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Jack Weber

Petty Bourgeois Opposition
Shows Its Bankruptcy

(18 October 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 42, 18 October 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

It would be hard to find a more bewildered group of individuals today than those who split away from the Socialist Workers Party to form their own little organization, the so-called Workers Party. The September issue of their theoretical organ, the New International, contains a “Manifesto” on the War in Russia. We call attention to it here in order to illustrate once again the utter political bankruptcy which results when events catch up with utterly false theories.

You will look in vain for any explanation of the war in terms of “Russian imperialism’’, or Stalinist “imperialism”, the “idea” that motivated this group to form its own party. Forced to recognizer the most obvious facts, the manifesto waxes almost lyrical concerning the fight of the masses against fascism. This, we are told takes place in spite of Stalin and all his works. But the Lebruns and Co. are not to be moved!

The main question that faces every conscious political person at the present time is; what stand should be taken on the war? In a manifesto devoted to the war in Russia, surely one would expect a simple, clear answer to this simple clear question. In truth, however, the manifesto is written precisely with an eye to evading this question, and to suit all-comers.

“Whatever may be the end of the Russo-German war, the regime of the Stalinist burocracy is doomed. Russian victory against Hitler would only be made possible by a profound revolution of the masses and the consequent restoration of the conquests of October and of the rights and benefits to the Russian working class that the Bolshevik revolution sought to give them in its beginning.”

And prior to this statement we have:

“In the Soviet Union, more than in any other country, victory in case of war will be assured mainly by the power of its ideals, by the international solidarity of the workers, by the revolutionary prospects in other countries, and not by the Russian guns, tanks and planes alone.”

But for reasons that are clear only to the WP, Stalin alone is made custodian of the revolutionary process. “These ideological weapons have been squandered by Stalin.” Hence we must discard a vain hope.

The “Logic” of the Petty-Bourgeosie

One would suppose that with these as the’ premises for Soviet victory, there could be no two choices in the matter: one must be for the victory of the Soviet Union at all costs, for even with victory Stalin is doomed. Shall we at least make the effort to meet these conditions for the advance of the workers’ revolution? We quote the logic of the manifesto on this crucial point. We have omitted no step in the reasoning, nothing is left out. “If this fails to come, what the Soviet Union may expect is defeat by Hitler’s guns or, possibly, dismemberment even in ease of an Allied victory. There is therefore no place in this war for defense of the present Soviet regime under Stalin’s dictatorship”. How did this conclusion sneak in?’

Truth to tell, the writer forgets what he wrote from one sentence to the next. Having been informed that the Stalin regime is doomed no matter what the outcome of the war, we go back and read this interesting bit of argumentation:

“If the bureaucratic gang were able to go through the whole process of the present war uninjured, then the establishment of a new social class, based on a collective form of property, would be the clearly visible culmination of Russia’s political and economic evolution.”

This cannot be.

Nevertheless, the writer then bases his conclusions on precisely this bit of conditional reasoning that simply cannot be. Hitler’s victory will accomplish (for the working class, if the writer is to be understood) one great progressive task; namely, the destruction of the Stalinist totalitarian regime.

The End-Product of Soviet Defeatism

When it comes to obscurantism, the writer of the manifesto yields nothing to Hitler. Covered over under these phrases is the desirability of a Russian defeat because it will overthrow the Stalinist regime. One would suppose that the veriest child would understand that this means killing not only the Stalinist regime but the October Revolution as well.

To get around this fact the manifesto resorts to the purest form of mysticism. Hitler’s victory will at the same time mean his defeat! How come? The Russian proletariat will then revive, Hitler having rendered them the proper aid for the purpose by getting rid of Stalin. Incredible, but here it is:

“Assaulting Russia, the most he can do, besides getting some immediate material advantages in case of an over-powering but transient victory, is to destroy a decayed regime and crush Stalinism. But the Russian land in its immensity will absorb his exclusively military victory and meanwhile the people, who are tempered by the traditions of their great revolution and brought up in anti-fascist hatred, are immune from internal poisoning by means of assimilation of the conqueror’s ideology. By destroying with his guns the Stalinist totalitarian regime, Hitler, like the sorcerer’s apprentice of the fable, will have set loose the forces of history, bringing forth the torrents of revolution.”

If the Russian workers were unable by themselves to throw off the Stalinist incubus, just how will they be enabled to throw off the more powerful Hitler after his complete dispersal of all Soviet forces and institutions? Please do not expect any kind of answer from the manifesto. Its thinking is on a plane all its own, following no laws of either ordinary logic or of dialectics, but a schematism that fits an unreal world. The question remains: aside from canvassing, even in its own peculiar way, all the possibilities of victory or defeat, is the WP for or against Russian victory, or is it completely indifferent? Only shame-faced cowardice keeps the manifesto from giving a simple answer to this simple question.

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