Main FI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Fourth International, January-February 1953


Revolutionary Tide Reaches USSR

An Appraisal of Changes Since Stalin’s Death


From Fourth International, Vol.14 No.1, January-Febraury 1953, pp.3-5.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The following article is translated from Quatrième Internationale, a periodical published in Paris.

* * *

Rapidly moving events since Stalin’s death already clearly demonstrate how the dynamism of the contemporary revolutionary period which was initiated by World War II overthrows all previous equilibrium and irresistibly carries world socialist revolution to higher stages.

This basically revolutionary and progressive process is neither simple nor direct. It includes detours, a complicated structure, contradictory dements. Concrete analysis of the world situation is required at each step as well as a great capacity for comprehension and of constant re-adaptation on the part of the revolutionary Marxist leadership of the international workers’ movement.

The sudden death of Stalin occurred in a period characterized by the threat of economic crisis in the capitalist world, the speeding up of the imperialist war plans, and especially those of American imperialism, against Korea, China, Vietnam and the Asian colonial revolution in general. It occurred in a period when there were already some indications of the new revolutionary upsurge in the USSR which we had been able to deduce indirectly from the work and the results of the 19th Congress of the CP of the USSR held last October.

The disappearance of the Bonaparte par excellence of the Soviet bureaucracy in the midst of this kind of external and internal situation made it possible for us to predict that a new stage was now being ushered in for the USSR and Stalinism; that there would be no successor to Stalin who could fulfill his role with the same authority and the same results; that from this point of view, his loss would be an irreparable one for the Soviet bureaucracy and would have deep-going effects on its position.

Seek to Appease Masses

The cascade of measures taken since that time already go, in importance, far beyond all the predictions made along these lines. They reveal the enormous discontent of the Soviet masses which confronted the new group of leaders, and which was at once catalyzed by the disappearance of the man who was the incarnation of the police and bureaucratic regime foisted on the USSR in place of the proletarian democracy established by October Revolution and Lenin.

The terms “panic” and “disarray” appearing in the first communiqué announcing Stalin’s death to the Soviet masses now assume a more precise meaning. The new Soviet Jeaders were in the best position to know the real aspirations and feelings of the Soviet masses. They knew that there was widespread discontent in the USSR, that there was a profound desire on the part of the broadest masses. arising from the tremendous economic and cultural progress, for a liberalization of the regime, for a lessening of intolerable police pressure, for the rebirth of Soviet democracy from its ashes.

These leaders were aware of the real state of affairs in the USSR as far back as the 19th Congress of the CP of the USSR and wanted somehow to get a better grip on the situation. But when Stalin passed away, his successors were suddenly overcome with the feeling that unless they speedily undertook drastic reforms and concessions they faced the danger of being rapidly overwhelmed by discontented masses, who had been encouraged and stimulated by the passing of the man who was the personal embodiment of the oppressive regime.

Hence the series of measures which are undeniably of major signficance for the future of the Soviet Union, the Soviet bureaucracy and Stalinism: the amnesty decree which covers a large number of concentration camp prisoners; the promise to revamp the penal code now in force in the USSR; the new and significant reduction in prices, from five to 50%, the sixth such reduction since 1947; the sensational reversal of the proceedings against the doctors who were exonerated and, for the first time in the history of Stalinism, the fraudulent, criminal and “inadmissable” methods employed by the police and the judiciary were denounced, as was racial discrimination; the arrest of high police officials; the disgrace of S. Ignatiev, one of the five recently selected secretaries of the Central Committee of the CP of the USSR who was relieved of his functions in the state and the party; the new attitude regarding foreign policy; and lastly the tendency to soft-pedal the leader-cult.

This is a conspicuous attempt of the new leaders to provide their regime with a far broader popular base and to indirectly create the impression that a new era, breaking with the ways and methods of the Stalinist era, is now unfolding in the USSR. That they find themselves obliged to act this way at peril of raising more than doubts on all previous trials, on all the “confessions,” on all of Stalin’s crimes in the USSR and in the “Peoples’ Democracies” and of lending a powerful impulse to the democratic strivings of the Soviet masses – all this demonstrates the existence of a pressure from the Soviet masses of unsuspected force.

Big Repercussions Forseen

This tremendous pressure is the combined result of the steady cuttural and economic progress of the USSR and of the international upsurge of the revolution which is now erupting in the USSR itself and merging with the revolutionary forces of the country. The concessions the new leaders of the USSR are now obliged to fit into the framework of the rising world revolution. They are only a beginning, and they cannot but be only a beginning. The leading bureaucrats will attempt to restrict them, to annul them and even to go backward. But the entire international and internal situation of the USSR, to which has been added the important factor of Stain’s demise, works in the opposite direction.

The repercussions of the events in the USSR on the satellite countries, on China and on the Communist Parties will be incontestably great and revolutionary. Everywhere they will strengthen the tendencies to independence from, the Kremlin as compared with the rigorous control to whicli they were previously subjected, and it will strengthen the differentiations and the possibilities of criticism at the expense of monolithism. Greater attention than ever should be paid to what will happen in the coming months to the countries, parties and movements now under Stalinist influence.

The new attitude adopted by the Soviet as well as by the Chinese leaders in foreign policy is in part at least determined by the developments now transpiring in the USSR. The concessions made to the UN on Korea and the conciliatory attitude guarding against giving imperialism further formal pretexts for imperialist aggression are not without connection with the delicate situation in which the Soviet leaders have been placed in relation to their own masses. They will attempt to attenuate the pressure of imperialism simultaneously with making important concessions to the Soviet masses.

Concessions No Sign of Weakness

But it would be no less erroneous to conclude that the USSR is making concessions to imperialism out of weakness or that we are on the eve of a general and lasting compromise between the two. In the first place, the concessions which the Soviet and Chinese diplomats have made up to now have more of a formal than essential character, and their overall effect on their adversary is more offensive than defensive in character. For the present they act to disorganize imperialist plans for attack, and particularly those of American imperialism, widen inter-imperialist differences and hasten the outbreak of the gathering economic crisis. It suffices to note the embarrassment of the imperialists, especially of American imperialism, after the concession the Chinese and Soviet diplomats made on the prisoner-of-war issue as well as the cave-in on the stock exchanges of the imperialist capitals in New York, London, Tokyo, to get a real appreciation of the impact of this diplomatic offensive.

The offensive got under way at the very moment that American imperialism was again on the point of going into action in Korea, of intervening in Vietnam and of acting directly or indirectly in China itself. The last obstacles to the ratification of the Paris Treaty and re-militarization of Germany were on the point of being overcome in Europe All this is once again now partly called into question and it he imperialist powers are being obliged to re-adjust their immediate plans to cope both with the “peace offensive” and the danger of being thrust into economic crisis.

Limited Scope of Agreement

While they attempt to save face before their peoples by not rejecting the Kremlin’s conciliatory offers out of hand, they remain determined not to “unfreeze” the cold war climate, to maintain the level of armaments and to speed the ratification of the Paris agreements. This tendency of imperialist policy is determined by the basic needs of the capitalist system which has been shorn of a large part of its former markets, its economy already essentially pivoted to war and being threatened with a new economic crisis.

A general and lasting compromise between imperialism and the USSR allied to the other anti-capitalist countries would require the Kremlin to be in a position to make substantial and not just formal concessions which would re-open the markets that have been wrested from imperialism since the last war. In addition, it would require a readjustment by imperialism to as “peaceful” a policy of economic expansion as possible without precipitating the major economic crisis with which it is now threatened in the event there is a serious curtailment in armaments expenditures.

Despite all its desires, the Kremlin cannot offer either of these.

Even relatively minor concessions like the surrender of the Vietnam or Malayan revolution do not depend on a mere gesture from the Kremlin. The masses in these countries, as in all the colonial and semi-colonial countries are deeply involved on their own account in the anti-imperialist struggle, and no power is capable of stopping the revolution now in progress. Hence the intrinsic fragility of any compromise with the Kremlin and the almost inevitable trend of imperialism to war barring the posibility that the evolution of the relationship of international forces becomes so unfavorable to imperialism as to paralyze it completely and to force it to surrender without giving major combat.

Prospects for War

This eventuality is improbable in practice and cannot be responsibly accepted by revolutionary Marxists as the basis for a political orientation for the revolutionary Marxist vanguard. On the contrary, it must be understood, despite deceptive appearances, that the international situation has already entered a critical phase, as of this year when imperialist rearmament taken together with the threat of economic crisis, the new situation in the USSR and the increased instability of the situation in the capitalist countries and nations dependent upon them makes war possible and may even precipitate it.

But on the other hand, the confidence of the masses and their revolutionary Marxist vanguard in the inevitable and relatively early triumph, no matter what happens, of the world socialist revolution should grow and become unshakable. On a worldwide scale, the relationship of force’s evolves favorably for the revolution – that is what should guide us. Events in the USSR prove that the uevolutionary upsurge has reached even that country and ithis will lift the world revolution as a whole to higher levels while confusion grows in the ranks of the capitalists and the threat of crisis comes closer.

Revolutionary perspectives are not only good; they are even becoming excellent.

Top of page

Main FI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on: 28 March 2009