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Maurice Spector

Internationalism – Our Banner

(October 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 46, 22 October 1938, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

If there was one pillar of the early Comintern that seemed more unshakable than Gibraltar, it was its intransigent internationalism, its basic policy of world revolution. The Communist International was conceived during the world war in the course of the revolutionary struggle against social patriotism.

The collapse of the Second International was due to its opportunistic adaptation to the capitalist legality of the national state. To pillory the social patriotism of the Social Democracy, to attack its policy of coalition government, to denounce its fetishistic support of bourgeois democracy, its voting of military credits, all this was part of everyday communist agitation and propaganda. Whenever the international situation sharpened, the air resounded with Comintern pledges to work for the transformation of any imperialist war into a civil war.

Lenin’s Teachings

Every communist knew that Lenin had drawn two decisive conclusions from the law of the irregularity of capitalist political and economic development: (1) that, contrary to the opinion of Kautsky, it was possible to begin the revolution in a single country, without waiting for the rest of the world, but (2) that it was impossible for a single country to achieve the victory of socialism without the advance of the frontiers of the revolution in the industrial West. There was no ambiguity about this.

Again and again he repeated that the existence of the Soviet republic alongside the imperialist states was in the long run impossible. One or the other would triumph. The big historical problem of the October revolution as he saw it, and as the entire Comintern appeared to agree, lay in resolving the international problem by means of stimulating and organizing the world revolution.

So long as the post-Leninist struggle inside the Russian Communist party proceeded on such apparently separate questions, as workers democracy, the lessons of the German communist failure of 1923, the experiences of the Anglo-Russian committee, and economic planning, many communists of the West, increasingly restive over the turn of events and the character of the Russian discussions, were still uncertain. In many cases it still seemed possible to reconcile the conflicting views within the framework of the same party and International. Loyalty to the Communist International permeated such militants to the core, and decisions would involve a rupture with what they had been accustomed to regard as “the General Staff of the World Revolution” were not taken lightly.

The Final Straw

What shook their faith in the post-Leninist Moscow leadership to the point where “loyal” acceptance of the majority thesis was no longer possible, was the final emergence of the Stalinist theory of “socialism in one country.” The stand that the Russian Opposition made against this revision of Leninism proved to be a stand against the Stalinist counter-revolution. There were friends of the Opposition who thought that Trotsky was unduly magnifying the issue and allowing himself to be outsmarted. The Brandler-Thalheimer group attempted to minimize the issue as academic. Even close sympathizers of Trotsky, reading his Critique of, the Draft Program of the Comintern during the Sixth Congress (1928) wondered if its author was not anticipating too much and too readily.

Experience itself has established that the official adoption of the theory of socialism in a single country, a product of the ebb of the revolution in Europe, and the defeats administered to the working class, has become the fully rounded out formula of Stalinist social-patriotism and the degeneration of the Comintern.

Renunciation of Revolution

The tactics of the Leninist Comintern in a period of capitalist stabilization were necessarily different than in a period of stormy assault on the capitalist fortress during a revolutionary crisis. But the policy of Stalinist national socialism involved a renunciation of the proletarian revolution itself. Since the adoption of that policy the consequences for both the Soviet Union and the international proletariat have been increasingly tragic. What happened, objectively speaking, is that Stalin joined Hitler in crushing out the revolutionary spirit of the working class vanguard. Even their methods became indistinguishable.

With every retreat from the policy of world revolution, with every new improvisation of popular frontism, the advance of fascism became more rapid and more powerful. Fascism is today on the offensive. The Munich pact signals the complete bankruptcy of the whole edifice of collective security. The Popular Front is a shambles.

The Stalinists sold out the interests of the French working class for the sake of “the defense of the Soviet Union.” Their “realism” has left the Soviet Union in a position of the greatest isolation. After absorbing Czechoslovakia, as he had absorbed Germany before that, thanks to the cowardly passivity of the Comintern, Hitler is now proceeding with plans for the political and economic hegemony of Europe and the future partition of the Soviet Union.

There Is No Substitute

It has been proved that the revolutionary aid of the Western workers cannot be replaced by imperialist alliances without catastrophic results for the October revolution. The Permanent Revolution, the special object of Stalinist hatred, has been replaced by permanent executions. National socialism in Russia has destroyed the soviet superstructure, replacing it with a totalitarianism as complete as Hitlers. The “socialist accumulation” of the five-year plans under Stalin rivalled the infamies of early capitalist accumulation.

Twenty years after the October revolution and the “complete victory of socialism,” Denny of the New York Times reports that the coming winter in the U.S.S.R. is expected to be one of the hardest. The old familiar queues stretch for blocks. Twenty years after, the masses still wait for a pair of boots, an overcoat, a dress, a bottle of milk, a pound of butter.

Undermine the Only Force

The one force that could solve the Soviet Union’s “international problem” was the working class and this is the force that the Soviet Union has consistently undermined. The policy of Soviet national socialism has been to use the workers abroad merely as diplomatic cannon fodder. Armaments are greater than ever, the power of Hitlerism has expanded – and the workers have been filled with the virus of social patriotism.

The masses deep down are against imperialist war. They are ready to struggle for peace. The task is to show them that peace is attainable only by a struggle for power. But the Stalinist parties join with the most extreme reactionaries and nationalists in their agitation and incitement for war.

The Stalinists, like Browder in the United States, no longer even talk of the “defense of the Soviet Union.” They proclaim their readiness to go to the defence of their own capitalist “fatherlands.” They urge their own capitalist classes to protect and further their investments in colonies and markets abroad, so that the “democracies” can checkmate the fascists in South America or China!

The sole repository of the revolutionary internationalism of the early Comintern is now the Fourth international. The small groups of the new International in all countries have courageously struggled against the current of social-patriotism and uncompromisingly exposed the sources of Stalinist corruption. The Fourth International can have no illusions that it has the present strength to deter the imperialists in their war-provocations, or save the U.S.S.R, from inner degeneration or outside attack. This strength must come from the masses and the successful penetration of the masses by the revolutionary Marxists.

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