Main FI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Fourth International, November-December 1947


The Russian Question Today

(Stalinism and the Fourth International)

Draft Theses Adopted by the International Secretariat of the Fourth International [1*]

1. The Russian Question


From Fourth International, November-December 1947, Vol.8 No.9, pp.259-264.
Transcribed, edited & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


The Historical Significance of the Developments in Russia

Thirty years ago the Russian workers and poor peasants, under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party, overthrew the power of the capitalists and landowners, expropriated the exploiters and laid the basis for an unprecedented overturn in all social relations of old Russia. For the workers’ vanguard of the whole world, and particularly for the Bolshevik leaders of the October Revolution, this was only the starting point for the World Revolution. Only a link-up with the advanced proletariat of Central and Western Europe, with their modern technique and superior culture, could enable the Russian workers to overcome the difficulties arising from their conquest of power in a country so backward in its development of the productive forces.

The Bolshevik leaders considered that in the long run the historical alternative to this international victory of the Revolution could be only the restoration of capitalism in Russia and the transformation of the country into a colony of world imperialism.

The history of the last thirty years has shown clearly that building a classless society within a backward national framework is only an illusion. Russia today is further removed from Socialism than at any time since 1917. But at the same time, the classes expropriated in 1917 have not been restored to power. Instead of becoming a powerless colony of imperialism, Russia has become the second military and economic power in the world. This historical variant was not foreseen by the Bolsheviks or by any other tendency in the workers’ movement. This is where the main difficulty lies for a Marxist understanding of the Russian question.

It is equally difficult either to express in a single formula the tendency of the Soviet Union’s evolution during these thirty years or to apply to it abstract norms like “progress” or “regression.” The monstrous growth, of the State, the most totalitarian police dictatorship in history; the pitiless crushing of the proletariat; the choking off of all intellectual freedom; the renewal of national oppression; the new rise of the Orthodox Church; the restoration of the slavery of woman – “equal” to man only in order to sweat in the mines or the yards; the introduction of compulsory labor on a gigantic scale – all this certainly constitutes an enormous regression from the Soviet democracy of the first years of the Revolution.

But the uprooting of all semi-feudal vestiges, the complete elimination of economic domination by extraordinary upswing of industry, the world imperialism, the transformation of millions of backward illiterate peasants into industrial proletarians who have thus become conscious of modern wants, the rapid development of old towns and the accelerated appearance of new ones, the penetration of electricity and the tractor into the countryside – all this undoubtedly constitutes progress in relation to the semi-barbarous Russia inherited by the revolution from Czarism. This contradictory process defies any judgment proceeding from pre-conceived notions.

History has not yet pronounced its final verdict on the USSR. Its economy, its State, its culture, are undergoing constant change, which is far from having reached a definite conclusion. The composition of its social strata is subject to continuous and rapid variation. The proletariat, which emerged from the Czarist regime with the stirring memories of the October Revolution and entered upon the road of industrialization twenty years ago with fervor and enthusiasm has given way to a working class newly drawn from the peasantry, whose immense creative energies are crippled by the Stalinist dictatorship. The peasantry of today, transformed by the tractor, the kolkhoz (collective farm) and the terror of deportations, only resembles superficially the old Russian peasantry. The workers’ bureaucracy composed of upstart revolutionaries has changed into a more or less closed caste, desirous of reviving the customs and nationalist traditions of the former ruling classes.

In spite of its complexity, two striking features emerge from this picture. The sum total of the production relations inherited from the October Revolution, has proved to possess an infinitely higher capacity of resistance than the Marxists had foreseen. The decisive historic significance of the Revolution is thus borne out in full measure. But at the same time, the possibilities of reaction and regression in all fields, including the economic, within the framework of these production relations, have been shown to be infinitely vaster and more dangerous than any one could have thought. These two factors must clearly stand out from our analysis.

The Social Nature of the USSR

It was the proletarian revolution, i.e., the conscious action of the proletariat, which, in 1917, swept away the power of the capitalists and landowners. The production relations resulting therefrom: nationalization of the land, sub-soil and of all the means of production, monopoly of foreign trade, expropriation of foreign capital, tendency towards conscious planning of economy did not correspond to the level of development of the productive forces and could not, therefore, depend upon the automatic functioning of economy. Such production relations can only be maintained and developed on the basis of workers’ control of production, the ever deeper transformation of the proletariat from the object into the subject of economy. The abolition of this worker’s control, the complete exclusion of the proletariat from any, even indirect, participation in planning, can only widen the gap between the given production relations and those that guarantee the abolition of exploitation of man by man. In this sense, historic development has clearly changed direction in Russia. What remains of the conquests of October, is more and more losing its historic value as a premise for Socialist development. If these production relations have not yet collapsed, this does not mean, however, that we are witnessing their economic “stabilization.” On the contrary, as in 1927 and 1937, the automatic economic process in Russia – abstracting therefrom the factor of the political dictatorship – would even today rapidly lead to the predominance of small handicraft and peasant production, which would effect a complete link-up with the capitalist world market. That not all of the October conquests have been overthrown, is due to the political expropriation of the proletariat, not by the old possessing classes or the new peasant bourgeoisie, but by the bureaucracy, whose social privileges rest on the production relations established by the revolution. The political dictatorship, today as twenty years ago, is decisive in preventing the complete collapse of planning, the break-through of the capitalist market and the penetration of foreign capital into Russia. However, in its bureaucratic form, this very dictatorship undermines more and more the production relations on the basis of which it keeps alive.

Thanks to the dynamism of production relations bequeathed by the October Revolution, the bureaucracy was in a position to crush peasant and neo-bourgeois pressure in 1927. As a result of the world retreat of the Revolution and the exhaustion and discouragement which it meant for the Russian proletariat, the bureaucracy was able to politically expropriate the working class. By applying the advanced technique of the capitalist countries to the conquests of October, it could ensure the first development of the productive forces in Russia. This fact has given the country an overwhelming superiority of development-potency, compared to Czarist Russia, the Japan of the Mikado and even Hitler’s Germany. Any attempt at simplification which tries to confuse the economic basis on which Stalinist Russia is built, with the monstrous degeneracy of its social superstructure can, in view of these facts, only arrive at an idealization either of a “last stage” of capitalism, or of a “new exploiting class.”

However, at the same time, the bureaucracy has been incapable of ensuring a harmonious development of production, a diminution of the contradiction between town and country, an easing of the sharpness of social contradictions. To attain these ends, economy would have had to be oriented first and foremost towards a satisfaction of the needs of the masses; the aims of the plan would have had to be calculated and controlled by the intervention of millions of producers, economic progress would have had to be measured in terms of the progressive rise of the masses’ level of consumption and education. However, the bureaucracy defends the essence of the production relations inherited from October only as a basis for its privileges, and not as a possible basis for socialist development. Under these conditions, the preservation of the regime which collides more and more with the immediate and historic interests of the masses, could only be accomplished through the imposition of the most totalitarian police dictatorship in history. The development of productive forces, while developing the needs of the whole population, has only assured the satisfaction of these needs for a privileged layer and has tremendously accentuated social inequality instead of reducing it. The bureaucratic regime, substituting a spirit of lucre, coercion, arbitrariness and terror for revolutionary devotion, creative energy, the critical spirit and free initiative of the masses as the motive power of planning, has corrupted the latter at its roots and has more and more robbed it of the possibility of guaranteeing itself a new upswing of productive energy.

The fundamental contradictions of present Russian economy are the following:

  1. Contradiction between the production relations on the one hand (“collective ownership of the means of production”), the maintenance of which imperiously demands the restoration of workers’ control, the progressive introduction of workers’ management of production – and on the other hand, the bureaucratic management of the State and economy, which increasingly endangers the maintenance of this collective ownership, which is threatened by the pillage of bureaucracy (“the bureaucracy digs into collective property as into its own pockets”) and by the more and more pronounced tendency towards stagnation in the development of productive forces. This is concretely expressed by a more and more manifest diminution in the rate of accumulation and by a first relative and then absolute lowering of the social productivity of labor.
  2. Contradiction between the tendency towards centralization, coordination and conscious planning of economy inherent in the production relations and the tendency towards primitive accumulation, the crystallization of a “parallel” economy of simple commodities and toward anarchy, resulting from the failure to satisfy the masses’ needs by the bureaucratically managed economy. “The tendency towards primitive accumulation, created by want, breaks out through innumerable pores of planned economy.” The more the bureaucracy tries to embrace in its plan all of the country’s productive forces, the more the latter escape its hold. Theft on a gigantic scale, migration of millions of workers, peasants and even technicians, the development of the free market, both peasant and handicraft, are the clearest signs of this tendency. To counteract these, the bureaucracy can no longer appeal to material interest. It must resort primarily to terror. Large-scale compulsory labor camps, the regimentation of the whole of social life, the arbitrary imposition of all living and working norms, show up more and more the castes in Russian society, summing up the reactionary role of the bureaucracy and its incapacity really to keep in check the disintegrating forces which it has itself unleashed. Under these conditions, the progressive character of the production relations means nothing else but that a change in property relations is not necessary for the overthrow of the bureaucracy. The production relations and bureaucratic management are more and more inextricably bound up, consequently, the progressive character of the Russian economic system, which is determined by its capacity to develop the productive forces, tends to become eliminated by the bureaucracy. The greatest attention must be devoted to the study of this development.

In 1936, Trotsky defined the social character of Russia as follows:

“The Soviet Union is a contradictory society halfway between capitalism and socialism, in which:

  1. the productive forces are still far from adequate to give the State property a socialist character;
  2. the tendency towards primitive accumulation created by want breaks out through innumerable pores of the planned economy;
  3. norms of distribution preserving a bourgeois character lie at the basis of a new differentiation of society;
  4. the economic growth, while slowly bettering the situation of the toilers, promotes a swift formation of privileged strata;
  5. exploiting the social antagonisms, a bureaucracy has, converted itself into an uncontrolled caste alien to socialism;
  6. the social revolution, betrayed by the ruling party, still exists in property relations and in the consciousness of the toiling masses;
  7. a further development of the accumulating contradictions can as well lead to socialism as back to capitalism;
  8. on the road to capitalism, the counter-revolution would have to break the resistance of the workers;
  9. on the road to socialism, the workers would have to overthrow the bureaucracy. In the last analysis, the question will be decided by a struggle of living forces both-on the national and the world arena.” (The Revolution Betrayed)

What alterations have to be made in this analysis following the development of the past eleven years?

As before, the social differentiation is the result of bourgeois norms of distribution; it has not yet entered the domain of ownership. But the bureaucracy has more and more tried to stabilize and maintain in a closed caste the sum total of its privileges. This can clearly be seen from the new inheritance laws, the new family legislation and the efforts to exclude once and for all workers’ and peasants’ sons from higher education. The introduction of the system of Government bonds increases the revenue of the bureaucracy but does not in any way indicate a tendency towards the “sharing” of a profit realized on real capital, corresponding to the fictitious capital represented by these bonds.

The tendency towards primitive accumulation has strongly developed in the peasantry and has again openly penetrated the towns by means of cooperative industry and trade. The private employment of wage-earners is extending both in the towns and in the country, but its utilization remains restricted to the private satisfaction of needs of consumption by the privileged elements and to artisan production for the market. The rapid fall of social productivity of labor has made it necessary to introduce a system of compulsory labor on a vast scale, which is the only means whereby the State can get the workers to use all their labor force in the framework of the State sector of economy. The economic development no longer improves, but aggravates the living conditions of the broad masses of workers and is incapable of maintaining anything beyond the privileges of the bureaucracy. Not only does collective ownership not have a socialist character, but it is becoming more and more inadequate to guarantee, by itself, any further economic progress. The fall of productive forces resulting from the war only emphasizes the tendency inherent in bureaucratic management of becoming more and more an absolute brake on economic progress.

The social revolution only lives in what remains of the conquests of October and in the vanguard layers of the working class. The bureaucracy has in great part succeeded in extirpating the memories of the real revolution by physically liquidating almost the whole revolutionary generation of October and the civil war. The new proletariat, which has developed from a peasant milieu under the conditions of the ferocious Stalinist dictatorship, must gain consciousness of its immediate interests instinctively, through its hatred of the bureaucratic usurpers. A new revolutionary selection, carried by a new mass rising, which can only be the result of a powerful revolutionary wave outside of Russia, will alone be able to restore to the proletariat a clear consciousness of its historic mission.

If we continue to apply the term “degenerated workers’ state” to this social organism, we are perfectly aware of the weakness and the insufficiency of this definition. In reality, it is impossible to give any exact definition of present Russian society without a lengthy description. The relative superiority of this formula, – which could be re-formulated as: “Workers’ state degenerated to the point where all progressive manifestations of the remains of the October conquests are more and more neutralized by the disastrous effects of the Stalinist dictatorship” – in comparison with all the others proposed up till now, lies in this, that it. takes into account the historic origin of the USSR and at the same time emphasizes its non-capitalist character and the instability of social relations, which haven’t yet acquired their final historic physiognomy, nor are likely to do so, in the next few years.

The Politics of the Stalinist Regime

From an uncontrolled caste, alien to socialism, the bureaucracy has become an uncontrollable caste, mortally hostile to socialism both in Russia and on a world scale. It possesses all the reactionary traits of pre-capitalist owning classes – parasitism, waste of the surplus social product, cruelty toward the oppressed, exploitation of the producers. It does not possess any of their progressive features, connected with a necessary historic function of introducing and defending an economic system that is superior from the standpoint of the division of labor and the ownership of the means of production.

If its regime seems to be “more stable” than the decadent capitalist regime, this is exclusively due to the fact that it has succeeded in using to its own advantage production relations which are infinitely superior to those of capitalism. In reality, the bureaucracy has, during the past twenty years, occupied a much less stable position in Russian society than the bourgeoisie, even the most decadent, occupies in its society. It has no juridical, political or economic safeguards of its privileges. It is in constant fear, not only of losing its privileges but also of losing its individual freedom and life; terror weighs on its privileged layers much more heavily than on the masses. The success of every bureaucrat does not depend on his birth, wealth, personal capabilities or on the success of his work, but on uncontrollable arbitrariness of the hierarchy. Not only has the bureaucracy not worked out a distinct ideology, not only is it bare of any collective instinct, consciousness and cohesion characteristic of every social class, but in the course of the unceasing transformations which it has undergone, and as a result of the terrible losses entailed by the consecutive purges, it has become demoralized even before it could attain an understanding of its own role. It is a “class in the process of formation” which, before assuming the forms of a class, has completely degenerated and decayed.

The Stalinist dictatorship appears as a Bonapartist political regime, the function of which consists in defending the privileges of the bureaucracy in the framework of the given production relations. The tendency towards private appropriation of production and of the collective means of production, which again and again makes itself felt in the most favorably placed layers of the bureaucracy, has been systematically fought and restricted. Under the weight of the dictatorship, under the permanent fear of foreign intervention which would rob it of all its privileges, constantly shaken up in its structure, demoralized and atomized by terror, the bureaucracy has been incapable of setting up conscious political tendencies, of orienting itself towards the restoration of the private ownership of the means of production for its own benefit. The most powerful centrifugal tendencies have been shown particularly in the lower and medium strata of the bureaucracy, intimately bound up with the peasant and artisan tendencies towards primitive accumulation.

The threat of the destruction of what has remained of the conquests of October does not in the first place originate from the striving of the upper bureaucrats to transform themselves into a “state capitalist class” but from the disintegrating tendencies resulting from bureaucratic management. These threaten to remove more and more sectors of the population and their activities from State control and domination; which the bureaucracy is vainly endeavoring to make omnipotent.

The relative stability of the political dictatorship, therefore, reflects:

  1. The disorientation and prostration of the working class following the defeats of the international revolution and the Stalinist victory;
  2. The inherent inability of the peasantry to put up an effective political opposition;
  3. The incapacity of the bureaucracy up to now to oppose to Stalin an organized expression of its caste interests.

The economic policy of the Stalinist regime has been entirely dominated, for the last ten years, by the necessity of overcoming the crisis resulting from the tendency toward a lowering of the social productivity of labor. This means a long series of coercive measures by means of which the worker is to be tied to his place of work as the serf was tied to the land – the least breach of “discipline” must be severely punished, the length of the working day must be practically extended to the maximum physical limit, the minimum real wage must be pressed below the minimum living wage in order to stimulate an increase in individual production. The war, with its dislocation of economy, the loosening of the ties between all sectors of industry, the growth of inflation, the development of the free market, the appearance of millionaire kolkhozniks, has largely weakened the bureaucracy’s control over the whole of economic life and removed more and more sectors from its direction.

The struggle for increased production in the framework of bureaucratic management is beginning directly to undermine collective ownership. In small handicraft and light industry, this struggle is at present being carried out on the basis of strengthening the tendencies toward private appropriation in the cooperatives. In agriculture, the introduction of piecework has been accompanied by the actual division of the kolkhozes into parcels of land on which the same families continue working, thus strengthening the trend towards the restoration of the bond between the agricultural producer and the land on which he works. Crowning all these empirical efforts there is the policy of plunder followed by the Stalinist regime in the Soviet “buffer zone” which clearly shows the incapacity of the bureaucracy to further develop the productive forces on the basis of the mechanism inherent in Russian economy, and corrodes at the same time what is left of the conquests of October by an attempt at coordinating Russian collectivized economy with the capitalist economy in these countries. The bureaucratic regime is today Enemy No.1 of all that remains of the conquests of October and threatens in the years to come, to lead Russia to a total decomposition of collectivized economy. A revolution is necessary not only for fresh progress toward Socialism, but also to save the production relations inherited from October.

The foreign policy of the bureaucracy has undergone an essential and definite change following the Second World War. Before this war, that policy was based on the possibility of neutralizing the pressure of the capitalist environment of the USSR by setting off against one another the antagonistic imperialist blocs, and to a lesser extent, by manipulating “national” Stalinist parties. The subjective reflection of this policy was the theory of “Socialism in one country” which was based on the conception of a more or less gradual development of productive forces in Russia, independently of the development of the capitalist world.

The disappearance of German, Japanese, Italian and French imperialisms as first-rate powers and the extreme weakening of British imperialism, have placed the Soviet bureaucracy face to face with American imperialism. The latter has more or less succeeded in setting up a “capitalist united front” against the USSR. The united front is not based on the “fear” of the “revolutionary” nature of Stalin, but on the necessity of reconquering one-sixth of the world market for capitalist exploitation.

The bureaucracy at first tried to meet this new situation with a policy of compromise with imperialism, by offering its services in suppressing the revolutionary movements and aspirations of the masses in most countries of Europe and the world. In exchange, it was given a “free hand” for its expansion in Eastern Europe (policy of Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam). It has endeavored to consolidate its sphere of influence through the establishment of governments with Stalinist allegiance and an ever greater hold over the economic resources of these countries. The stiffening of the attitude of American imperialism, profiting from a favorable relationship of forces, has rapidly put an end to Soviet expansionism, while at the same time the “neutralization” of the bourgeoisie in certain countries (France) outside the “buffer zone” proved bankrupt. This forces the bureaucracy, in dread fear of military conflict, to lay stress on an armaments policy, while reckoning that the unceasing economic and political crises – the outbreak of which must be aided by the Stalinist parties as far as possible – will paralyze world imperialism for a time and make a compromise possible.

It can already be said that military intervention is unavoidable unless the world proletariat succeeds in winning decisive victories and thus really paralyzes imperialism. Stalinism is obstacle No.1 for the world proletariat on its road of revolutionary mobilization. In this sense, too, the struggle against Stalinism comes to the forefront for the defense of what remains of the conquests of October.

For the New Russian Revolution!

“Defend what remains of the conquests of October” is a strategic line for the revolutionary party, and not a “slogan.” This strategic line has its historic justification; it must also be seen, in each concrete situation, in what tactical form it is to be applied within framework of the Fourth International’s general strategy of world revolution.

The historic justification of this strategy derives from four fundamental considerations:

  1. The historic superiority of the Russian production relations vis-a-vis those of the capitalist world;
  2. The objective weakening of world imperialism resulting from the exclusion from its market of the Russian sphere;
  3. The crushing of the USSR by imperialism, whilst bringing with it the destruction of the counter-revolutionary Kremlin caste, would, on an infinitely larger scale than was the case in Germany following Hitler’s victory, entail a profound demoralizing and decomposition within the world working class; for the great majority of the workers, this would be a defeat of Communism and not of Stalinism;
  4. The necessity of preserving what is left of the conquests of October, as a condition – not sufficient, but necessary – for a socialist development of economy.

By defending the remnants of the conquests of October, we do not in any way consider the USSR as a whole. On the contrary, we believe that the policy and the very existence of the Stalinist bureaucracy constitute a permanent threat to all that is, in our opinion, still worth defending. The struggle against Stalinism and all its monstrous manifestations, including the fields of foreign and military policies, was already before the war one of the essential elements of our defense of what remains of the conquests of October. Beyond the frontiers of the Soviet Union, this strategy found its essential expression in the struggle for the world revolution, the only practical means for preventing in the long run a breakdown of the productive relations bequeathed by the Russian Revolution.

The German-Russian war broke out – and not accidentally – at a moment when the working class movement in Europe had reached the lowest point of its regression and prostration. Under these conditions, the military defense of the USSR, in spite of Stalin’s reactionary war policy, remained the only means of preventing the immediate reintroduction of capitalism in the USSR and the country’s transformation into a colony crushed by imperialism. Any other policy would have meant, in practice, to leave the historic mission of the proletariat of overthrowing Stalin, to Hitler.

The cynicism with which German imperialism exterminated broad layers of the working population and took over the factories, the mines and the best collectivised land, aroused unparalleled resistance of the Russian working class. This resistance became the decisive turning point stimulating a large-scale flare up of the revolutionary class struggle in Europe. In this sense, the policy of the defense of the remains of October in fact proved to be an integral and indispensable element of revolutionary strategy of the world proletariat.

With the beginning of the revolutionary upswing in Europe, the importance of military action to defend the remnants of October rapidly declined. The reactionary and bankrupt policy of the bureaucracy in Russia itself, immediately upon the liberation of the territory, and its openly counter-revolutionary role in the “buffer zone” became threat No.1 to the remains of October. As from this moment, the struggle against Stalinism became the primary task within the framework of the strategy of defense of the Soviet Union. This struggle is even more necessary in view of the subordination of this defense to the struggle for the world revolution, where Stalinism constitutes the main obstacle. The concrete form in which this strategy will expreas itself in the future will be determined by the Fourth International after every important turning point, taking into account

  1. the situation of the world working class movement and its revolutionary possibilities;
  2. further developments of the internal situation in the USSR;
  3. the relative imminence of imperialist military intervention.

This policy, necessary especially since 1944 was not effected by the whole International with the same ability and tactical flexibility. Serious self-criticism on this subject is necessary. It is particularly important to insist on the following points:

  1. The gravest mistake one could make would consist in applying the strategy of the “defense of the USSR against imperialism” to the different tactical moves of Soviet diplomacy, to its temporary military withdrawals, to the concessions which it is forced to make to imperialism, etc. Far from attacking Stalin because he “does not properly defend the USSR” by giving up Trieste or Azerbeidjan, we must attack the fact that, like world imperialism, the Stalinist bureaucracy sees in the regions which it occupies or leaves, only objects of bargaining and exploitation and that it persistently tramples on the interests and most elementary needs of the masses in them areas. “Defend what is left of the conquests of October” means, in the face of these problems, to denounce the reactionary character of the Stalinist policy which lays the most solid bases for a concentration of petty-bourgeois, peasants, etc. forces in the camp of imperialism and fundamentally discredits the very notion of Communism in the eyes of the proletariat of these countries. This means, under all circumstances, not to remain silent on a single crime of the bureaucracy, not to offer an apology for a single one of the monstrous manifestations of its policy, which constitutes the main brake on a revolutionary development of the workers’ struggle.
  2. All formulas along the line of “last bastion of the Revolution,” “first Workers’ State in history,” “country of the October Revolution,” “Socialist economy,” “workers’ and peasants’ power,” etc. which constitute gross deformations of a Marxist definition which has henceforward lost all propagandistic value, must be expunged from our vocabulary. On the contrary, our duty consists in not using formulas and slogans which may sow confusion, but patiently to explain our analysis of the real situation in the USSR to the advanced workers whom we must educate.
  3. Equally mistaken are simplified and vulgar formulas such as “red Fascism,” “Russian imperialism,” etc., created by petty-bourgeois journalists, which sow as much confusion and do not help advanced workers in any way towards a better understanding of Soviet reality. Particularly reprehensible are those formulas placing the policy of the bureaucracy on the same level as that of imperialism, ascribing to it “a striving for world domination” which comes straight from the vocabulary of propagandists of the Truman Doctrine. Even when our explanation is complicated and demands great efforts to be correctly placed before the workers, we must speak in exact terms rather than use “simpler” formulas which are scientifically false and play into the hands of either the Stalinists or the imperialists.

The premise for the power of the bureaucracy was the passivity of the proletariat. The discouraged masses “tolerated” the bureaucracy because they saw no other way out. The war itself has even emphasized this attitude of the masses who consider Stalin as the “lesser evil.” A radical change in this attitude could only take place following decisive victories of the world revolution, which have not so far occurred. With the end of the war, profoundly different tendencies have come to light. The dissatisfaction of the masses with their extremely low standard of living has exerted strong pressure on the bureaucracy. Contact with the more “prosperous” life of the capitalist countries has deeply shaken the attachment to the regime of hundreds of thousands of soldiers.

New workers’ generations are appearing, which feel less the weight of demoralization and discouragement of the past. Important middle layers of the bureaucracy are trying, at all costs, to escape the nightmare of terror and police suspicion. US imperialism offers to these layers a much more powerful source of attraction than German imperialism did previously. Thus, a third Russian emigration has rapidly taken shape, consisting of deported workers and peasants who refuse to return to Russia, of soldiers and officers who have deserted, and of refugee bureaucrats and diplomats. The existence of this emigration is a signal which clearly shows that there has been a rapid decline in the masses’ attachment to the regime. In the face of these most recent phenomena and of the tightening of the police dictatorship in all fields, to speak of a “stabilization” of the regime is to operate with the most vulgar impressionistic notions and to abandon the class criterion which indicates, precisely, that the weight of the dictatorship is in direct proportion to the sharpening of the contradictions which it must hold down.

In view of the historically unique power of the repressive apparatus, the gradual development of a working-class opposition or the political coordination of the restorationist petty-bourgeois tendencies, contradicted by the whole evolution of the last decades, is extremely improbable. The forces which can bring about an explosion in the Stalinist totalitarian system are, on the one hand, the internal contradictions in the apparatus itself – which may suddenly erupt to the surface following a grave economic crisis, or a possible withdrawal from the “buffer zone” etc.; and, on the other hand, a violent outbreak of the masses’ hatred at any moment of crisis, encouraged by an abrupt change in the international situation. History will probably show a combination of these processes. It is, however, more than likely that the fourth Russian revolution will not assume at the outset a clearly Bolshevik-Leninist character, but that it will start with a general offensive against the vile dictator. ship by the workers and peasants, who will be joined by various privileged strata; and that a political differentiation will appear only after Stalin’s overthrow.

“Defend what remains of the conquests of October” means, in the face of the inevitable downfall of the present regime, patiently to prepare the cadres who will be able, at the next stage, to play a decisive role in the mass struggle; which will be able to gain the confidence of the masses and thus prevent the restoration of capitalism following the overthrow of the bureaucracy. This is why today as yesterday, we remain for the unconditional support of all workers’ struggles, of all manifestations of workers’ opposition against the Stalinist dictatorship, by means of which the new generations will be able to rediscover the road of Leninism and prepare the long, underground struggle based on dissatisfaction with the regime, which has already started.

A fresh upsurge of the revolution in the USSR will undoubtedly begin under the banner of the struggle against social inequality and political oppression. Down with the privileges of the bureaucracy! Down with Stakhanovism! Down with the Soviet aristocracy and its Ranks and orders! Greater equality of wages for all forms of labor!

The struggle for the freedom of the trade unions and the factory committees, for the right of assembly and freedom of the press, will unfold in the struggle for the regeneration and development of Soviet democracy.

The bureaucracy replaced the Soviets as class organs with the fiction of universal electoral rights – in the style of Hitler-Goebbels. It is necessary to return to the Soviets not only their free democratic form but also their class content. As once the bourgeoisie and kulaks were not permitted to enter the Soviets, so now it is necessary to drive the bureaucracy and the new aristocracy out of the Soviets. In the Soviets there is room only for the representatives of the workers rank-and-file collective farmers, peasants and Red Army men.

Democratization of the Soviets is impossible without legalization of Soviet parties. The workers and peasants themselves by their own free vote will indicate what parties they recognize as Soviet parties.

A revision of planned economy from top to bottom in the interests of producers and consumers! Factory committees should be returned the right to control production. A democratically organized consumers’ cooperative should control the quality and price of products.

Reorganization of the collective farms in accordance with the will and in the interests of the workers there engaged!

The reactionary international policy of the bureaucracy should be replaced by the policy of proletarian internationalism. The complete diplomatic correspondence of the Kremlin to be published. Down with secret diplomacy!

All political trials, staged by the Thermidorian bureaucracy, to be reviewed in the light of complete publicity and controversial openness and integrity. Only the victorious revolutionary uprising of the oppressed masses can revive the Soviet regime and guarantee its further development toward socialism. There is but one party capable of leading the Soviet masses to insurrection – the party of the Fourth International!

Down with the bureaucratic gang of Cain-Stalin! Long live Soviet Democracy! Long live the international socialist revolution! [From The Death Agony Of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International]

This program of struggle within the Soviet Union remains essentiallyvalid for the present period. The Russian Bolshevik-Leninists,on the basis of this program, work out specific slogans corresponding to the concrete unfoldment of the situation. [2*]

2. Stalinism Outside Russia

Notes by ETOL

1*. These theses were considered at the the Second World Congress of the Fourth International in Paris in April 1948. The resolution adopted, entitled The USSR and Stalinism, was published in Fourth International, Vol.9 No.4, June 1948, pp.110-128.

2*. This paragraph was omitted in the version originally printed. [See Editorial Corrections, Fourth International, Vol.9 No.1, January-February 1948, p.27.

Top of page

Main FI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

Last updated on 13 April 2009