From Fourth International, Vol.12 No.6, November-December 1951, pp.176, 213-218.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The Soviet buffer zone of Eastern Europe, which came into being after the Second World War, has aroused lively discussions in and around our ranks. Our opinions have evolved and we have rectified errors committed on this question in the past years. Today the evolution of the buffer zone countries on a number of fundamentals has been completed in an irreversible manner. Our ideas have been clarified on several important questions such as the nature of these states and the conclusions to be derived therefrom. The resolution submitted to the Congress registers our progress in this matter. It is not without value to view this problem from as broad a viewpoint as possible, to first of all retrace the road we have traveled.
At the end of the Second World War, as a result of the Potsdam agreements, the entire world was confronted with a zone of influence of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe. The Russian state – which we considered a degenerated workers’ state – dominated a series of capitalist states militarily and politically; coalition governments between Stalinists and bourgeois politicians were constituted; the capitalist economies were not fundamentally uprooted, although important changes had been introduced.
Molotov had declared at the first occasion, in the name of the Soviet government, when Russian troops entered Rumanian territory, that his government had no intention of altering the social system of these countries. The only and avowed desire of the Kremlin in these countries was to replace the hostile governments of the past (the cordon sanitaire at the end of the First World War) by governments friendly to the USSR. But we understood at that time that what was involved was not the desires of the Kremlin bureaucracy. The workers’ state, and not only the bureaucracy, would have its influence on the new territories. What, could this lead to?
On the theoretical plane we took as our point of departure our definition of the USSR and Trotsky’s succinct remarks in In Defense of Marxism on the question of territories occupied by the USSR and susceptible to integration within it. These remarks have been cited many times in our discussions and are. certainly known to all the comrades present here. Let us only refer to this one:
“Let us for a moment conceive that in accordance with the treaty with Hitler, the Moscow government leaves untouched the rights of private property in the occupied areas and limits itself to ‘control’ after the fascist pattern. Such a concession would have a deep-going principled character and might become the starting point for a new chapter in the history of the Soviet regime; and consequently a starting point for a new appraisal on our part of the nature of the Soviet state.”
These lines prove how important the evolution of the buffer zone was for us and for the world workers’ movement. Developments in the buffer zone also were of decisive importance for the Soviet Union.
We followed these developments passionately, meticulously. If you assemble everything that has been written in our ranks since 1946 on this question, it can be stated that we have never sinned in the domain of the concrete study of the events. We may have committed errors in theoretical interpretation and in perspectives but our study of the events was always very rigorous. No one ever contested the facts presented by the International as the basis of our discussions. All the discussions look these facts as their point of departure.
We must confine ourselves here to a reference for historical reasons only to the discussions we have had with those who had a different definition of the USSR than ours. These discussions with the theoreticians of “state capitalism” or of “bureaucratic collectivism” never had any bearing on the buffer zone, properly speaking; they were simply appendices to the discussion on the Russian question. Neither the supporters of the theory of “state capitalism” nor those of the theory of “bureaucratic collectivism” contested the facts assembled by the International. The facts had only a minor importance for them. Later on we will mention the discussions between comrades sharing our common theoretical basis.
Our movement took a position on the question of the buffer zone for the first time at the Preconference (March 1946) and at the 1st Plenum (June 1946). The resolution adopted by the Preconference noted:
“The introduction of a series of militarily and politically controlled countries into the economic sphere (of the USSR);
“The plundering and politically reactionary, conservative and capitulatory nature of the Soviet bureaucracy ...
“The granting of governmental powers to the leaders of the Communist Parties regardless of their real strength;
“The elimination of oppositionist elements, the expropriation of foreign concessions, the acceleration of economic reforms by encouraging organs of dual power (committees of control of production, trade committees of poor peasants which carry out the agrarian reform).”
This resolution declared itself in favor of the progressive reforms, for the right of the peoples to self-determination, for the free development of the workers’ movement.
The 1st Plenum dealt especially with the occupation of numerous territories by the victor armies. The resolution said the following concerning the territories occupied by the Soviet armies:
“The Fourth International demands the withdrawal of all foreign armies, including the Soviet army, from all occupied territories ...
“The Fourth International does not in any way abandon its slogan of the unconditional defense of the USSR. The Fourth International is likewise for the defense of the progressive measures which have been realized in the territories occupied by the Red Army ...
“Wherever reactionary movements appear and, with the support of the imperialists, attempt to overthrow the more or less statified economy and to re-establish landed private property ... we will oppose these movements and fight on the side of the Red Army for the defeat of the imperialists and their agents until the workers of these countries are strong enough to confront the bourgeois counter-revolution alone.
“In all the occupation zones our militants should defend our policy in such a manner so that it cannot be utilized against the Soviet Union to the advantage of imperialism.”
We see then that in the first two positions, we clearly formulated our position on the defense of the USSR and the reforms carried out in the buffer zone against imperialism, and on the defense of the workers’ movement of these countries against the bureaucracy, but that there is not a word on the nature of these states and their economies, nor on the tendencies of their development.
The first general theoretical position taken was formulated in the theses written by comrade Germain on The USSR on the Morrow of the War which appeared in the International Bulletin, September 1946. It was said that in a general way this study expressed the position of the International Secretariat, and it opened the discussion on the USSR, the buffer zone and Stalinism for the 2nd World Congress. Here is its essential part concerning the buffer zone question:
“Inherent in the system of production brought into being by the October Revolution is the tendency to break out of the frontiers of the USSR especially because the productive forces on a world scale cry out for collectivization ...
“Taking as our point of departure the tendency of the bureaucracy to ‘structurally assimilate’ the countries where it maintains its occupation over a whole period and which it wants to integrate into its economic system; taking likewise as our point of departure the impossibility of achieving this assimilation without the action of the working mosses, it can be stated that the countries occupied by the Soviet bureaucracy can be divided into three zones:
“a) ... all the territories incorporated into the USSR, there structural assimilation has been completed ...
“b) In Poland, in occupied Germany, in Yugoslavia and in Czechoslovakia, the beginnings of structural assimilation correspond to a very strong revolutionary impulsion or to an exceptional situation involving the physical disappearance of the propertied classes ... The nature of the economy and of the state remains bourgeois in these countries. However, the relationship of forces are such that for the moment the bourgeoisie is at the mercy of an action of the proletariat. It is only the bureaucracy’s fear of the proletariat of these countries as well as of imperialism which keeps it from delivering a coup de grace to the native capitalists.
“c) In Finland, Austria, Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria the state and the economy remain fundamentally bourgeois.”
This long quotation needs no comment. In the discussion which occurred at the time, Marcoux, who had assembled a very important documentation on the question, examined the question in a static manner and even denied the existence of a tendency to structural assimilation; his point of view was rapidly outmoded by the march of events. On the other hand, comrade E.R. Frank, who was in agreement with the analysis, defined what was developing in the buffer zone as a tendency toward the establishment of a “state capitalism” based on a mixed economy (state capitalism and private properly) and not toward the installation of a workers’ state. 
At the 2nd World Congress (April 1948) which took place some weeks after the Prague coup, the discussion did not go beyond the positions previously taken by the International in 1946. In the Theses adopted by this Congress, the part dealing with the buffer zone describes the policy of the bureaucracy, there also verifying its dual character; it shows that due to the development of the international situation the bureaucracy despite itself found itself obliged to adopt a series of economic and political measures against the native bourgeoisie. It underscored the sharpening of the tendency toward total structural assimilation, but viewed this as possible only through a revolutionary mobilization of the masses in opposition to the bureaucracy. The Theses of the 2nd World Congress declared that the situation was transitory, but also that the economy of these countries remained capitalist and that the state remained a bourgeois state in its structure as well as in its function.
Politically the Congress confirmed our position of struggle against the restorationist tendencies and our support of the struggle of the masses for which it formulated a program of transitional demands. Finally, the state and the economy being characterized as capitalist, the Theses came out in favor of revolutionary defeatism in these countries in the event of war.
Viewed with hindsight, the discussion then was marking time as a result of the situation itself. It was necessary that the situation itself become further clarified for us to make further progress.
Some months after the 2nd World Congress, the split between the Yugoslav CP and the Cominform occurred. In the period which followed, important economic and also political developments began to occur in the buffer zone countries which transformed them considerably. All these events renewed the discussion and placed it on a new plane. On the other hand, the events in China were also to contribute in the clarification of our thoughts on a whole series of problems, including those of the buffer zone.
The discussion led to the adoption of a resolution by the 7th Plenum in April 1949.
The 7th Plenum resolution described the developments which had occurred in the buffer zone since 1945, namely the period of agreements between Washington and the Kremlin, marked by agreements with what remained of the native bourgeoisie in the buffer zone countries, and then the period of “cold war” marked by a struggle against the economic and political positions of the native bourgeoisie, which was waged primarily with bureaucratic methods.
The 7th Plenum resolution concluded with a study of the theoretical significance of the evolution of the buffer zone countries. This latter part explains the transition regimes of .the buffer zone countries as the resultant of the action of several factors: the decomposition of capitalism having attained a very advanced stage in these countries, the belatedness of the world revolution, and the role of the USSR as a workers’ state but acting tinder the leadership of the bureaucracy with the methods peculiar to this caste. We have nothing essential to change on this point and that is why we have incorporated this part of the 7th Plenum resolution in the resolution submitted for adoption to the 3rd World Congress.
But a part of this same 7th Plenum resolution showed itself to be inadequate or ambiguous or false and the discussion immediately reopened. It was the part of the resolution dealing with the social nature of the buffer zone states which reactivated the debate. The resolution recognized that structural assimilation had reached a very advanced stage, it noted that the bourgeoisie was no longer in power as the ruling class. But it refused to say that the “leap” to workers’ states had been made. The resolution considered these states as bourgeois states of a special type, something like “degenerated bourgeois states” although their structure – in the words of the resolution itself – was closer to that of the USSR than that of normal capitalist states. As a reason for this definition the resolution mentioned “the historic origins of the present situation and ... the still indecisive social physiognomy” of the buffer zone countries. It indicated “the elimination of national frontiers between the buffer zone countries” as the “decisive and fundamental” factor for the completion of structural assimilation.
One year later, at the 8th Plenum, the discussion still continued in our ranks, and besides the adoption of a brief resolution on the class nature of Yugoslavia, two resolutions were submitted for a consultative vote of the Plenum, one by comrade Pablo, the other by comrade Germain, differing in the premises on which they based their definition of the Yugoslav state and in which the problem of the nature of the buffer zone countries was in fact inferred.
The developments which have occurred in the buffer zone since then have enabled us to overcome the differences which existed at the time and to evolve a very precise position, with an equally clear understanding of the reasons which caused the delay and the errors of our movement on the question of the buffer zone.
We believe that the buffer zone states are no longer capitalist states and that, like the USSR, they are fundamentally, i:e. in the domain of the relations of production and property, workers’ states. The changes which were made in their economies, the extension of nationalization and planning to all spheres of the economy, fundamentally distinguishes them from capitalist states.
What has happened in these countries is not a quantitative increase in nationalizations as has taken place in certain capitalist countries, but a qualitative transformation of the economy. It is not only heavy and light industry which is nationalized and planned but also the banks, all of transportation and all trade, foreign and domestic, wholesale as well as retail (in large part at least).
It is true that the land is not formally nationalized. This is not a negligible question, but it is not fundamental from the standpoint of a sociological characterization, in view of the considerable restrictions on the purchase and sale of land, and the introduction of collectivization on the countryside.
The relationships of production and property have been upset from top to bottom in these countries, and this transformation is continuing and involving spheres which have not as yet been affected (with the exception of agriculture with which we have already dealt). A return of these countries to a capitalist type structure will only be possible through a counter-revolution, which is obviously linked to the outcome of the coming war.
These are the fundamental changes of the economic structure which make us characterize these states as workers’ states. There are, to be sure, important differences on the political and even on the economic plane among these states and between them and the USSR. That is not surprising. The evolution of varied human societies, among them workers’ states, toward socialism cannot help but be affected by a whole series of factors. The march from capitalism to socialism will certainly give rise to very diverse social forms.
What is happening in the buffer zone countries is rather the obverse The reactionary intervention of the Moscow bureaucracy tends to impose forms approximating those in the USSR upon these countries and also to Russify an important part of their state apparatuses for the purpose of assuring Kremlin control.
We are also witnessing on the plane of social relations in the buffer zone countries the imposition of a policy modeled on that of the Soviet bureaucracy which is directed towards the creation of an apparatus and socially privileged stratum in relation to the mass of the workers.
But all of these elements, which have a very great importance in determining our policy in these countries, are not decisive so far as the sociological characterization of these states is concerned.
Exception is made, in the resolution submitted to this Congress, in this sociological characterisation of the buffer zone countries, for the Soviet zone in Austria which has not undergone any of these fundamental transformations.
The resolution submitted to the Congress designates the buffer zone states as deformed workers’ states. What do we mean by this designation?
We did not use the term degenerated workers’ states because of the fact that this designation should only be applied (as in the case of the USSR) to a workers’ state which was born in the revolutionary struggle of the masses and which subsequently deteriorated as a result of the bureaucratic seizure of power to the detriment of the working masses.
The buffer zone states are not the product of the revolutionary action qf the masses but of the action of the bureaucracy, to which question we will return later. The defects they now have were present from the beginning. We do not mean “deformed” in the sense of workers’ states marred by bureaucratic deformations as was the case with the USSR, in the first years of its existence. In this context the word deformed means that these states have primarily the same fundamental defect as the USSR, i.e., the complete elimination of the proletariat, on the economic as well as the political plane, from the leadership of these countries.
In saying that we have been belated in characterizing these states as workers’ states, we do not believe that we were wrong on this point in 1946 and at the time of the Second World Congress. We still believe that up to 1949 these states still retained a fundamentally capitalist structure, although it was considerably damaged from the capitalist point of view. The descriptions and analyses made by our movement up to 1949 were correct as a whole. We had correctly emphasized the principal tendencies of development. We were hesitant on the possibility of the realization of these tendencies under existing conditions or at least as we interpreted these conditions.
The transformation of bourgeois states (decayed) into deformed workers’ states under the conditions it has occurred has raised a series of theoretical problems which should be dealt with.
For us, the norm in such a transformation is the revolutionary action of the masses, their armed struggle destroying the old apparatus of the bourgeois state and substituting a new state for it. The manner of the transformation in the bufffer zone countries does not correspond to the norm. Essentially it was the result of the action of the bureaucracy of the USSR and its agents. Does this call for a revision of Marxism? We do not think so at all.
From what happened at the beginning of the Second World War and from the deductions Trotsky had drawn from these events, we were ready to grasp the tendency toward structural assimilation, to understand these phenomena as they occurred But we hesitated in our theoretical generalizations. Why?
The bureaucracy is not a class, it has no fundamental role in history, it does not make history, on the contrary it seeks only to cheat history. But it has demonstrated an undeniable power, for reasons we well know, to deform and disfigure the march of the historic process. Stalinism falsifies past history, but it employs the same methods – and they are not without their consequences – on the present. We have seen Stalinism distort fundamental ideas in the minds of communist workers; we have seen it manipulate workers’ organizations and their policy. The Kremlin bureaucracy, with all the material and political power it derives from the Soviet state, has been able to manipulate phenomena to the point of rendering them momentarily more or less unrecognizable, without however derailing the fundamental social forces and the laws of history. One of our primary weaknesses was that of not always being able to rapidly disentangle the profound nature, of phenomena from the disfiguration they had suffered at the hands of the bureaucracy.
On the other hand, we ourselves did not exactly appreciate the conditions under which the bureaucracy had to operate. It is true that it acted in quite an empirical manner; in the beginning it did not dream of going beyond its agreements with imperialism. It merely wanted to convert the buffer zone states into zones of military protection and not into a belt of workers’ states on the borders of the USSR. Molotov’s declaration when Soviet troops entered the territory of a capitalist state for the first time, the theory of people’s democracy (1st edition), was not (contrived to deceive the bourgeoisie. The Kremlin bureaucracy had been obliged to go further than it intended. But we have only recently begun to appreciate more exactly the conditions under which the Kremlin acted. It is only approximately one year ago that we have begun to appreciate the grandeur of the revolutionary forces in all their scope let loose by the decomposition of capitalism. The discussion on the political report at this Congress has permitted an understanding of the full scope of these forces.
It is the decomposition of capitalism which has spoiled all the calculations of the bureaucracy as well as of imperialism in their search for a compromise which was also to include the buffer zone countries. We were especially cognizant of the bureaucratic character of the measures taken by the Kremlin but we were insufficiently appreciative of the forces which impelled the bureaucracy to reluctantly take the measures which in turn more and more barred the road to a compromise with imperialism and created a fundamentally different situation particularly in the buffer zone countries.
Among the causes of error on our part was the absolute juxtaposition of the action of the masses and that of the bureaucracy. We said: A workers’ state is not the creation of bureaucratic action, but only of the revolutionary action of the masses. The bureaucracy, as we well know, never or almost never eliminates the action of the masses in its interventions; what it seeks to suppress is the action of the masses which it cannot rigorously control; but it is very well able to utilize the action of the masses which it can control in order to attain its own objectives at, a given moment.
That was also true in the buffer zone countries. It placed the workers’ movement there under its tutelage, it proceeded from purge to purge, it destroyed all initiative of the masses, all independent action to a considerable degree, but it nevertheless mobilized these masses in a form it completely controlled for the purpose of being able to proceed to the important changes it deemed necessary in the buffer zone countries. We did not believe that it could carry out an operation of such scope in the buffer zone countries without losing control of the mass movement.
Because we were not always capable of analyzing the deformative effects of bureaucratic action on the historic process, because we did not have an extremely precise estimation of the forces let loose by the decomposition of capitalism and because we did not always understand the utilization of the masses by the bureaucracy, we committed errors on the buffer zone question; and we became involved in a problem which was not the real one, because there was no real solution for it, namely that of the criterion which determines the moment when the “leap” takes place. We were not faced with a relatively normal process. History had gone through bureaucratic channels in these countries and the endeavor to apply rigorous norms there was not without its dangers.
It goes without saying that in recognizing the character of the bureaucratic action in the buffer zone countries we not only do not attribute any progressive character to it, not only do we continue to consider it as counterrevolutionary as a whole, but we underscore the limits of bureaucratic possibilities. They were brought to bear on bourgeois countries in full decomposition where social relations had already been very unstable before the war and where the bourgeoisie had been considerably undermined during the war.
ft also goes without saying that the evolution of the buffer zone countries since 1945 does not provide the slightest justification for the theory of “people’s democracy” (1st edition) which imitated the old social democratic revisionist conception of a possible gradual passage from capitalism to socialism. This theory has been a lamentable failure in Western European capitalist countries. In Eastern Europe, the bureaucratic intervention which was substituted for the revolutionary action of the masses had nothing whatever in common with gradual, organic evolution.
The buffer zone situation has also demonstrated several facts to us which lead to important theoretical or political conclusions.
The buffer zone situation demonstrated that the coming to power of Stalinist parties under bureaucratic conditions (contrary to those in Yugoslavia or China) had similar although less marked consequences on these parties. The contradictions of society were reflected in these parties with growing acuteness. The pressure of the masses made itself strongly felt in opposition to the demands of the Muscovite bureaucracy. The apparatus, .even the leadership itself of these parties, is sensitive to this pressure. Thus far the tendencies expressing or reflecting this pressure have shown themselves extremely weak in face of the GPU apparatus, but one cannot exclude a different development in objectively different conditions.
Another very important point. The buffer zone experience has revealed – and even bourgeois observers have testified to this – that the working masses of these countries, although very hostile to the bureaucracy, are very attached to the transformations in the system even though they were achieved bureaucratically. Trotsky wrote in the definition of the USSR which he gave in Revolution Betrayed:
“The social revolution betrayed by the government party still lives in the property relations and in the consciousness of the toilers.”
In the buffer zone countries as well, the social transformations not only live in the existing property relations but also in the consciousness of the toilers although these social relations occurred not in a revolutionary but in a bureaucratic way. That is a very important element for a proper appreciation of the buffer zone countries.
What we have learned on this point from the Ukrainian independence movement is also very significant. As a result of the division of the Ukraine before the Second World War, the Ukrainian nationalist movement in Poland had contributed in bringing independence tendencies into being in the Soviet Ukraine. But on the other hand, the difference in social system between these two sections of the Ukraine had led to the evolution of the Ukrainian nationalists in Poland toward the adoption of the social forms of property of the Soviet Ukraine. This is a phenomenon which should not be forgotten, especially in the case of present-day Germany.
Our policy for the buffer zone countries, given the conclusion we have arrived at on their class nature and also the place they will have in the coming war, does not raise any moot problems. The discussion on the political resolution has clarified the problems posed by the buffer zone countries.
We are for the unconditional defense of these workers’ states against imperialism in the war now being prepared. It is fundamentally the same problem as that of the defense of the USSR. We defend these states as working class conquests, regardless of the bureaucratic means which were used to bring them into being and regardless of the policy followed by their governments. Our defense of these states in no case, at no time, implies a limitation of our criticism of the policy followed by the governments of these states.
We have designated these states as deformed workers’ states specifying that their deformation has been identical to that of the USSR principally in the expropriation of the proletariat from the administration of these states. It follows therefore that, as for the USSR, our political program for these countries is that of political revolution having as its aim the elimination of the bureaucracy from power and its resumption by the working masses. This point does not raise especially different problems from those of the USSR. Let us merely observe that there is not a native bureaucracy in these countries possessing a strength comparable to that of the Soviet bureaucracy; in truth, it is the Soviet bureaucracy which constitutes the principal prop, the principal strength of the native bureaucracies.
As in the case of the USSR, it is obvious that the defense of these countries does not exclude but on the contrary implies our support to movements of the worker and poor peasant masses against the bureaucracy. In the case of these countries, as in that of the’ national minorities in the USSR, we are also in favor of supporting mass movements for national independence from the yoke of the Soviet bureaucracy. In the buffer zone countries we are for the independence of these countries and their organization into a voluntarily organized federation.
All these points present no difficulties. They have long been the common property of our movement acquired on the question of the USSR in the past years by following step by step the evolution of the first workers’ state. The only difference is that these countries suffer even more severely from their unequal relations with Moscow than do the nationalities of the USSR. Over the decades the national question has always been a very sensitive point in these countries. Finally the question of their federation has had a long tradition in the workers’ movements of these countries, it having figured in the programs of socialist parties of these countries even before 1914.
In conclusion, we see that the buffer zone question has, in fact, been the extension of the Russian question which has so often been discussed in our movement, and not the point of departure for a new chapter in the history of the Soviet regime. But it is an extension which has taken its own peculiar course.
Our definition of the USSR, our comprehension of the dual role of the Soviet bureaucracy has permitted us to orient ourselves in a generally correct manner in the study of what has happened in the buffer zone countries and in understanding their fundamental tendencies. At bottom this was decisive.
But on the other hand, various inadequacies on our part have made us mark time, have led us into secondary problems and even into error. Today the situation has largely contributed in permitting us to overcome our weaknesses without great internal difficulties. It permits us to basically understand the buffer zone countries, their development, their contradictions.
We believe that the discussion based on the resolution presented by the International Secretariat will enable our movement to acquire all necessary clarity on this question and to seriously arm our militants for the political problems they will be faced with in the coming years.
After speeches by 15 delegates, the reporter made the following points:
The buffer zone was a relatively new phenomenon for which our only terms of reference were the occupation of territories by the Soviet army at the beginning of the Second World War. The term we employed in 1946, that of “structural assimilation,” corresponded to our comprehension of this phenomenon at the time and of the perspectives of development we were then able to envisage. In light of what has occurred, a definition more closely approximating
the phenomenon might possibly have been contrived. However, that did not appear necessary to us then, provided that more was not read into these words than was actually intended.
The words “structural assimilation” in the resolution do not mean that the buffer zone states have been incorporated in one or another form into the USSR or that their economies no longer have any independence in relation to that of the USSR. This term simply means that these states have fundamentally the same structure, the same fundamental relations of property and production as that of the first workers’ state, the USSR. It is true, as the resolution points out, that the economic relations of these states with the USSR have been extended but that does not mean “structural assimilation” to us.
We live in a period of uninterrupted convulsions and that is why our theory should more than ever be a guide to action and not be transformed into rules which become abstractions when confronted with the reality. As is indicated in the report, one cannot apply the “norm,” i.e. in this case, to demand to know the date on which the “leap” occurred. We will not repeat the explanation given in the resolution on this point. Let us only add that in a number of countries one would seek in vain for the “date” on which they passed over from feudalism to capitalism.
A comrade has mentioned the absence of nationalization on the land to prove the formation of new bourgeois strata in the country, thus creating dual power and an accumulation of dangers for these countries. We have pointed out in the report that the absence of nationalization of the land was an important question but not at all decisive for a characterization of the sociological nature of these countries.
It is true that tendencies toward the restoration of capitalism manifest themselves on the countryside in these countries because of their economic backwardness. But to proceed from there and to speak of new bourgeois strata is stretching the point too much; it is even less valid to speak of dual power. The facts do not support such statements. Tendencies are not yet a bourgeois class or dual power.
It is true that there are dangers to the non-capitalist structure of these states in possible developments on the countryside. That was the case with the USSR from the NEP up to 1928; although in this instance it must also be recognized that the danger was in nowise removed by nationalization of the land. The danger is also to be seen in Yugoslavia, which will be discussed on the next point of the agenda. But it is already possible to say that what makes these phenomena on the countryside dangerous in Yugoslavia is the considerable pressure now being brought to bear by imperialism on the country. The dominant pressure on the buffer zone countries at the present time comes from the opposite direction.
A comrade has raised the question of the application of the term “exploitation” to the Soviet bureaucracy. It is not a class, he says, and therefore its role in production is not that of exploitation in the Marxist sense of the term. Agreed. But if I am not mistaken the 2nd World Congress used the term “exploitation” for the mixed companies which the USSR had then imposed on the buffer zone countries. The Soviet state, in fact, played a capitalist role in these companies as is also the case with certain workers’ organizations which engage in businesses associated with their general activity. The Soviet state acted as a capitalist in the case of the mixed companies and thus we have actually a case of exploitation.
The more complex question with which comrade Pablo has dealt is the one raised by several comrades on the completion of structural assimilation. We noted tendencies to structural assimilation beginning with 1945-46. From that time on, there existed potentially the possibilities of transformation which subsequently occurred. But its completion was the result of national and international factors.
The scope of nationalizations is not enough for an appreciation of the developments in the buffer zone countries. In 1946, there remained not only a capitalist economic structure, but the reconstructed states also had a capitalist political structure. With a different relationship of forces, another situation might have resulted in some of the buffer zone countries.
As a consequence of the “cold war,” the Soviet bureaucracy was not only obliged to adopt a series of economic measures fundamentally transforming the economic structure of these states, but it also had to embark on a series of measures fundamentally transforming their political structure in order to align them with the structure of the USSR. The period in which these transformations occurred, bringing to completion the tendencies to structural assimilation which had existed from the beginning, dates clearly from the start of 1949, extends through that year and into 1950.
We also have to rectify what is erroneous in the draft document on the question of Albania. It is quite accurate that during the Second World War a development very much like that of Yugoslavia occurred in that country.
The question of the buffer zone has not only served to better arm us politically on the subject of Eastern Europe and of Asia but in general to help us better understand the period of transition from capitalism to socialism as we know it in its first stages.
1. It should be pointed out, however, that when the discussion resumed at a later stage E.R. Frank was one of the first to make clear that capitalist property relations had been destroyed in the buffer zone, the process of “structural assimilation” having been completed.
Last updated: 16.9.2005