of the Ruhr.
In the Western Hemisphere, US economic, political and military pressure on the other countries of the two Continents, has succeeded in cementing the bloc of these countries against the USSR under the aegis of the US, unifying at the Petropolis Conference the military organizations of these countries. Coupled with it is the reinforced offensive of the native bourgeoisie in every country of Central and Latin America against the proletarian forces.
Different situations are developing, under the general sign of persisting political and economic instability.
Japan is subject to strict American economic and political control. US policy aims at transforming this country into the chief economic and strategic base of Yankee imperialism in the Far East.
In India, the partition into Pakistan and Hindustan, imposed by Great Britain, has thrown the country into a large-scale fratricidal war, thus benefitting British imperialism and the native reactionary forces.
The Indian bourgeoisie has proved incapable of conducting a consistent and effective struggle against foreign imperialism and of solving the problems of the democratic and national revolution.
Only the proletariat, which has considerably increased in numbers and social importance since the First World War and which has resolutely entered upon the road of struggle against the native bourgeoisie, is capable of becoming the motor of the Indian revolution, leading it towards the establishment of the Socialist Federated Republic of India.
In China, facing increased pressures from the Yenan armies in the North and the proletarian mass movements in the big Southern centers, Chiang Kai-shek has put an end to the “democratization” measures with which he tried to win a social basis for his shaky dictatorship.
Aided by American imperialism, he tries to retain powervby resorting more and more to brutal force. But he has fewer chances of success than ever.
All the efforts so far made by US imperialism to stabilize the regime in China and to open its immense market to intensive exploitation, have failed. It is due in part to its failure in China that Washington lately centered its attention on Japan.
In Indonesia and Indochina, neither Dutch nor French imperialism has achieved any decisive result by force of arms. The stalemate which exists for the moment in these countries can be resolved in favor of imperialism only by the betrayal of the native bourgeoisie.
In the Middle East, where the sharpening antagonism between the US and the USSR is particularly acute, it has had a depressing effect on the development of the national revolutionary movement of the Moslem masses.
Almost all the colonial and semi-colonial countries have witnessed a tremendous upsurge of the masses. But the tasks of the national democratic revolution have not been resolved. This is due mainly to either the lack of a revolutionary proletarian leadership or its weakness where it exists. But neither has imperialism been able to reestablish stable relations for exploitation.
The polarization, in world relations, between the USSR and its satellites on the one hand, and the camp of the capitalist countries under the aegis of US imperialism on the other, is developing parallel with a sharpening of the class antagonisms within most of the countries, and an increased polarization within them.
US imperialism, embarked on its course of world domination, must seek to become undisputed master at home. At the end of the war, however, it was challenged by a tremendous strike wave that showed the entire world the latent revolutionary power of the American working class. Wall Street had to yield temporarily and to circumvent this challenge instead of meeting it head-on.
But the powerful upsurge of US labor remained confined to the economic field. The top trade union bureaucracy, allied with the old capitalist parties, prevented it from gaining political expression. This permitted the bourgeoisie to organize its counter-offensive unhampered, culminating in the vicious anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act. Combined with the anti-union drive, the capitalists launched a vicious red-baiting campaign. Both served as domestic counter-parts of its anti-Soviet and anti-Communist foreign policy.
Although the counter-offensive of the American ruling class has been largely successful in all its aspects, thanks to the reactionary and cowardly role of the labor bureaucracy, its effect upon the working class has not been that of a crushing defeat. Resistance to the repressive regulations of the Taft-Hartley Act has been relatively weak. The bulk of the AFL and CIO, including the formerly very progressive United Auto Workers, comply with its provisions. Only the miners, the steel workers and the railroad trainmen, etc., have taken a clear decision in defiance of the law. But the latter are not a negligible force; they represent important numbers in key industries. The relatively young American working class has not been fully aware of the implications of the political counter-offensive of capitalism. The revolutionary party is still too small for effective intervention. But the inter-connection between Wall Street’s reactionary role abroad and its anti-labor drive at home is becoming more obvious. Rather than benefitting from the imperialist drive – as was the case in 19th century Britain – the workers in America have to pay for it from the first and are its first victims.
This dawning realization and the inflationary process eating into the living standards of the American workers, are preparing the ground for new social explosions in the United States. The approach of the economic crisis can only accelerate their outbreak. That this time an upsurge of labor will take on political form is indicated by a whole trend towards independent political action in the trade unions. This is strongest on a local scale at present and still isolated. But the fact that the last national convention of the conservative American Federation of Labor gave up its tradition of “hands off politics” and, following the more advanced CIO, organized its own “Labor Political and Educational League” – is a significant sign of the times. The next period in the USA. may well see a tremendous politicalization of the working class, and repeat on the political field the stormy rise of the CIO in the 1930s.
In Western Europe, American imperialism has not as yet found a solid basis of support in the existing regimes, in spite of the considerable economic and political advantages acquired by the bourgeoisie since the “liberation.” The coalition governments which have followed one another since the “liberation” for a period of time with the participation of the CP and SP, have proved impotent. The persistence and, in some cases, aggravation of inflation food shortages and even unemployment in some of these countries (Italy), are responsible for growing discontent. This applies not only to the workers but also to the petty-bourgeois masses. The petty bourgeoisie supported the CP and SP in the hope of a radical solution and are now turning away from the Left in order to look elsewhere for a stable regime. This holds true, within certain limits, also for Great Britain. There, the radicalization of the masses expressed itself in a landslide that swept the Labor Party to power in 1945. The policy of the Labor Government has featured a “Socialism” which permitted the capitalists to hang on to their profits while “equalizing” an austerity which has meant increasing restrictions in living standards for the broad masses. Under these circumstances, a Rightward swing of the petty bourgeois masses has been inevitable. As the last municipal elections show, the Tory party of Churchill has been able to profit from it. But, at the same time, these conditions produce a greater polarization within the Labor Party – which retains its monopoly over working class politics. A conflict between a left-wing representing the socialist aspirations of the workers, and the right wing that constitutes the Government, is in the offing.
In France and Italy, the polarization is taking place at a quicker pace than anywhere else. In France, the reactionary regroupment around de Gaulle, Rassemblement du Peuple Français, and the different neo-fascist movements developing in Italy express the new reactionary orientation taken by the petty bourgeois masses disappointed by the failures of the traditional workers’ parties. However, nowhere in Europe, not even in Greece, has the bourgeoisie as yet been able to inflict a decisive defeat on the proletariat and set up a stable regime. The working class retains its strength and fighting spirit. This has been shown in the great workers’ struggles during 1947 in France and Italy, and to a lesser extent, in Belgium, Holland and Great Britain. These struggles have opened a new stage in the class relationships and particularly in the relations of the proletariat with its traditional leadership.
Broad layers of workers have entered the struggle to defend their living standards against the galloping rise in prices and against food shortages. They have forced their leadership into action and have gone over their heads when the leaders refused to act.
The experience acquired by the masses in the course of these struggles on the one hand, and the intensification of the reactionary menace on the other, have brought about the increased politicalization of the workers’ struggles.
The bourgeoisie, aware of the precarious economic situation and the fighting power of the proletariat, is advancing only cautiously in its economic and political offensive. It will endeavor, as long as it can, to prolong the existence of the “Right-Center” cabinets which, on the parliamentary field, have replaced the “Left-Center” cabinets in France and Italy after the exclusion of the Stalinists from the governments. It hopes that the application of the Marshall Plan will improve its economic positions in the near future and that a possible compromise with the USSR will attenuate the opposition of the Communist parties.
However, only the broadening and the coordination of the workers’ struggles, on the basis of a revolutionary program, combining the economic and elementary political demands of the masses with those leading to the establishment of workers’ and peasants’ power, can stop reaction. Only a bold struggle for power can lead the petty bourgeoisie back into the orbit of the working class.
But if the weakness of the workers’ parties and the working class movement in general should continue and if the deterioration of the economic situation in Western Europe should grow, it is probable that France and Italy will become the theater of a bitter civil war between the forces of bourgeois dictatorship and the masses.
The Stalinist parties would, in such an event, have no alternative but to fight, even with arms, as in Greece; even in such cases where, as in France, de Gaulle would come to power by “constitutional” means.
Social antagonisms are also developing sharply in the colonial and semi-colonial countries. In Latin America, the passing prosperity of the war gave way to an acute economic crisis. This crisis is revealed in raging inflation and, in part, also in growing unemployment. Against the accentuated economic and political offensive of the bourgeoisie, the proletariat of these countries, greatly reinforced since the war, is engaging in great battles, especially in Chile, Bolivia and Brazil.
In the African colonies of French imperialism, as well as in Egypt and in the Arab Middle East as a whole, the young workers’ movement is distinguished, since the war, by its first appearance as an independent political factor, fighting not only foreign imperialism but its own possessing classes.
In Japan, despite American occupation, the workers’ movement is developing as a serious force. Particularly notable is the upswing of the trade union movement, the scope of its great strike struggle and the political success of the Socialists in the elections. All this constitutes the first stage in the radicalization of the Japanese masses.
In India, mass strikes in all the big industrial centers of the country – often led by Trotskyist militants – mark the powerful awakening of the working class against the Indian bourgeoisie, allied with the feudal lords and the imperialists.
In China, the new wave of reactionary measures undertaken by the Chiang Kai-shek dictatorship has far from conquered the proletariat of the big cities of South China, fighting to maintain their living standards against the ravages of fantastic inflation and for their democratic rights.
* * *
In general, the workers’ movement throughout the world continues to be characterized by a mass upswing far outstripping any before the war. This applies especially to the countries of Western Europe, Latin America and Asia.
The labor movement which emerged from the last war, is mainly under Stalinist influence, particularly in Europe and in Asia. However, an unceasing differentiation within its ranks has been in progress.
The proletariat originally turned towards the Communist parties in the hope that they would play a revolutionary role. In this sense, the gigantic growth of, Stalinism at the termination of the imperialist war, once again shows the determination of the proletariat to overcome war, once again shows the determination of the proletariat to overcome the bloody chaos of the capitalist system. However, nowhere have the Communist parties justified the hopes of the exploited masses. On the contrary, their opportunist policy of class collaboration in the face of a situation demanding radical solutions, has gradually sown discontent and confusion among the proletariat, while the petty bourgeois masses who had first placed their trust in the Communist party, turned towards the Right.
The Socialist parties have retained a basis mainly in the European countries, although they have lost a large part of their worker elements to the Stalinists. This is proof that the masses cannot complete their experience with reformism, in the absence of a genuine revolutionary party. The conservative role of tradition and the existence of an apparatus have also been contributing factors. An additional reason for the survival of the Socialist parties is that their principal social base, in the imperialist epoch consists of petty bourgeois elements. As a result of their position and mentality these elements are constantly wavering between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. They can only be attracted to the latter at decisive moments of the class struggle, provided there is a strong revolutionary party capable of overcoming their hesitations and drawing them towards the revolution or else neutralizing them.
The loss by the Socialists of part of their working class base to the Communist parties at the end of the war has been a general phenomenon. It has varied only in degree in most countries of Europe and the rest of the world. Exceptions to this general trend exist mainly in the Scandinavian countries, in England and Australia – i.e., where the traditions of the Socialist parties were strongest and the objective situation of capitalism relatively better. The radicalization of the masses in these countries found its main expression in the growth of these parties.
In France and Italy as well as in certain countries of the Soviet “buffer zone” the Socialist parties suffered their greatest losses to the Communist parties. Subsequent developments have modified this situation. In the countries under Soviet control, where the masses went through a more decisive experience with Stalinist policy, there is a new shift of the workers towards the Socialist parties. Proletarian discontent with the nationalist, bureaucratic and police regime of Stalinism, has once again revitalized the Socialist parties.
In all these countries, including Germany and Austria, it is the task of the organizations of the Fourth International to pay special attention to work inside the Socialist organizations and to consider concretely the opportunities of a partial entrist tactic in these organizations, or even total entry in certain cases.
In other countries also, these organizations still constitute an important field of work for the growth of our international movement, as shown by the example of France, Italy and India. As long as there will not emerge and consolidate itself, within the working class movement, a pole of attraction other than that of the traditional parties, there will be constant shifts of forces between the Socialist and Communist parties.
The policy of Stalinism, far from being able to ensure the growing isolation of the Social Democracy, favors the maintenance of its base and even its relative growth. The same holds true for the policy of the Social-Democracy in a converse sense.
The real disintegration of the traditional parties can take place only as a result of the attractive power of the Fourth International. It alone can polarize the left centrist currents developing inevitably inside these parties.
The constitution of the Cominform of Belgrade in September 1947, has marked a change in the policy of the Communist parties.
The Stalinist bureaucracy has decided upon a “left turn” as a consequence of the increased aggressiveness of US imperialism against the USSR and its satellites; the campaigns against the Communist parties in the other capitalist countries; their exclusion from the governments; and also as a consequence of the pressure of the masses, who have shown signs of growing discontent with these parties.
Within the framework of their class collaboration policy, the Stalinists are now laying stress on the mobilization of the proletarian masses. They use the workers’ elementary demands as pressure to blackmail US imperialism and the native bourgeoisies, so as to counteract their anti-Soviet orientation and induce them to negotiate a compromise with the USSR.
The amplitude of this turn will depend on the development of Soviet-US relations. If the present world tension persists, if the different national bourgeoisies, at the instigation of US imperialism, continue to accentuate their anti-Stalinist policy and threaten the very existence of the Communist parties, it is not excluded that the latter will adopt more and more an attitude of implacable opposition. They may even resort to civil war, following the example of Greece. This does not mean that the Communist parties can in any way return to a class policy, even of the kind of the “Third Period” of 1928-33. That is possible only in the case of an actual outbreak of war.
Nevertheless, the experience of Greece as well as the recent events in France, Italy and elsewhere show that, within the framework of a general policy of class collaboration, the Stalinist bureaucracy is capable of undertaking sharp turns in its policy. They may even go so far as to prepare for general strikes and armed struggles. But the Stalinist bureaucracy uses these weapons, not in order to overthrow the capitalist system. They are aimed only to exert pressure on the bourgeoisie for limited objectives. Thus, it conducts this struggle, in the last analysis, in an opportunist and defeatist spirit, ready at any moment to stop and betray it.
To the extent that it seems to take up the defense of the workers’ demands in opposition to all the other parliamentary parties, the new policy of the Communist Party contributes, at first, towards an apparent strengthening of the loosened bonds between the Stalinists and the workers. At the same time, the opportunist and maneuverist spirit which animates it, will become more evident to the masses, once they have launched into battle. The Stalinists’ fear of genuine revolutionary action makes their leadership of the present struggles hesitant and indecisive. In countries like France, workers tend to become suspicious of their motives, particularly when they recall the whole treacherous CP policies in the past years (“production first,” “the strike is the weapon of the trusts,” etc.). The workers, in turn, tend to become hesitant of following Stalinist leadership, often even when the struggle revolves around their own legitimate demands. In this situation the Stalinist domination over the workers’ movement begins to break down. The CP in Western Europe especially, becomes incapable of effectively mobilizing the masses. This can be done only by the emergence of a new leadership. The workers’ conditions, however, compel them to resort to struggle again and again. The opportunity is thus created for the effective intervention of the sections of the Fourth International, to gain leadership of the mass movement.
The Stalinist “turn,” by encouraging the outbreak of the workers’ struggles, can thus be utilized to strengthen considerably the organizations of the Fourth International. But only if they know how to combine unity of action and the united front tactic – applied mainly on a local scale, in the factories and the trade unions – with a clear policy and a sharp and firm exposure of the Stalinist leaders. These are conditions indispensable to winning the confidence of the fighting proletarian vanguard.
The remnants of the prewar centrist organizations, once grouped around the London Bureau, have largely degenerated and disintegrated.
Thus, in Great Britain, the ILP is vegetating, following the desertion of its former leading nucleus to the Labor Party bureaucracy.
In France, after the complete dissolution of the PSOP, Marceau Pivert has joined Leon Blum in adopting for the decrepit Socialist Party the role of the “Third Force.” This “Third Force” is theoretically supposed to combat equally de Gaulle and the Communist Party. In practice, it allied itself with the de Gaullist candidates against the Stalinists in the municipal elections.
In Greece, the Archeo-Marxist organization, denouncing the civil war, is collaborating in the official trade union leaderships with the agents appointed by the reactionary monarchist government. “Placed before the choice” between Stalinism and “bourgeois democracy – made in USA.” as applied to Greece, it has in fact cast its lot with the latter.
The POUM is torn by a serious and continuous internal crisis. After a first split with a Right Wing, its political and organizational independence is now altogether imperilled by Maurin, its principal leader. Maurin advocates an alignment with Western “democratic Socialism” and dissolution into the Spanish Socialist Party.
The present anti-Stalinism of all these organizations, which has replaced their former pro-Stalinist policy, does not at all mean a progressive evolution. On the contrary, it is part of their retrograde development and merely accentuates their traditional opposition to the principles of Bolshevism, as well as their political confusion.
No other pre-1939 Centrist organization has survived the war and retained any appreciable importance.
On the other hand, the aggravation of the crisis of capitalism and of the social antagonisms in the new post-war period – coupled with the more and more manifest bankruptcy and treachery of the traditional workers’ parties – create powerful new Centrist currents, mainly in the Socialist parties, but even in certain Communist parties. These currents are developing in a progressive direction.
It is the task of the Trotskyists to pay serious and constant attention to the new centrist currents and to aid them to advance toward the revolutionary positions of the Fourth International. Successful work in this direction can greatly accelerate the transformation of our sections into real mass parties.
Since the war period, the sections of the Fourth International have in general considerably increased in membership, as well as in influence among the working class.
The Trotskyist movement, on an international scale, is much broader and more cohesive than at any time before the war. But the progress achieved is not yet proportionate to the objective possibilities and even less so, to historic necessities. The organizations of the Fourth International almost everywhere are coping with the problem of transforming themselves into real mass parties.
A number of organizations are fulfilling this task with growing success and, by their experience, are showing our whole international movement the road to the masses. Our sections in North and South America, India and France, each make their own experiences of penetrating the mass movement. Several other sections are following them in this road.
Furthermore, it is probable that the assets we shall gain in some countries from progressive centrist currents from the Socialist and Communist parties, will radically transform the physiognomy of our movement in these countries and, correspondingly, of our whole International.
Objective conditions remain favorable for the achievement of this task. The main obstacles in the present period result from our subjective weaknesses. These are due, on the one hand, to the limited number of cadres capable of effectively intervening in the workers’ struggles as organizers and leaders; and on the other hand, to sectarian or opportunist conceptions which have influenced the policy of some of the sections. The experience of the International demonstrates the need of a struggle against sectarianism as well as against opportunism. To fight against sectarianism means to break resolutely with the circle habits inherited from the past, that is, with any form of thought or organization method which, while paying lip-service to our Marxist Leninist principles, turns its back on the real mass movement. The fight against sectarianism means a resolute break with the circle habits of the past, when the objective situation compelled us to confine our activities largely to the elaboration of our program and to criticism of the treacherous currents ill the labor movement. Under the present favorable conditions, it is necessary to demonstrate our program in action. Otherwise we are faced with the danger of stagnation and decline.
To fight against sectarianism means to fight against sterile, abstract propaganda. It means to fight against the concept that our movement can only be built by gradual recruitment of individuals and routine education. A mass revolutionary party can only be built in action. That requires first and foremost the penetration of the workers’ movement as it exists. A specific field of work must be chosen where the possibilities for the development of our movement are most favorable. Our general program must be concretized. The concrete slogans must take into account the elementary economic and political demands of the masses. Our revolutionary aims must be translated into the living language of the workers. Our cadres must take an active part in the workers’ lives and struggles, in the factories and unions and there develop a broad revolutionary tendency that will be capable of challenging the traditional bureaucracy at every step.
In the colonial and semi-colonial countries, our section? must stand completely and audaciously for all democratic and national demands of the masses, organize and lead their struggles for these objectives, penetrate all popular national organizations in order to fight by every means for our revolutionary policy.
The struggle against sectarianism does not mean, under any circumstances, to give way to opportunist pressure. The problem is one of leading the masses in revolutionary struggle and not to adapt ourselves to centrist positions. The militants of the parties of the Fourth International have the duty of being in every real movement of the masses and in every organization which musters and mobilizes them, without being called upon to defend on. a local scale, in their daily action, at every moment, the whole program and complete political line of their party. But, irrespective of the more or less advanced political situation, the party as such permanently defends before the working class a combined program, in which our full Socialist objectives tie in with the transitional slogans appropriate in the given situation. The Party never reduces its policy to the simple level of a trade unionist or democratic minimum program.
The constant preoccupation of all our sections must be that of connecting their agitation around the immediate slogans with the propaganda for our complete program. Our central slogans for a certain period proceed, not from what seems to be the momentary political consciousness of the masses, under the influence of the traditional leaderships, but from the character of the period, the living conditions and needs of the masses. The masses, through their own experience in struggles, will inevitably arrive at an understanding of the correctness of our slogans. Our task is to put forward successively and audaciously ever higher transitional slogans as the workers’ struggles grow and deepen; to heighten the political content of the Party’s propaganda and agitation. That has particularly been demonstrated by our recent experiences in France and Italy.
In their effort to seek the road to the real mass movement, our sections are inevitably subject to deviations – both sectarian, which express the inertia of the past, and opportunist, reflecting the mass pressure and the ideological weakness of the cadres.
Only democratic discussion and criticism of every national experience by the whole of our international movement and its well considered intervention, can minimize the dangers of these deviations and allow us to conquer the masses, not on a centrist program, but on that of Marxism-Leninism, enriched by the new developments of the workers’ movement.
Following the end of the war, it has been necessary to re-constitute the organizational unity of the Trotskyist movement and to resume connections with all the organizations claiming to adhere to the Fourth International, and complying with its discipline.
At the present stage, it is necessary for the International to plan its activities, with the aim of aiding a more rapid and effective development of our movement in some countries where
the conditions are more favorable as compared to others. That means a concentration of attention and support to those sections which have the best possibilities of becoming mass parties. Other sections will be aided in their development by the living example and the experience of some organizations of the International which will have succeeded in finding a road to the masses.
The whole strategy of the International continues to be pivoted on the preparation of the world socialist revolution. It alone can prevent the regression of humanity into fascism and war. The last imperialist war opened a period of unstable equilibrium during which great struggles of the proletariat and the colonial peoples threatening the capitalist system itself are not only probable but inevitable. This period has not yet come to a close. The polarization of social forces is accentuated under the pressure of the US-Soviet antagonism and the persistent crisis in most of the capitalist and colonial countries. It is a crisis which the traditional parties prove incapable of solving and leads to ever greater class struggles. The outcome of these struggles in a number of key countries in the present international situation, will determine the possibility of a relative stability of capitalism or of an accelerated revolutionary development.
In spite of the tension in the relations between the USSR and the US and the economic and ideological preparation of the next war, formidable obstacles stand in the way of its immediate outbreak. A new compromise between these two powers 13 possible. The race between war and revolution will most probably accelerate at the moment when the economic crisis in the US breaks out and as it unfolds. But even before then, the world bourgeoisie will undergo great economic and political difficulties, convulsions and crises. These will unleash great working class struggles. In the course of these struggles, new revolutionary forces will be emancipated from the domination of the traditional leaderships and thus enabled to regroup themselves around the program of the Fourth International.
In the USSR itself, the regime set up by the bureaucracy is developing in a direction which, instead of favoring its consolidation, accumulates and sharpens its contradictions.
The capitalist world as a whole develops under the sign of an increased disequilibrium in its economic foundation, which reduces the possible periods of relative stability, and extends the periods of convulsions and crises.
The policy of the Fourth International in the period ahead must proceed from these considerations and lay stress on the necessary and possible mobilization of the workers and the colonial masses for a revolutionary solution.
In general, the practical tasks formulated in the resolution of the April Conference, flowing from the concrete application of the Transitional Program, remain valid. The character of the period remains fundamentally the same.
The Fourth International in its propaganda constantly denounces the imperialist plans for World War III. It shows that only victorious socialist revolutions can prevent this catastrophe which could only have disastrous consequences for humanity.
At the same time, it constantly combats the reactionary propaganda of the imperialists designed to create among the masses a fatalistic acceptance of another war. The Fourth International bases its policy on every struggle and every victory of the proletariat and the colonial peoples, and places its confidence in the revolutionary action of the masses to counteract the plans of the imperialists.
In the countries of Western Europe, particularly in France and Italy, where the polarization is the most advanced and the reactionary threat the most immediate, our sections must pose boldly the question of power in their propaganda and agitation. They must call for unity of action and the united front of all working class forces, on the basis of a program linking up the masses’ economic and political demands to the slogans of workers’ control, workers’ militia and a workers’ and peasants’ government.
They must constantly advocate the necessity of broadening and coordinating the struggle and expose the traditional leaderships opposing this. They must expose particularly the opportunist and adventuristic spirit of the new Stalinist policy, with its incoherent social agitation, its lack of a program and perspectives, that leads to the ultimate demoralization of the masses and the victory of reaction.
Our sections will denounce the capitalist nature of the nationalizations carried out by the governments headed by “Socialists” or “Socialists” and Stalinists without workers’ control, and imposing exorbitant sums for compensation and indemnities on the shattered economy of these countries.
They will denounce the bureaucratic planning of these governments which aggravates the already heavy privations imposed on the masses. To the increasing disorder of capitalist management of production and distribution, they will counterpose agitation for socialist planning by the masses and for the masses, beginning with mass control over production, food distribution and prices.
In opposition to the control of American imperialism over European economy by means of the Marshall Plan – which aims to transform it into an economy subordinated to that of the US and thus detrimental to the free development of its productive forces and of the masses’ living standards – our sections will put forward unceasing propaganda for the Socialist United States of Europe.
Against the continued occupation of Germany, Austria and the countries of the Soviet “buffer zone” by the imperialist forces and those of the Stalinist bureaucracy – which threatens to reduce these countries to the level of colonies – our sections will fight for the withdrawal of all occupation troops and for all democratic demands of the oppressed masses consistent with their right of self-determination and national independence.
In the European countries controlled by the Soviet bureaucracy, the militants of the Fourth International will aid all of the mass movements for the defense of their living standards and their liberties against the bureaucratic police regimes dominated by the Stalinists.
In the United States the task is to accelerate the penetration into the trade union organizations and to intensify the political campaign for a labor party based on the trade unions. It is necessary to expose the reactionary maneuvers of Yankee imperialism and denounce its plans for the third imperialist war. It is necessary to prepare politically and organizationally for the outbreak of the depression and the crisis in the US which will carry the Trotskyists to the head of the great mass struggles that lie ahead.
In the semi-colonial countries of Latin America, Africa and Asia, the sections and the militants of the Fourth International will resolutely defend the democratic and national demands of the masses against imperialism, as well as their economic and political demands against the native bourgeoisie.
In general, the main task facing the Fourth International as a world party in the present period, is that of entering the mass movements in the capitalist and colonial countries with greater determination than in the past, in order to advance the socialist and revolutionary solutions, which are more necessary than ever. The capitalist system in decline and decay and the regime established by the Soviet bureaucracy in the USSR, accumulate and sharpen their inherent contradictions. These paralyze the development of the productive forces, lower the living standards of millions of people in the world, increase the pressure of the bureaucratic and police state on social and private life – which stifles creative activity in all fields – and reduce highly industrialized countries like Germany and Japan to the level of colonies, accentuating national oppression.
In the light of all historic experience, the revolutionary proletariat proves to be the only social force capable of incorporating in its leadership the common struggle of all the oppressed and exploited strata, crushed by imperialism, the bourgeoisie and the Soviet bureaucracy, and of leading towards the socialist solution. In this sense, the Fourth International must and can fulfil its role as leadership of the revolutionary proletariat. Based on the achievement and the experience of its cadres and on their increasing influence, the Fourth International can go to the masses with greater resolution, greater firmness, greater political clarity than ever.
Forward with the fighting masses, to win them for the Revolution and for Socialism!
1. This draft was considered at the the Second World Congress of the Fourth International in Paris in April 1948. The resolution adopted, also entitled World Situation and the Tasks of the Fourth International, was published in Fourth International, Vol.9 No.4, June 1948, pp.98-110.
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Last updated on 11 April 2009