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World Politics

Socialist-Stalinist Unity in Europe

(23 September 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 38, 23 September 1946, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Congress of the French Socialist Party recently concluded, was dominated by a so-called left majority which favored closer cooperation with the Communist Party, though it did not come out for organic unification. Nonetheless, the pressure of the Stalinists in behalf of such unification, both through their own party and through the elements they influence inside the French Socialist Party, remains powerful.

Nor is the issue confined to France. In Eastern Germany, the Russians have forced some elements of the Social Democrats, and bribed others, into uniting in one party with the Stalinists, the so-called “Socialist Unity Party” which the Stalinist control from top to bottom. In England the Labor Party rejected the Stalinist proposal for affiliation; in Italy the issue remains a vital one; in Poland “unity” under the pressure of Russian bayonets has been forced through; and in other countries the Stalinists are conducting similar campaigns.

What attitude should revolutionary Socialists have toward these developments? Should they favor such “unity?”

This problem cannot be considered on the basis of previously formed abstractions: to talk now about unification of working class parties in general is meaningless and deceptive.

The Social Democracy in Europe has traditionally based itself on the labor aristocracy, that is, the trade union officialdom and the more skilled sections of the working class. It has functioned within the framework of capitalism, and has done its best to thwart any revolutionary movement which would proceed beyond this framework. Despite this role of the Social Democrats it is still necessary to distinguish between it and the role of the Stalinists.

The Social Democracy usually functioned as a collaborator with sections of its “own” capitalist class; but it still remains part of the working class movement. In its classical form, it represents a certain level of consciousness in the development of the European working class. But it bases itself nonetheless on working class strata within its “own” country; to some limited degree it represents their interests and is amenable to their pressures. Its very existence requires the perpetuation of democracy; it is a party inextricably linked with the continuation of bourgeois democracy.

Stalinists and Their Role in Politics

The Stalinist parties are quite different. They function essentially and preponderantly as agents and police spies of the Russian Stalinist bureaucracy. Wherever there is a conflict between the interests of the working class of a given country and the interests of the Kremlin oligarchy, the Stalinist parties line up on the side of the Kremlin. No amount of working class pressure can deflect them from such a course. During the war, the American Stalinists were opposed to strikes because they were so directed by the Russian bureaucracy. No amount of pressure from the ranks of the trade unions in which they functioned could in any important respect force the Stalinists to modify that line.

The Stalinists parties, as agents of a counter-revolutionary bureaucracy in Russia, are a totalitarian movement opposed to the slightest degree of working class democracy. It is true that Stalinism addresses itself to the working class; and has succeeded in securing in many countries mass support from the workers. But the fact that a party has support among workers does not necessarily make it a working class party.

Stalinism is a unique and unprecedented historical phenomenon: the completely subservient and counter-revolutionary foreign agent of the Russian bureaucracy which arose over the ruins of the Russian revolution. It seeks mass support among the working class, but not in purpose, character, ideology or internal regime does it serve the working class. It is not a working class movement.

If the Stalinists succeeded in forcing a fusion with the Social Democratic parties, the results would be catastrophic for the workers and for the socialist movement. Were there a powerful mass revolutionary movement in Europe, the picture would undoubtedly be changed. Given the small and isolated sections of the Fourth International and a few parallel groups in Europe, given the absence of a mass revolutionary movement in Europe today, unification of the Social Democracy and Stalinists could only have the concrete effect of putting the European labor movement under the virtual domination of Stalinism. Such unification would remove the Social Democracy as the present partial and ineffective, but still existent buffer against complete domination of the labor unions by Stalinism. The occasional protection, which, for whatever reasons, the Social Democracy now gives to revolutionary movement from the terrorist onslaughts of Stalinist onslaught, would no longer be available.

For these and similar reasons we believe revolutionary socialists should not give any support to the movement for the fusion of Stalinism and Social Democracy, despite the fact that it is conducted under the spurious slogan of “working class unity.” In the specific circumstances of present European politics, such fusion can only result in strengthening one of the worst enemies of the working class – the Stalinist counter-revolution.

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