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Fourth International, April 1949


Editorial Review

Stalin Shuffles the Command


From Fourth International, Vol.10 No.4, April 1949, pp.101-102.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


What is happening in the Soviet Union? The events of the past few weeks, which have seen the removal of Molotov, Mikoyan and Voznesensky, three members of the Politburo, from commanding positions in the Soviet regime, indicates a profound internal crisis in the USSR. This shakeup in leadership, rapidly extending to all important posts in the government and economic apparatus, is reminiscent of the political transformations which accompanied the Moscow Trial purges. Its significance may not be less far-reaching.

It is idle to speculate at this time on the precise causes or possible effects internally of this drastic reorganization. They will soon be spelled out more clearly by events themselves. Suffice it to say that the Stalinist regime is infinitely weaker and more unstable in reality than it is in the minds of the renegades and near-renegades from Marxism. For all its territorial conquests in Eastern Europe, Stalinism has continued to be shaken by unending crises produced both by the isolation of the Soviet Union and by the parasitic bureaucracy which Trotsky long ago pointed out had become an absolute break on all progress. Despite temporary gains in the form of plunder and reparations, the attachment of Eastern Europe to the Soviet orbit has only piled new contradictions on old ones.

What is fundamentally involved is the bankruptcy of the theory of “Socialism In One Country,” the ideological justification for the perpetuation of a reactionary, totalitarian bureaucracy and for the counter-revolutionary actions of Stalinism on a world scale. So long as it was possible for the bureaucracy to maneuver between conflicting imperialist powers, there seemed to be empirical proof for this pernicious revisionist doctrine. But the postwar situation and above all the consolidation of the power of American imperialism on the European continent has altered all that. Against the North Atlantic Pact, which is pointing all guns eastward from Scandinavia to the Italian peninsula, “Socialism In One Country” has become the very symbol of impending catastrophe.

The minimum aim of the pact, says a New York Times editorial, is “to persuade Russia to come to terms and to establish at least the same kind of a modus vivendi between itself and the rest of the world that enabled both sides to live in peace after the revolutionary wave had exhausted itself following the first world war.” In other vords the price Stalin must pay for a breathing spell is “at least” withdrawal from Germany if not from all Eastern Europe. And this obviously is not the last but the first demand of American imperialism.

What next? This dilemma is one of the main roots of the present crisis of Stalinism precisely because the bureaucracy can no longer find a feasible answer to it. On the one side Washington intransigently refuses to come to any agreement except on the most humiliating and disastrous terms. On the other side, Stalinism is rapidly losing its influence over the European working-class movement because of the betrayals and hostility of the bureaucracy toward the socialist revolution.

What next? For the first time in a quarter of a century, the bureaucracy cannot extricate itself from its difficulties by a violent shift to the right or to the left. On the right looms the yawning chasm of capitalist restoration and the destruction of the bureaucracy as now constituted. On the left, the workers’ revolution, no less perilous to the bureaucratic caste. Each new turn tends therefore to be shorter in duration, deepening rather than resolving the basic crisis.

Regardless of temporary expedients, the crisis now even more than in the past will be driven internally, into the ranks of the Soviet bureaucracy itself. In the past, Bonaparte-Stalin could ruthlessly suppress the struggle within the ruling caste so long as he appeared to safeguard the interests of the bureaucracy as a whole. The present crisis is one of the indications of the limits, of this Bonapartist role. As the “savior” loses the possibility of solving the critical problems, the bureaucracy itself must seek by sharp alignments and violent internal conflicts to find a way that will assure its survival.

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