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Fourth International, March-April 1953



Editorial Note


From Fourth International, Vol.14 No.2, March-April 1953, pp.56-57.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


We call the readers’ attention to the following exchange of letters between Comrades M. Stein and George Clarke.

Two vital questions are posed. The first concerns the Marxist definition of Soviet economy; the second involves the inevitability of political revolution by the Soviet workers against the Kremlin bureaucracy.

In his letter M. Stein criticizes Clarke’s formulations on the nature of Soviet economy as “socialist in essence” and directed by “methods of socialist planning,” not because these are “loose” terms but because they represent a departure from the principled position of Trotskyism; distort Soviet reality; reinforce illusions fostered by the Stalinists; and pave the way for false political conclusions.

Both the imperialists and the Stalinists, each for reasons of their own, seek to identify the Kremlin regime with “socialism” and “communism” and its bureaucratic-planning with the socialist method. The Trotskyists, as genuine Marxists, have exposed the Stalinist lies in this connection along with the imperialist attempts to exploit the Kremlin’s deceptions against the struggle for socialism.

It is wrong to characterize the Soviet economy as “socialist in essence,” as the Stalinists do, because it is actually a transitional economy, “a contradictory society halfway between capitalism and socialism” (Trotsky.) Among its other features, it combines bourgeois norms of distribution with production en the basis of nationalized industry; in agriculture, as Trotsky pointed out, collective farms “rest not upon state, but upon group property.”

Planning, to be sure, is “socialist in principle” as against the anarchy of capitalist production. Such planning was made possible by the achievements of the 1917 Russian Revolution.

Socialist planning is for the benefit of the masses. It takes place through their direct participation and democratic control, promoting the most rapid development of the productive forces and aiming at reducing and eliminating social inequalities as quickly as possible.

The bureaucracy’s method of planning is the direct opposite. It is carried on to benefit the privileged minority, excludes the producing and consuming masses from participation, and impedes the growth of the productive forces. That is why the founding program of the Fourth International, as part of its program of political revolution against this bureaucracy, called for “a revision of planned economy from top to bottom in the interests of producers and consumers!”

Much more is involved in all this than “terminological hair-splitting,” as Clarke says in his answer. A view of the USSR which sees its economy as “socialist in essence” and the planning likewise as “socialist” leads to one set of political conclusions. The traditional Trotskyist analysis leads to an entirely different set.

Our program stands far the inevitability of the political revolution in the USSR. Comrade Clarke denies in his reply that he is in any way discarding this position. He claims to be simply “analyzing more concretely” this “concept of the political revolution.”

What did this “analysis” consist of in his article in the Jan.-Feb. Fourth International? Instead of setting forth in a clear and unambiguous way the inherent and unavoidable need for the mass uprising against the Kremlin bureaucracy, he offers it simply as one of several variants of development of a “political revolution.” That is not all. He then counterposes the diametrically opposite variant of the progressive reform of the bureaucracy. These are two mutually exclusive variants of “political revolution.”

What kind of a guide to action is this counterposing of a variant of reform to our program of political revolution? The one insists upon the political expropriation of the bureaucratic rulers by the Soviet masses; the other, as Clarke tells us, envisages the “sharing of power.”

But Clarke’s disorientation does not end there. His “more concrete” analysis foresees a range of other variants made up of combinations of reform and revolution. What could possibly follow from this coupling of two mutually exclusive political concepts if not the discarding of the “concrete” Trotskyist concept of the-inevitability of the overthrow of the bureaucracy by the masses?

The idea advanced by Clarke that the Kremlin bureaucracy is capable of “sharing power” with the Soviet people challenges both the program of political revolution for the Soviet Union as well as the Trotskyist concept of the nature and role of this parasitic caste. This idea runs counter to reality.

The bureaucracy needs its totalitarian apparatus of terror and repressions precisely because it cannot share the power required to maintain its privileges, income and unbridled rule. Its police regime acts to oppress the masses, keep them politically expropriated, and deprive them of the slightest chance of intervening in political life. It leaves the masses no alternative but to take the road pointed out by the Trotskyist vanguard.

Clarke does not say by what ways and means the Kremlin despots will “share power” with the masses. Through what existing governmental and party institutions can the bureaucrats share power? Through the completely bureaucratized party? Through the secret police or the Army? The masses will gain a say in the country again only through the revival of their own mass organizations which will signalize, not the “sharing of power” with the Kremlin gang, but the inception of the political uprising against it.

The June 1953 uprising of the German workers against the Stalinist regime is the most striking confirmation to date of the irreconcilable conflict between the bureaucracy and the masses. One of the main lessons taught by these “new events of today in their actual process of development” is that the bureaucracy cannot “share power” with the workers. The workers engaged in an uprising; they demanded the overthrow of the regime and the establishment of their own democratic organs of power. The bureaucracy, for its part, responded with military force and police measures. The concessions and promises of concessions pursued the same aim as the naked repressions, namely, to prevent the German workers from emerging as an independent political force.

What kind of guide to action in the next stage of the struggle in East Germany would be Clarke’s idea that the bureaucracy could or would “share power?” Or that the Soviet workers should draw such a conclusion from the East German events? We say, on the contrary, that Clarke’s proposition must be rejected as false and fatal. The political task of the workers in the Soviet Union, as in East Germany and elsewhere in the buffer zone, is the overthrow of the counterrevolutionary Stalinist bureaucracy.

Comrade Clarke will not find in Trotsky’s analysis and program or in the “new events of today” any support for his multiple, self-contradictory variants of the socialist regeneration of the Soviet Union.

Letter from M.Stein

Reply by George Clarke

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