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Martin Abern

Sixteen Years of the Russian Revolution!

The Creation of a Fourth International Is the Best Defense of the Soviet Union

The Bolshevik Heritage Must Be Preserved
in the Struggle Against the Stalinist Revisionists

(November 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 50, 4 November 1933, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Eduard Bernstein led the attack of reformism against the revolutionary doctrines of Marx and Engels. Laying emphasis on immediate gains and objectives, Bernstein completely subordinated or submerged the need of revolutionary strategy to guide the proletariat in its struggles. He lost sight of the ultimate goal of socialism – the goal which, on the one hand, conditions the character of the strategy and tactics of the revolutionary workers and, on the other hand is determined by them. For the means employed will also determine the end. [1] Without revolutionary tactics and strategy for the movement, the goal of socialism or communism is never reached. The crash of the Second International, of the German Social Democracy at the outbreak of the World War in 1914 proved in a catastrophic manner the views of Marx. Reformism brought destruction and death in the wake of the masses.

Today, sixteen years after the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship and the Soviet power the revolutionary movement is confronted once again, in another form, with the ravages and menace of the new revisionism espoused by the school of Stalin and which is properly labelled Stalinism. With the theory of socialism in one country as against the theory of permanent revolution, Stalinism, in the epoch of modern monopolistic imperialism, revises fundamentally the principles and revolutionary strategy and tactic of the working class and particularly the Communists. Stalinism professes the world revolution, but it begins by limiting its revolutionary goal to the establishment of a complete socialist society within the confines of the, as yet, economically backward Soviet Union, and relegates the spread of the proletarian revolution to other countries as a pious and hoped-for consummation after the fact of a completely established socialism. Leninism, on the other hand, as taught today by its expounders, the International Left Opposition and based on decades of struggles now concretized in Bolshevik theory, says: Base the strategy of the revolutionary movement on the interests of the working class on a world scale as the best and surest means for the preservation and building of socialism in the Soviet Union. The theory of socialism in one country, therefore, is not merely an incidental polemical cry of the Left Opposition against Stalinism. It must be regarded as the root of all evils wrought in the past decade by Stalinism. It is the modern revisionism. This theory makes working class victory on either a national and international scale ever impossible.

Since the First Comintern Congress

In 1919, the Communist International was formed. It declared in its manifesto to the international proletariat:

We live in an epoch of wars and social revolutions. The proletarian path is toward the speedy consummation of the latter.

Fourteen years have passed since then, yet the estimation of Lenin and Trotsky, of the first Congress of the Comintern remains valid today, despite the tragic defeats of the workers in many countries. Despite all, the crisis of world capitalism exists. The situation objectively is revolutionary. What is missing are the subjective factors, genuine Communist parties, such as were being built in those early years, and a revolutionary Communist International. But these can be built again.

Revolutions, said Marx, are the locomotives of history. Locomotives sometimes are sidetracked, as Stalinism has done, but they can be placed on the rails again. That is our task.

At this day, on the occasion of the anniversary of the Russian Revolution, one need only record the manner in which Stalinism has been responsible, criminally so, for the rolling backwards of the proletarian revolution in the Soviet Union and throughout the world.

Stalinism, with its basically false social theory and consequently radically false strategy and tactics, necessarily bowed before the blue flag of the Kuo Min Tang in China. Inevitably it capitulated before the swastika of German fascism. Deliberately, in the narrow interests of Soviet diplomacy, it restrained the rising revolutionary wave in Spain. The Stalinized “Communists” ran to cover before the verbal charge of Dollfuss in Austria. Stalinism surrendered to the trade union fakers in Great Britain. Everywhere it gives up the banner of Communism and drags it in the mud.

And in each case in the past decade, beginning with the formation of the Bolshevik-Leninist Opposition in the Soviet Union under Trotsky and Rakovsky, the International Left Opposition exposed Stalinism before the working class and fought for the revolutionary position.

Why Bolshevism Will Be Victorious

It is true that the Left Opposition formally has not been victorious. Stalinism had its way – organizationally. It has achieved many pyrrhic victories. For ten years now, the International Left Opposition with small forces, too few almost to mention, has stood by its principles, and like Lenin in earlier days has carried on against the stream. The International Left Opposition has demonstrated to ever increasing numbers that it has quality; its revolutionary viewpoint gave it that. Now the dialectics of the class struggle are about to transform quality into quantity. That growth and the problems arising therefrom, stand before us as the tasks of today and tomorrow. Time has verified once again our theories. These are now to be demonstrated to an ever increasing degree in the daily struggles of the working class. We are starting anew in the building of new Communist parties and a new Communist International; but we are building on an old and tested foundation and therein lies our strength ...We are building on the first four Congresses of the Comintern, and upon that which we have learned since in our struggles against Stalinist depradations and practices. We are passing from the stage of propaganda to the stage of agitation and organization in all fields of struggle of the working class. They lie and are wrong who say that Communism is dead. It is Stalinism that is passing. It is Communism that will rise once again. On this, the sixteenth anniversary of the Russian Bolshevik revolution, the Communist League of America and the International Left

Opposition rededicate themselves to those basic tasks which the Communist International originally set for itself. Our aim as before remains the international proletarian revolution. That is, for the struggle for workers State power – the transfer of power from one class to another. It is the order of the day in this epoch. In the Soviet Union the problems of economic and political administration on behalf of the toiling masses are as heavy and decisive as at no other time perhaps in its history. The Russian Bolshevik-Leninists, despite the extreme conditions of their existence, will assist the Soviet power in the correct direction. – As before, the dictatorship of the proletariat through the medium of Soviets on a world scale remains our goal. The theory of permanent revolution is the basic conception which guides the International Left Opposition toward that goal. We are small: we need more cadres, more leading forces. These must be gathered. Old revolutionaries are beginning once again to return to the revolutionary struggle. They are welcome. But above all we must win the new forces of workers never before active in the labor or revolutionary movement – those who are just beginning to take the first steps toward a revolutionary position.

The Third Congress of the Communist International raised as its major slogan: “To the masses”. This, and more, is our slogan today Into the unions! Organize the unorganized! Develop class consciousness. Widen the foundations for the new Communist Party of the United States and a new, Fourth Communist International. In this way we can best honor the Bolshevik revolution of the Russian October and extend it.

Note by ETOL

1. The first lines of this article in the printed edition were as follows:

The end is everything. The means are nothing. With this conception Edward Bernstein led the attack of reformism against the revolutionary doctrines of Marx and Engels. But Marxism demonstrated that this conception of tactics and strategy of the reformists was the source of the opportunism and betrayal of the interests of the working class by its alleged leaders. This theory is reactionary. polemized Marx. For, he said, the means determine the end.

However, the following week a correction was published (The Militant, Vol. VI No. 51, 11 November 1933, p. 4) subnstituting the text here.

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