From Fourth International, Vol.5 No.12, December 1944, pp.377-382.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
In opening this discussion on the political resolutions now before the party, the resolution passed by the November 1943 Plenum of the National Committee and the draft resolution of the National Committee to be presented to the coming convention, I am inviting the comrades to study, to consider, to view the question of the European revolution in its entirety, to proceed to a Marxist, and therefore to a many-sided analysis of this crucial problem.
Nothing is so futile in revolutionary politics as to begin a discussion of this character by getting lost on some incidental question, or to attempt to answer or solve this or that immediate problem of the day by divorcing it from your fundamental analysis, from your whole perspective. Before a Marxist can answer an immediate question of the day, he must be clear on his perspective, on his line. And that is precisely what the resolutions attempt to provide. These resolutions are not a new program. As a matter of fact, they are not even a full restatement of our old program. They are simply timely documents; they are documents that, on the basis of our program, analyze more concretely the new events, show the underlying forces at play, delineate the underlying tendencies and more sharply point to the tasks that lie ahead.
To understand the European revolution, its tasks and its perspectives, let us begin by a rough analysis of Europe, its economy and the forces at work on the continent. Capitalism began its absolute decline hi Europe some 30 years ago at the time of the first World War. Capitalism in Europe was no longer expanding, but contracting. In addition to the internal decline, the capitalist states in Europe were further suffocating because of the Balkanization of the continent, because the national boundaries had become fetters on the economy. Each national state was choking to death behind its tariff walls and the Gargantuan militarisms were eating up the substance of Europe’s wealth. The first World War, with its unparalleled destruction smashed Europe’s pre-eminence and further accelerated its decay. Economic hegemony was shifted to American imperialism.
Two revolutionary waves swept over Europe like a terrible paroxysm. One, started by the October revolution, shook Europe to its very foundations and wrenched the territories of the USSR out of the grip of capitalism. The second wave of incipient revolutions during the 30’s in Spain and France was betrayed by the Stalinist and Social-Democratic traitors. With the revolutions aborted and defeated, the path was cleared for the plunging of the European peoples into the second world slaughter.
European capitalism, I said, lost its economic pre-eminence to the United States after the first World War. As a result of the destruction wrought by the second World War, capitalism in Europe is shattered, is finished as a world power. Europe today is ruined and prostrate, and its peoples are starving and dying.
Now as Marxists, we know that the political superstructure is
determined in the last analysis by the committee foundation. We are
historical materialists; we know that bourgeois democracy is a specific
political form, which arose and flowered during the rise and growth of
capitalism. Bourgeois democracy was made possible as the form of
capitalist rule in the more advanced and wealthy capitalist countries
because of the advances of capitalism, because of the increasing wealth
of the nation, by the ability of capitalism to buy off, to corrupt the
middle classes and the labor aristocracy, and thus to moderate and
attenuate the class struggle. Bourgeois democracy has certain definable
and easily recognizable features: parliamentarism, more or less free
elections, accompanied by the traditional bourgeois rights: freedom of
press, speech, assembly, etc.
With the economic decline of Europe after the last war, bourgeois democracy likewise declined. It was virtually wiped out throughout eastern Europe. As for western Europe, the class struggle came to a breaking point in Italy immediately after the war and the question was sharply posed: either fascism or socialism. With the inability of the working class parties to lead the revolutionary struggle forward to the conquest of power, the successive bourgeois-democratic governments quickly gave way to the fascist dictatorship of Mussolini. Bourgeois democracy was ground to dust between the forces of the sharpening class struggle. Ten years later the same process took place in Germany.
And even France, the victor of Versailles, possessor of a great colonial empire, even victorious France reached a blind alley. The class struggle between the two fundamental classes grew so acute that even before the disastrous plunge into the maelstrom of the second World War, bourgeois democracy gave way to one semi-Bonapartist regime after another followed in the end by the imposition of the Bonapartist dictatorship of a Petain propped up by the Nazi bayonets. Bourgeois democracy was not simply destroyed in France by military intervention from without. It was decaying and falling apart because of the unsolvable crisis of French capitalism and the sharpening class struggles from within.
Such was the course of bourgeois democracy, between the two world wars. Today the European masses, who have gone through five years of devastation and slaughter, are in a furiously revolutionary mood. Throughout Europe! The masses are entering the political arena as an independent force. Capitalism in Europe is so shaken, so weak, decrepit and compromised, so bankrupt, that with its own forces it is unable to preserve its rule, to rehabilitate its power. For five years capitalism in Europe has been propped up by the bayonets of Nazi imperialism. Today, if European capitalism is to preserve its rule, it must be propped up by the bayonets of Anglo-American imperialism.
The masses in Italy and now in France, and so it will be throughout Europe, quickly brushed aside the capitalist and liberal parties and gave their support to the traditional parties of the working class. The masses support the Social-Democrats and Stalinists not because the Social-Democrats and Stalinists are betrayers, but because the masses mistakenly believe that these parties will lead them forward in the struggle for socialism, for communism. Just the other day we had a firsthand report from Italy. We were informed that everybody must talk for socialism in Italy today if they wish to get a hearing from the workers. We can put it down as a definite fact: the workers of Europe want a decisive revolutionary change. But the workers are not alone. Fascism, which for a while attracted and hypnotized the middle classes, exposed itself after a brief period as simply the bloody tool of decaying monopoly capitalism. Fascism, the last bulwark of capitalism, has pauperized and disillusioned one section of the population after the other. Today the peasantry and great sections of the urban petty-bourgeoisie follow the lead of the working class in seeking a revolutionary road out of the madhouse of capitalist war, starvation and death.
I have read and heard it bruited about that there is going to be a tremendous revival of democratic illusions among the masses because the younger generation has not gone through the school of parliamentarism, that it must first go through this “body of experience” until it is able to shed democratic illusions. What inability to understand the meaning of events and to sense the mood, the aspirations, the feelings of the masses! The Russian masses, as we all know, had far fewer democratic illusions in 1917 than did the German masses who had a rich parliamentary tradition. Yet the Russian workers didn’t go through any extensive parliamentary school. The political consciousness of the Russian masses was conditioned by their experiences, by the blind alley in which the Russian autocracy thrust the country, by the fact that the bourgeoisie and the landlords had disgraced themselves by their support of the bloody Czarist dictatorship. The Russian masses were forced, because of the intolerable situation, to seek for bold and revolutionary solutions and to support the boldest and most intransigeant, the most extreme of the left-wing parties. A similar process is taking place in Europe today. The capitalists have disgraced themselves by collaborating with Hitler and will today further disgrace themselves by their collaboration with the Anglo-American imperialists. The European masses are finding the situation intolerable. The very conditions of their existence are forcing them to seek for bold revolutionary solutions to extricate them from the death crisis of European capitalism.
It is interesting in this connection to recall the profound analysis of the consciousness of the European masses made by Trotsky in his 1940 Manifesto.
“Today almost nothing remains of the democratic and
pacifist illusions. The peoples are suffering the present war without
any longer believing in it, without expecting any more from it than new
chains. This applies also to the totalitarian states. The older
generation of the workers who bore on their backs the burden of the
first imperialist war and who have not forgotten its lessons are still
far from eliminated from the arena. In the ears of the next to the
oldest generation which went to school during wartime the false slogans
of patriotism and pacifism are still ringing. The inestimable
experience of these strata who are now crushed by the weight of the war
machine will reveal itself in full force when the war compels the
toiling masses to come out openly against the governments.”
And even more decisive than this analysis, than this prediction, if you will, are the events themselves which are now taking place before our very eyes. Even the least perspicacious of the bourgeois commentators have understood and informed us that the European masses are in a revolutionary mood. The masses have many illusions, to be sure. They do not yet support the parties of the Fourth International. But their illusions, if correctly analyzed, concretized and properly broken down, are found to be not at all those pictured by Morrow. The masses have few illusions about the bourgeoisie. They do not have too many illusions that they can solve their problems within the confines of the capitalist system. Even the illusions concerning the Allies are a more or less transient affair and will quickly give way before the realities of the situation. We saw that in Italy. A year ago the Italian masses of the South undoubtedly greeted the Allies with great enthusiasm and hope. In the course of a few months this enthusiasm was converted to hatred and deadly opposition. So it will be in France on the morrow. So it will be throughout Europe.
The greatest and most dangerous illusions of the masses, if this question is properly analyzed, is found to be their belief, their trust, in the Social-Democratic and Stalinist leaders, especially the latter. They do not yet understand the counterrevolutionary role of these scoundrels. A great dynamic process is taking place in the revolutionary education of the masses, and in this first period it is probably strengthening Stalinist influence. While small sections of the most advanced workers may be recoiling before the treachery of these misleaders, millions of people, first entering the political arena, seeking a way out of the death crisis of capitalism, naturally throw their support behind the parties which in their minds have stood traditionally for socialism, for communism. That is why the struggle to help the masses overcome their illusions is, in one of its most important aspects, the struggle to expose Stalinism and destroy its influence.
There is no question at all that Europe today is a red-hot cauldron of revolution. Everyone admits it. Into this seething cauldron is now entering the new imperialist overlord—American imperialism. This unbridled imperialist power, which aims to make Wall Street the center of world tribute, which seeks to establish its hegemony over all the continents and all the seas, must now strangle the European revolution and prop up decaying capitalism if it is to realize its imperial program. I see in this connection that Morrow objects to our characterizing American imperialism as equally predatory as Nazi imperialism. The objection is not well taken.
German imperialism, which emerged so late on the world scene, which
was starved for resources and colonies, attempted to unite all of
Europe around highly organized German industry. But the unification of
Europe is a task which capitalism is unable to accomplish. Hitler,
despite his military might, could only bring havoc to the continent,
could only further ruin its economy, enslave its masses and turn the
continent into a prison house. American imperialism, which is not a
European power, and whose empire lies outside of Europe, aims not to
unify the continent, but to dismember it and to keep it dismembered.
Wall Street wants not the rebuilding of European economy, but to render
impossible its revival as a competitor. Wall Street’s program of
dismemberment, despoliation and plunder can only deepen Europe’s ruin.
Allied rule over Europe spells thus not the mitigation, but the
aggravation of Europe’s catastrophic crisis. The least you can say
about American imperialism, whether on a long-term or a short-term
basis, is that it is as predatory as Nazi imperialism.
The study of the role, the motive forces, the aims and the program of American imperialism shows you why the political program of Wall Street calls and must call for military occupation, for policing of Europe for ten, twenty, or as the late unlamented Secretary of the Navy Knox proposed, for one hundred years. This study makes clear why American imperialism must seek to refurbish the decrepit monarchies, why they must seek to build up the prestige and power of the Vatican, why they must elevate a lot of royalist and fascist generals to the seats of power, why they must prop up police-military dictatorships. This political program is not something accidental or arbitrary. It is the necessary program for American imperialism, the only program to realize its economic, its imperialist aims; the only method by which they can put over their predatory, their savage program to keep Europe prostrate, helpless and subservient to American imperialism.
On the basis of a rounded analysis, not only of the general historic decline and decay of European capitalism, but of the specific stage in this process of decay, we affirm: bourgeois democracy is outlived in Europe today. Bourgeois democracy is incompatible with the continued existence of capitalism in Europe. If; it was possible for American imperialism to stabilize European capitalism after the last war by loans on the basis of a bourgeois-democratic regime in Germany, then today American imperialism sees as its only program the dismemberment and destruction of Germany as an economic power and the preservation of capitalism with its own bayonets propping up dictatorial regimes.
Naturally we Marxists understand that economics do not automatically determine politics. The bourgeoisie, the Anglo-American imperialists, will practice all kinds of trickery, of deception, to sidetrack the revolutionary anger of the masses, to strangle the revolution, to save their rule. Our resolutions call specific attention to the fact that when the sweep of the revolution threatens their rule, the imperialists and their native accomplices will push forward the Social-Democratic and Stalinist agents and, if necessary, will even set up bourgeois-democratic regimes for the purpose of disarming and strangling the workers’ revolution. But we also point out that these regimes, by their very nature, can only be interim regimes—transition regimes, very unstable, very short-lived. Society cannot exist very long on the basis of a fierce class struggle, of an uncompleted revolution, of a split. A new equilibrium must be established. These interim regimes must either give way to the dictatorship of the proletariat or to the savage military dictatorship of the capitalist counter-revolution. There is no third road.
Now what is Morrow’s objection to this perspective, which is the logical, the necessary link in the perspective on Europe held by our movement from its first days. What is Morrow’s position? The final conclusion you must arrive at is that Morrow anticipates the revival of bourgeois-democracy in Europe for a period of time. Reminding himself that for this extraordinary thesis he must provide proof, he must provide a foundation, Morrow proceeds to give us an appreciation of the difference of program between American and Nazi imperialism, how American imperialism is not as predatory as the German variety.
I am reading this right out of Morrow’s article:
“The short-term perspective is that American
imperialism will provide food and economic aid, to Europe and will thus
for a time appear before the European masses in a very different guise
than German imperialism ... Unlike Nazi occupation American occupation
will be followed by an improvement in food supplies and in the economic
situation generally.” Morrow, then warming up to his theme, tells us:
“Where the Nazis removed factory machinery and transportation
equipment, the Americans will bring them in. These economic contrasts,
which of course flow entirely from the contrast between the limited
resources of German capitalism and the far more ample resources still
possessed by American capitalism, cannot fail for a time to have
Thus we have a more or less rounded thesis for the revival, from however short-term a point of view, of European capitalism and for the improvement, however temporary, of the standard of living. If that were true, there would exist, of course, some solid justification for the idea that illusions would revive among the European masses concerning the role of American imperialism and that on some basis, however low, bourgeois-democracy could be revived for a time. But this perspective has nothing in common with cruel reality. It is quite clear that Morrow is himself the victim of illusions about American imperialism, its supposed unlimited powers, its role, its purposes, its program. We called specific attention in our resolution to the statistics of the results of one year of Allied rule in Italy. It is unnecessary to go over all this data again. It adds up to growing starvation, disease, unemployment, a monstrous rising of the death rate, the worsening of the crisis. And Allied treatment of Italy will appear as beneficent compared to their rule of Germany. Yet it is on this flimsy economic foundation, and only on this foundation, that the theory of the revival of bourgeois democracy in devastated and ruined Europe, rests. Without it, it falls to the ground.
Now some comrades have informed us that the proof of Morrow’s theory of bourgeois democracy can be found in the Bonomi and de Gaulle regimes, that we already have bourgeois democracy in Europe today, or reasonable facsimiles thereof.
I described before the historical origins of bourgeois democracy and what a bourgeois-democratic regime is. I told you that a number of its features included free elections, government by elected parliament, various bourgeois-democratic rights, etc., etc. What is the first thing that hits you in the eye when you analyze the Bonomi and de Gaulle regimes? They haven’t the first pre-requisite of a bourgeois-democratic regime or any other kind of independent regime—sovereignty. Power rests in the hands of the foreign conqueror. The very first democratic right is lacking—the right of the Italian and French people to determine their own fate. Secondly, the cabinets are hand-picked. There is no parliament and there are no elections. These governments “rule” by decree. Is it necessary to argue that governments which “rule” by authority of the military forces of the foreign conqueror, whose troops are stationed in the country; governments which are hand-picked, governments which “rule” by decree, with no parliament and no elections, is it necessary to argue that these are facades of a military dictatorship?
We are told that some democratic rights exist both in France and Italy. To be sure. These rights have been grabbed up by the masses in the course of the struggle, they attest to the rising class struggle in Italy and France but do not prove the democratic character of the Bonomi or de Gaulle regimes. Even under blood-thirsty Czarism, the Bolsheviks were able to publish for a time a legal daily newspaper. There existed, for a time, a consultative parliament with elected deputies. Up until the world war the Bolsheviks, as well as the Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionaries, sent their deputies to this assembly. The argument that de Gaulle’s democracy is revealed by the fact that he rests on the left-wing organizations is equally unimpressive. Every Bonapartist regime attempts to balance itself between the two conflicting forces of society.
Isn’t de Gaulle, however, evolving in the direction of a bourgeois-democratic regime? The whole manner in which this is posed is false. It is not our business to indulge in idle speculation. We know that de Gaulle, that the European capitalists, that the American imperialists, will grudgingly grant this or that democratic right or even, if necessary, set up a full-blown democratic regime if the sweep of the revolution rises to great heights and they fear for their existence. How de Gaulle, or how Bonomi, or how any other regimes will “evolve” depends on the course of the struggle and on nothing else. It is, I repeat, not our business to indulge in idle speculation. It is our business to expose the treacherous maneuvers of de Gaulle. It is our business to teach the masses that every concession de Gaulle or the Allies are forced to grant has the sole purpose of sidetracking the struggle, lulling their revolutionary vigilance in order to gain time to organize the forces of the counterrevolution for a definitive settlement with the working class. It is not our business to lose our sense of proportion and falsely paint up de Gaulle’s regime as democratic because of every episodic concession won as a by-product of the revolutionary struggle, but to utilize all concessions to penetrate more deeply into the worker-mass, to further heighten their class consciousness, to expose the fact that all concessions are transitory, that all promises of improvement are lies, that outside of the destruction of capitalism and the establishment of the Soviet power, there is no salvation for Europe and its peoples.
The perniciousness of this theory of the renascence (with whatever qualifications are attached) of bourgeois democracy is dearly revealed in the two questions I have just discussed.
This theory has so disorientated and confused its proponents that in the first instance they proceeded to paint up American imperialism and even altered the facts to suit the exigencies of their false perspective. In the second instance, they proceeded to paint up the thinly veiled military dictatorships imposed on the people of Italy and France as bourgeois-democratic governments or something very close to it. The imperialists have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. By covering up their military dictatorship with a little—and very little — democratic veneer, they succeeded in fooling even a few Trotskyists. The job of the Trotskyists is not to accept for good coin the fraudulent democratic facades that cover the military dictatorships. The job of the Trotskyists is to expose this facade and show how behind it stands the military force of the conqueror who denies to the people their right to select governments of their choosing, to show that the shadow regimes are subservient to the conqueror, propped up by Anglo-American imperialism which aims not to liberate but to oppress.
This false perspective of Morrow has a further implication if it is
really drawn to its logical end. If American imperialism has such
inexhaustible powers, that it can, as he thinks, improve the standard
of living in Europe, then of course there exists a certain basis, on
however low a foundation, for the establishment of bourgeois-democracy
in the immediate period ahead. From that we must assume the softening
of class conflicts for a period, that the class struggle will be very
largely refracted through the parliamentary struggle, that for a time
the parliamentary arena will dominate the stage. If that were true, we
would have to revise our conception of American imperialism. And of
course the Trotskyist movement would have to attune its work to these
new conditions—conditions for a while of slow painful growth,
propaganda, election campaigns, etc., etc.
Morrow apparently draws back and cannot get himself to enunciate this perspective in clear-cut fashion ... except to give exaggerated emphasis to democratic demands ...
While I am on the subject of democratic demands, let me ask this: Why all this agitation suddenly on democratic demands? Why this insistence upon involving our party in this totally artificial debate? We accused Morrow at the Plenum of wanting a blueprint, of trying to draw up a concrete program of action and set of demands for the European proletariat. Here is Morrow’s answer to our accusation, as given in his speech to the Plenum:
“By a blueprint is meant an unwarranted attempt to anticipate what concrete situations our European comrades will be faced with, which democratic demands our European comrades should raise at various conjunctures and in what sequence they should raise them ... Frank said for the Subcommittee that they don’t want a blueprint. Neither do I. Their objection is not well taken. Frank said, what is true enough, that the sequence and formulation of democratic demands are things which will have to be left to our European comrades to work out in the heat of battle as they sense the mood of the masses. True enough, but irrelevant to my points on democratic demands. For my points do not at all attempt to anticipate which democratic demands and in what sequence they should raise them, but I simply indicate why the METHOD of democratic and transitional demands will have to be employed under the general conditions which are likely to prevail in Europe in the next immediate period.”
If that is what Morrow wanted—an affirmation of the method of fighting for democratic as well as transitional demands, in order to mobilize the masses—he has got it. This is incorporated in the Plenum resolution, and we have included a section on it in the convention resolution. The clamor for and around and about democratic demands, however, has not ceased.
Today Logan comes forward, speaking presumably for the Morrow position, and presents us with a demand not only for the “method” of democratic and transitional demands (a strange “demand” to be put to our party in 1944) but with a full-fledged program of action, a veritable blueprint,—with slogans and all—just how the French, Italian, German and other Trotskyists can win over the masses and make the revolution. Of course, every experienced comrade will simply laugh such blueprints out of court. The attempt is ludicrous. Slogans, especially if we are speaking of democratic, episodic slogans, depend by their nature on the consciousness, the mood of the masses, the flow and tempo of the class struggle, the relationship of forces. That is what determines which slogan is put forward as against another one. That is what determines exactly how the slogan is advanced. Sometimes events alter sharply overnight and the slogan of yesterday must be withdrawn and a new one substituted in its place. What particular slogans to push, to agitate for at a given time, what slogans take precedence—these are all questions which can be determined fully only by the people involved in the struggle who have the necessary information, can gauge the sentiment of the masses and understand the relationship of the forces that obtain. This question of slogans and demands and immediate programs of action cannot be decided by the American party, much less incorporated by us in resolution form, because we do not have adequate information.
Moreover, we are writing a resolution on the European
revolution. If we would attempt to sloganeer and write blueprints, we
would have to write separate programs of action for a half dozen or a
dozen different countries, because we know that revolutionary
developments do not proceed uniformly, that the conditions, tempo of
development, mood of the masses, vary from country to country ...
The attempt to create a thoroughly artificial and uncalled-for debate over democratic slogans, the attempt in a thoroughly unwarranted manner to magnify their proper importance in our full program and constantly push them to the forefront as a kind of panacea designed to solve every problem and overcome every difficulty, stems from the completely one-sided, tendentious, arbitrary and therefore false theory that ultra-leftism represents the main danger in the Fourth International today. Morrow tells us: “The main danger within the Fourth International appears to me to lie in the direction of ultra-leftism.” And of course, as everyone knows, ultra-leftists are opposed to fighting for democratic demands. That is why “it is necessary,” according to Morrow, “to emphasize and underline the role of democratic demands.”
What is the proof for this amazing theory that in the period of revolutionary upsurge the main danger is ultra-leftism? It is laughable to even talk about it. Proof number one is historical. According to Morrow, “the rich lessons of the first years after the last war” reveal the fact that “the young parties of the Comintern suffered primarily not from opportunism but from ultra-leftism.” And we are told that “the same phenomenon is far more likely to confront the Fourth International at the end of this war.”
History does not confirm this theory. As a general proposition it is far more correct to say that in the period of revolutionary rise the main danger comes from the opportunist direction. Consider Lenin’s own party. In 1917, before Lenin’s arrival, virtually the whole Central Committee of the Bolshevik party approved the policy of conciliationism with Menshevism, and only by Lenin’s own timely and energetic intervention was the crisis solved and the helm turned toward a correct revolutionary course. A few months later Trotsky was defeated in the Bolshevik fraction on his and Lenin’s policy of boycotting the Pre-Parliament, which caused another minor crisis in the Bolshevik ranks. And then, on the very eve of the revolution, the Bolshevik party was thrown into a new terrible crisis by the crackup of Zinoviev and Kamenev under the pressure of bourgeois public opinion. The 1919 revolution in Hungary was defeated in part because of Bela Kun’s policy of conciliation with the Social-Democrats. The young Italian party was unprepared for the critical events of 1920 because the Serrati leadership refused to break with and purge the party of its incorrigible opportunist wing. We can, as a matter of fact, sum up the first years of the Comintern by stating that this period was devoted to a fight for the 21 demands, the fight to purge the parties of opportunist elements and destroy the opportunist tendencies. It was only at the Third Congress of the Comintern, after the first wave of the revolutionary tide had already passed, that the struggle was first launched against the ultra-leftist danger.
Proof number two consists of a consideration of the situation inside the Fourth International today. And here again we are treated to a one-sided analysis with the facts arbitrarily selected to fit a preconceived theory. We are informed of “the consistently ultra-leftist course of our official British section and its consequent deterioration.” And from this evidence the sweeping conclusion is drawn: “Thus the present evidence is that within the International the danger of ultra-leftism is far more likely than the danger of opportunism.” How is it, in discussing England, that less than one-half of the situation is described? Why is there no attempt, if England is to be discussed, to discuss the whole English problem as far as the British Trotskyist movement is concerned? As a matter of fact, the more important half of the information has been left out—the fact that the old WIL leadership, for a number of years manifested, in our opinion, traits of national exclusiveness. Today the ultra-leftists represent a truly insignificant tendency inside the fused party. The main problems of the British Trotskyist movement lie in an entirely different direction.
We are further aware that a group of German comrades submitted to the Fourth International and still support the Three Theses (published in the December 1942 FI), a thoroughly opportunist, revisionist as well as liquidationist document. Our Cuban section has just recently been guilty of what is, in our Judgment, an opportunist error when it supported, even though critically, Grau San Martin in the recent presidential elections in that country, etc., etc.
To make any definite judgments today on the varying tendencies within the Fourth International is distinctly premature. And in any case it should never be made in the one-sided manner attempted by Morrow.
We have always been taught that as a general rule the main danger comes from the opportunist direction in the period of revolutionary rise. Trotsky established in his Lessons of October that in every revolutionary crisis, bourgeois public opinion beats down upon the proletarian party and creates a crisis inside the central leadership itself. This, said Trotsky, is an historic law.
The question at hand, however, raised by Morrow, stands on somewhat
different ground. When someone proposes that we write a resolution or
devote a section of a resolution exorcising a deviationist tendency,
then it is not permissible to confine oneself to generalities. One is
obliged to tell us where is the danger, what groups
or individuals represent it, how have the
tendencies manifested themselves. We stand ready at all times to fight real
dangers, whether from the left or the right. We will not launch a
struggle, however, against dangers that have not yet arisen, but which
somebody simply conjures up out of thin air, based on a misreading of
the history of the Comintern and a one-sided analysis of the parties of
the Fourth International.
Proceeding from our perspective on the death agony of capitalism in Europe, on the predatory counter-revolutionary and tyrannical role of American imperialism, on the clearly revolutionary mood which pervades the masses of Europe and the fact that the European revolution has begun, we are steering the course toward building Trotskyist parties in the very heat of battle. We understand that the class struggle is not about to be softened, nor primarily refracted through parliamentary prisms. We know the very contrary is true. The class struggle is growing more fierce. And in the period of revolutionary rise, basing ourselves on the lessons of the October Revolution, we stress first and foremost to our European co-thinkers the necessity of unfurling our full banner and stepping forth before the masses as the intransigeant fighters for the socialist revolution, for working class internationalism, for the Socialist United States of Europe. We step forth as the most indefatigable builders of the Soviets and the boldest fighters for the soviet power. Our transitional program is not of a propagandistic character now, but is invested with immediate burning importance in Europe today. Many of the slogans will unquestionably become slogans of the day and will be taken up by the masses. And of course, of course, the Trotskyists, who aim to be not only propagandists or agitators, but leaders of mass action, will issue at every turn of the struggle those necessary sharp fighting slogans of an immediate character dictated by the moods of the masses and the needs of the struggle.
For us it is not a question of speculating whether the process will take months or years. That will be decided only in the struggle and by the struggle. We do not view the European revolution as one gigantic apocalyptic event, which with one smashing blow will finish with capitalism. The European revolution will probably be a more or less long drawn-out process with many initial setbacks, retreats, and possibly even defeats.
We know full well the military might of American imperialism and what treachery its Stalinist and Social-Democratic agents are capable of. We know all their counter-revolutionary designs. We know they aim to drown the German revolution in its own blood and that they are already proceeding to draw a cordon sanitaire around the German nation.
But more decisive than their schemes and plots and grandiose plans is the disintegration of capitalism, tie melting away of its reserves. Once the inexhaustible power of the proletariat is unleashed, once the proletariat creates a Bolshevik leadership, it will prove mightier than all the foul conspiracies, than all the military prowess of the imperialists, and it will emerge triumphant in the end.
Last updated: 3.12.2005