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Fourth International, August 1948


World in Review

Stalinism and the Struggle for Civil Liberties


From Fourth International, Vol.9 No.6, August 1948, pp.166-167.
Transcription & mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


When Stalin first promulgated his theory of “socialism in one country” in the autumn of 1924, Trotsky not only condemned the theory as a betrayal of revolutionary socialism, which is above all else international in character, but even at that early stage predicted the course of degeneration to which Stalin’s theory would lead. Among Trotsky’s predictions was the inevitable transformation of the Communist International from the militant instrument of the world proletariat into the pliant tool of the Kremlin bureaucracy. The Communist parties throughout the world, he warned, would become mere border patrols of the USSR and national agencies of an ever more corrupted clique, interested exclusively in its own survival even if it meant the destruction of the international revolutionary movement.

Trotsky’s early predictions have long ago become the unfortunate reality. Although this fact was first noticeable only to the advanced layers of the working class, it is now The common property of workers everywhere and is even infiltrating into the ranks of the Stalinist faithful who have for so many years closed their minds to the truth. And how could it be otherwise? The twists and turns of the Stalinist bureaucracy and their unconditional and uncritical acceptance by the GPU-controlled national sections have become so frequent and so contradictory that they are at one and the same time the subjects of ridicule in the camp of the imperialists and the working class alike.

Many still remember the “Third Period” when everyone but a Stalinist was designated as a “social-fascist,” thereby easing the path for Hitler’s rise to power. We saw later how almost everyone was wooed to join the popular front against fascism, even those who helped finance Hitler. We remember the days of the Stalin-Hitler pact when all were invited to struggle against world imperialism, with the “democratic” imperialists singled out as the hated enemy. And then came the attack by Hitler against the Soviet Union. Fascism in the form of German imperialism was now portrayed as the only foe, and the hated “democratic” imperialists of yesterday became Stalin’s staunchest “democratic” friends. And today these same “democrats” have once again become imperialists against whom all and sundry must join forces.

All these changes were accomplished without regard for the interests of the working class either in the Soviet Union or throughout the world. The acceptance of the theory of “socialism in one country” led not only to the abandonment of world revolution by the Kremlin but to its deathly fear of it.

The Stalinist bureaucracy continued in power by making deals with one or another imperialist power. However, with Wall Street’s unchallenged dominance resulting from the Second World War, Stalin finds it harder and harder to get livable terms from Washington. His role in the “cold war” can be understood as an attempt to secure a bridge to a new deal with American imperialism. All the revolutionary-sounding verbiage emanating from the Kremlin is sheer camouflage. The American State Department is of course fully cognizant of Stalin’s fear of revolution and his desperate desire to come to terms with Washington.

Irrespective of temporary rapprochements, the fundamental contradictions between capitalism and the nationalized property forms which emerged from the Russian Revolution remain. Thence flows the extreme difficulty of harnessing the Kremlin and its foreign agencies to the role of a reliable agency of American imperialism. The attitude of Washington toward the American Communist Party faithfully reflects the existing relationship at any given time between the State Department and Stalin. When there was a rift as in the days of the Stalin-Hitler pact, Washington showed its displeasure by persecuting CP lenders. Thus Browder was put into jail on the flimsy charge of a passport violation. When agreement with the Kremlin was again obtained after Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union, Browder received a presidential pardon and the monstrous Moscow Trials were tacitly whitewashed by the State Department. Now that we are in the midst of a “cold war,” Washington once more persecutes the Stalinist leaders. Only in this light can the current indictments of the 12 leaders of the Communist Party be fully understood.

These indictments come under the notorious Smith Gag Act. It was under this very law that 18 leaders of tht Socialist Workers Party and the Minneapolis Truckdrivers Union were indicted in 1941 and later convicted. The teachings of Marx and Lenin which are to be found in every library of the country were construed by the justice Department as a conspiracy to overthrow the government by force and violence. In this way 18 genuine revolutionists were framed and sent to prison. The Stalinist leaders are likewise being framed, in fact doubly so. In the first place the teachings of Marx and Lenin are not a conspiracy, and in the second place the Communist Party no longer adheres to these teachings. But it serves the interests of Washington to maintain the fiction that the CP is a revolutionary organization and to prosecute its leaders accordingly.

In its preparation for World War III American imperialism must housebreak the labor movement and shackle it completely to its war machine. It can do so only by silencing the militants and revolutionists. It can do so only by taking one step at a time. Since the Stalinists, because of their many betrayals of the working class, are the most vulnerable section in the labor movement, they are being prosecuted under the Smith Gag Act allegedly for being militants and revolutionists. In this way Washington also seeks to discredit the real militants and revolutionists. American capitalism hopes that the working class will fail to rally in defense of the Stalinists, all the more so because the latter did everything in their power to sabotage the fight of the Trotskyists against the sinister Smith Act in the famous Minneapolis trials.

We must make it clear at the outset that eventually the real victim of the current indictments will be the American labor movement. It is the duty of all labor to rally in a solid united front to defend civil rights – the most elementary, precious possession of the working class. Without these rights the labor movement stands in constant danger of being cut to pieces and reduced to the status of slaves.

Wherever the vital interests of the working class are at stake, the tactic of the united front has been constantly advocated by Marxists. Lenin expounded this lesson over and over again. After Lenin’s death Trotsky taught the necessity for a united front by word and deed. His was the only voice to be raised for a united front struggle against Hitler by the German working class irrespective of their differing politics. While equally condemning the false political policies of the Social Democrats and the Stalinists, he never tired of asking them to join forces with the Trotskyists in a united front struggle. As Trotskyists we again make a similar call, this time to the entire American labor movement, to unite in beating back the fraudulent charges against the leaders of the Communist Party, much as we despise its politics let alone its many betrayals.

We shall be as unremitting in our efforts to rally the labor movement against the indictments of the Stalinist leaders as we were in obtaining the support of over 5,000,000 workers for the Minneapolis victims of the Smith Gag Act. This will not be an easy task because of the legitimate hatred of the workers for Stalinism. The miseducation that the Stalinists have carried on as, for example, in the Minneapolis trials will not redound to their advantage. But it is precisely because Trotskyists are known as the deadly political enemies of the Stalinists within the labor movement that the appeal of our comrades in support of the indicted leaders of the Communist Party will receive a favorable hearing. We ask support lor them not for any reasons of magnanimity but because we fully realize that the blow against the Stalinists is in effect a blow aimed against all labor. If the Smith Act can now be invoked against the CP as it was originally used against the Trotskyists, the monopolists and brass hats will not hesitate to wield this weapon against all union militants and those who dare oppose their war plans.

It was for these reasons that the Socialist Workers Party sent a letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Party at the time of their national convention, offering them a united front to combat the government’s indictments. But this proposal was not even allowed to come to the floor of the Stalinist convention. The Stalinists fear any propulsion of the labor movement on the correct course of struggle. They are as well aware as we that in a united front struggle the genuine revolutionary party always stands to gain the most because it best reflects the interests of the workers as a whole. So here as elsewhere, the fear of the masses moving in a revolutionary direction is the motivating force that guides the actions of the American Communist Party irrespective of the particular line it may be peddling at the moment.

But the contradictions of the Communist Party are becoming clear to a larger segment of their own followers. It is difficult for the ranks to fathom the reasons for its failure to join in a united front with workers while it joins in a “People’s Front” movement with a capitalist like Wallace. In the defense of civil rights the broadest united front is not only permissible but mandatory. On the other hand, it is precisely in the field’ of politics that it is unprincipled to join forces with an agent of the enemy class like Wallace. Thus both in their formation of a “People’s Front” movement in support of Wallace and in their rejection of a united front with the Trotskyists against the Smith Act, the Stalinists equally betray the interests of the working class.

The destruction of Stalinism as the most conservative and reactionary force within the labor movement is indeed the duty of all workers. This task, we repeat, cannot be assigned to the monopolists who, even if they achieve their goal, will eventually destroy all labor in the process.

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