Stalinism: It's Origin and Future. Andy Blunden 1993

The Collapse of Eastern Europe


Nicolae Ceausescu was one of the most repressive and corrupt of Stalinist leaders. His independence of Moscow (maintaining diplomatic relations with Israel, criticising invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, and Afghanistan in 1984) earned support from the West. Secretly he sold Soviet military information to the US. Jimmy Carter welcomed him as a 'freedom fighter', the Queen conferred an honorary knighthood on him. The WA mining magnate Lang Hancock cultivated a personal friendship with him and the wealthy far-right Italian businessman, Iosef Dragan who had been a Nazi collaborator during WWII, was also a well-known supporter.

Ceausescu also distinguished himself from the other “communist” leaders by making a policy of actually paying out the Western bankers, rather than remaining within the debt-trap - but at enormous human cost! Business Week of February 1 1982 appreciated his efforts:

“it is a centrally directed family shop that follows instructions from the boss. There is no opposition, no trade unions. To meet the country’s financial obligations resources can be marshalled and sacrifices imposed”.

Though exporting the basic necessities of life to pay the countries debt, Ceausescu was no model of fiscal caution. Following a 1971 visit to China, Ceausescu initiated a program of building massive industrial complexes, most of which turned out to be white elephants; vast palaces such as the unfinished 'People’s Palace' which occupied 400,000 sq m, the work of 500 architects, with an underground entrance and fortifications, 35 receptions rooms of up to 100 sq m each on the ground floor alone, with an endless succession of massive chandeliers which would seriously drain the nation’s inadequate electricity grid if all turned on at once, and marble staircases which were frequently torn down and rebuilt to meet Ceausescu’s criticisms.

Then there was the unfinished luxury apartment block built to house all Ceausescu’s supporters in the bureaucracy and the Securitate, along a magnificent avenue running up to the Palace, employing 18,000 construction workers. And all this in one of the poorest countries in Europe, where unlike elsewhere in Eastern Europe, the foreign debt was being reduced by means of keeping the mass of the population in abject poverty.

In pursuit of a mad scheme to 'abolish the distinction between town and country', beginning in 1986, Ceausescu had 150 towns and 1,800 small villages bulldozed to erect proposed 'agro-industrial complexes'. The repression of the Gypsies and in particular the Magyar minority consolidated opposition to Ceausescu in the countryside. The forced 'urbanisation' and 'industrialisation' of Rumania had created an urban working class from a largely agricultural country, but had not developed the technical and managerial base to support the process.

As 'democracy' swept through Eastern Europe, bringing down even the resolute Czechoslovakian government, Ceausescu refused to make any concession. The movement crystallised around the dissident Hungarian priest Father Laszlo Tokes, deported from the Transylvanian town of Timosoara for preaching against the government, particularly over their intolerable treatment of the Magyar minority.

On Saturday December 16 1989, a large crowd gathered around the church. Promises were given that if the crowd went home, Tekos would not be deported. This was taken as a victory. Within hours the crowd had grown to thousands. A factory worker who had begun a hunger strike rallied the crowd. The Securitate attacked them and hundreds were killed over a period of about three days. A demonstration of women carrying children was beaten by police and soldiers, but succeeded in taking the Party HQ. Tekos was taken away in the early hours of December 17. The crowd appealed to the army to support them.

The soldiers opened fire however, and many were killed. Securitate forces were massed in Timosoara along with soldiers. The army showed signs of hesitation and the Defence Minister, General Milea told Ceausescu that the crowds were 'ordinary citizens' and only blanks should be used. Ceausescu had Milea shot.

Shootings by Securitate and demonstrations mounted. It is reported that at this time, December 26, chants of 'We want Iliescu' were heard for the first time. Iliescu had been the CP leader in Timosoara in the 1960s. He had criticised Ceausescu’s economic policies and was shunted off to a job in the Water Board and later disappeared entirely. It is believed he was being groomed by Gorbachev to replace Ceausescu.

The next day a massive demonstration of workers took place with support from Party officials, and more chants for Iliescu were heard. The entry of the organised workers tipped the balance, and an Army unit joined the workers' demonstration. Political prisoners were freed.

Ceausescu gave an arrogant and defiant public address, and was heckled. In Timosoara a Civic Committee was formed. Fighting, increasingly now between the Army, supported by detachments of workers, and the Securitate, raged over the next week until the Securitate were at last hunted out and many killed, and Ceausescu and his wife shot. Lang Hancock and other ultra-right 'friends' of Ceausescu in the capitalist world expressed outrage at this overdue act of justice.

Power was assumed by a National Salvation Front supporting Ion Iliescu. Tokes was 'co-opted' into the Front. The Front created an Executive to act as government until an election scheduled for April. This, claimed the opposition, was too early to allow them to organise themselves. Decrees allowing peasants to retain 30% of produce for private sale indicated the direction being taken by the new government, which was one of cautious rather than all-out restoration of the market. The NSF also delivered a four-day week and pay increases to the miners.

The entire leadership of the Rumanian Communist Party was arrested, and at one point the CP was banned. However, this order was revoked amid profuse apologies and recriminations for the 'error of judgement'. The CP was however banned from 'public life' for a ten year period. The NSF resisted calls for CP leaders to be put on trial. It was later claimed that jailed members of the Securitate were being freed from prison.

The opposition were the National Liberal Party, the Hungarian Democratic Union and the National Peasants Party, each led by ageing exiles, and all advocating immediate privatisation and restoration of the market. In February, mobs loyal to the new National Salvation Front government ransacked opposition party offices.

Almost all members of the Front government had at some time served under Ceausescu’s government. It appeared that the NSF had been organised before the December uprising, and its members, all belonging to the former elite, had manoeuvred themselves so as to be able to sacrifice Ceausescu, and place themselves at the head of the movement against him.

In the April election, the NSF won 67 per cent of the vote, with Iliescu winning 86% for the Presidency, advocating 'a social market economy' on 'the Swedish model' with a continued substantial public sector. The poor performance of the opposition reflected the success of Ceausescu’s regime in preventing the growth of a social base for the opposition, and the ability of the Party to re-group itself in the NSF and retain the loyalty of the working class, in particular the miners. The depth of the poverty to which Rumania had been brought by Ceausescu meant that the future of the country was seen much more as a bread and butter issue than, for instance in neighbouring Hungary or Czechoslovakia.

The opposition mounted a sustained protest in the centre of Bucharest against the government’s alleged recidivism. The Army and the police failed to respond to calls by Iliescu to disband the demonstrations. But in June, in response to a request from Iliescu, train-loads of miners came into Bucharest and unleashed a horrific day-long burst of violence against the opposition. The miners mercilessly beat people - students, journalists and women receiving special attention - and cleared the city centre and University district, before returning home in the evening after receiving public congratulations from Iliescu. And all the while, the miners were discreetly minded by plain-clothes Securitate operatives.

This incident opened up divisions in the Front. Ceausescu’s Securitate was entirely corrupted and hated and the government ordered it to be disbanded. This was no easy matter however. Even after its official disbanding, the well-trained and armed Securitate remained very much in existence, partly working on their own account, publishing an anti-Semitic journal Greater Rumania and partly working to support Iliescu. Iliescu found that he could not rely upon the Army or the police, and now advocated the formation of a National Guard based on the organised workers to maintain order. Others however, wanted to follow the path of the other East European countries and were sympathetic to the position of the opposition.

The 'reformists' were centred around Prime Minister Petre Roman. In September, miners in the Jiu Basin district demanded a series of concessions. However, back in 1977, these same miners had taken strike action against Ceausescu and their leaders had been removed and Securitate agents installed in their place. Thus, the apparently spontaneous support given to Iluescu by the miners should not be taken at face value.

Despite the fact that Roman capitulated to all the miners' demands, a train-load of miners came to Bucharest demanding Roman’s resignation. This they achieved. On this occasion the miners, instead of beating oppositionists, actually camped with anti-communists in the University Square and solidarised with them. They then proceeded the next day to march on the Assembly and demand Iliescu’s resignation. Suddenly, the friendly response they had been receiving from the police turned into warning shots, and they returned home.

The turbulent and violent Rumanian story illustrates the contradictory nature of Stalinism in vivid colours. Living the life of a Byzantine despot, Ceausescu had maintained relations with the most reactionary and powerful in the capitalist world and even sold Soviet military secrets for his personal gain, while building palaces and bulldozing villages, provoking pogroms against the Gypsies and anti-Semitism. But by hook or by crook he retained control of the organised working class.

When the regime could no longer sustain him, it was still able to manipulate the workers to survive the upheavals of 1989. The programme of restoration of the market still proceeds, but at a slower pace and starting from a lower base. The outcome cannot be different. It is a tragedy that the Rumanian workers still remain the predominant force in society but have as yet been unable to develop a program which goes beyond the 'socialist market' charade of Iliescu, which can only lead soon or later to the triumph of the restorationist perspective.

The new bourgeoisie may emerge in Rumania out of the 'disbanded' Securitate, already well-financed, well-organised, well-armed and deeply involved in all manner of wheeling and dealing.


In late 1989 there was an escalating mass exodus of refugees from the DDR, mainly via Czechoslovakia and Hungary, which had opened its borders with Austria. Mass demonstrations in all the major cities grew in their magnitude. In Leipzig, demonstrations were organised every week, and by late October 120,000 were marching. The slogans were 'young people to power', 'our numbers are growing', with placards demanding freedom to travel, elections, press freedom, alternatives to military service, environmental demands and legalisation of the New Forum.

New Forum was an opposition coalition based on local committees across the country and influenced by a variety of political trends. It was influenced by the social change movements of the 70s and 80s in the West. The New Forum was the main force in organising the campaign of public demonstrations. It did not yet have any developed national leadership or organisation.

Leaders of the 9 million strong FDGB trade union federation admitted that the workers were becoming 'tense' and could no longer be contained. Almost all the CP’s district leaders were seeking Honecker’s removal. With a rising tide of demonstrations in the major cities, now 500,000-strong, the country bleeding to death with around 10,000 people per day crossing the border, (an estimated 185,000 since the beginning of the year) Erich Honecker resigned. Even the resignation of the entire Politburo could not stem the tide, as masses of people gathered on both sides of the Berlin Wall, crossing the border checkpoints as guards dared not prevent them.

In the most cathartic and symbolic event in this momentous year, the crowds simply tore the Wall down by whatever instruments were at hand, and the government legitimised what was happening and disbanded border regulations. An estimated four million people crossed into West Berlin during that week, the overwhelming majority returning home in the evening.

Hans Modrow, an SED (Communist Party) member known as a 'reformer' was elected Prime Minister by the East German parliament. He soon formed a coalition government with non-Stalinists, and the Liberal Democrat Manfred Gerlach became the Head of State. Senior Politburo members were expelled from the Party, and elections set for April 1990.

Following talks with Gorbachev, Modrow proposed that there should be a united and neutral Germany. 'Neutral' meant that the united Germany would not be in NATO, and there would be no foreign troops.

Elections were called in the East for 18 March 1990. West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, had visited the East and proposed immediate unification of the two republics with immediate full monetary union. Kohl promised economic assistance to facilitate integration of the East into the most powerful capitalist economy in Europe. Helmut Kohl identified himself with the East German Christian Democratic Union.

All the parties from the West had shipped in their party machines - publicists, organisers and market researchers. The Social-Democrats, who had long been the ruling party in the West, had hoped that the attachment of East Germans to the considerable social welfare infrastructure and rights in the East would naturally lead to strong support for them. They fared badly however.

There was a 93% turn-out. The result which is a stunning indictment of Stalinism, coming as it did from the home of Communism and what was the most industrialised and advanced economy of the Stalinist bloc.

The CDU won 41%, plus 7% to its allies. The SPD won 22%, and the 'reformed' Communist Party, the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) 16%. The New Forum ran in an Alliance with two 'soft left' groups Democracy Now and Alliance for Peace and Human Rights, but gained only 5% of the popular vote. Other parties were marginalised entirely and the far right did not show at this time.

In the 1946 election, the CDU had won 34% of the vote. After the uprising in 1953 the CDU had been brought into the government, and had since collaborated with the SED Stalinist government. According to spokespeople for the New Forum, the CDU were thoroughly compromised and its candidates included Stasi agents, among them Lothar de Maiziere, the new CDU Prime Minister.

The voting pattern in this election takes on added significance when the geographical distribution of voting is taken into account. In the working class district of East Berlin where the German Communist Party was founded, the vote for the New Forum was strongest, but the Stalinists received the majority of their votes from the rural districts.

The writer Stefan Heym, who described himself as a communist and supported the New Forum, said that the East German working class had brought the Stalinists down, and the Conservatives to power, and would now have to defend its interests in the process of unification of the country.

A coalition government including both the Christian Democrats and the SPD was formed, including a pacifist pastor, Rainer Hellmann, as Defence Minister and a number of intellectuals, with a brief to organise full monetary, economic, military and social union with the West in the shortest possible time.

The Soviet Union vainly argued for neutrality for the united Germany under various formulas, but this was never going to be. A united Germany would be capitalist, the state would be capitalist, and it would be a part of the capitalist military alliance with the US. In July, Gorbachev agreed to the inevitable, began withdrawal of the 380,000 Soviet troops, with a billion dollars from West Germany to pay for their upkeep in the meantime! The two Armies were merged - so much for Father Hellmann’s hopes for 'turning swords into plough shares'.

Chancellor Kohl’s agreement to monetary union with a one-for-one parity beginning almost immediately on 1 July, more or less guarantied support for the union in the East, where most people had considerable savings, but formerly not a lot to spend them on and lousy exchange rates with Western currencies. But along with the need to re-capitalise the entire East Germany industrial economy, this unification has proved to be a heavy burden for German capitalism in particular, and European capital in general.

Dissolution of the DDR was set for 3 October 1990. The former German Democratic Republic initially became the Federal Republic’s 12th Land (it would later be Lander no.s 12 to 16), with the existing Federal Constitution and its laws remaining in force over the whole country.

The devastation affecting the East’s 9,000 publicly owned enterprises, suddenly thrust into one of the most cut-throat capitalist economies in the world, was not helped by the cancellation of the DDR’s land nationalisation. Title to property was to be recognised, not only for properties nationalised in the 1940s, but some claims even went back to pre-war confiscations carried out by the Nazis. Very soon no-one knew who owned what or who was entitled to give permission for who to do what. (This situation was eventually dealt with by a system of compensation)

Now that religious freedom had been granted, the Lutheran Church put in a claim for establishment as the official state religion, but fortunately, feuding between different Lutheran sects helped undermine the push for a clerical state. Free abortion on demand, which had been a right of women in the DDR, was retained in the East for a time, but was ended under Church pressure.

Easterners found that hopes of retaining such social benefits as child-care, free medical treatment and cheap housing were as well-founded as Father Hellmann’s plans for the Army. Industrial output in the East fell by 10 per cent in the first quarter after monetary unification, as unemployment rose at a rate of 25,000 per month.

Mercedes for instance, even pulled out of a joint venture which had been planned before the collapse of the DDR to build cars for the East German market, because the economic crisis had exploded the market for cars in the East. Business people cited as reasons for not investing in the East: uncertainty over property rights, lack of qualified managers, risks from severe levels of pollution and land contamination, and the high levels of expectation and organisation of workers in the East. The main reason cited was the 'old guard public servants, incapable or unwilling to adapt to new ways' according to the German Chamber of Industry. The Chamber thought the fact that the East had only 600 qualified solicitors, compared with the West’s 30,000, was a serious obstacle to investment in the East! Claus Noe, a senior economic adviser in Hamburg cited the temporary nationalisation of industry in the West in 1948 as a precedent for arguing that it would be better for capitalism to retain the East’s industry in public hands, at least for a transition period, rather than bring about the collapse of production which would follow from immediate privatisation.

Such was the impact of the unification on people in the East that within 9 months the birth rate in some areas had fallen by 50 per cent, the crime rate had risen 30 per cent (mainly violence and robbery), while organised crime mainly originating in the West had set up the usual network of pornography, sex and drug merchandising.

Industrial output had fallen by 60 per cent in the first year after monetary union, and continued to fall. The employed workforce had fallen from 8.75m in 1990 to 6.5m in mid-1991, with half a million working in the West.

All-German elections were held in December 1990, with the Christian Democrats winning 4 of the 5 Eastern Lander, and Helmut Kohl retaining his position as Chancellor.

Anger among workers in the East was aggravated by seeing the former elite which they had overthrown moving into the best management jobs. By September, the CDU had lost 80,000 of its 130,000 members, and it’s 'popularity' declined to 27 per cent, as more and more of its Deputies, including Lothar de Maziere, resigned after exposure as former Stasi agents. The Social-Democrats' 'popularity' had climbed to 41 per cent.

And in the West, the tax increases, public spending cuts and wage cuts imposed to pay the $100,000m p.a. cost of reunification was causing anger too, leading up to a powerful wage strike by public sector workers in 1992. Interest rates of 10% (compared with comparable rates of 3% in the US) set by the Bundesbank were sucking capital from the world’s money markets and squeezing to death the ailing capitalist economies of Britain, the US and other countries.

By the end of 1992, the Western economy had reached a zero rate of growth, and was losing its share of the world market. Daimler-Benz and Mercedes were cutting jobs. The public borrowing requirement had grown to $200,000 million, a 30% growth over the year. Unemployment was to reach 3.5m by the end of 1993 - 2.15m in the West , the 1.35m in the East now representing 18.5% of the workforce, limited only by the one million workers who had taken early retirement.

At the same time, the rapid growth of racist violence in both East and West reflected the deep-going crisis of German society. Already in 1990, the police had recorded a five-fold increase in attacks on foreigners, eight-fold by 1992, and Neo-Nazi organisations were reported to have 6,000 members active in violent attacks, and a wider membership of 40,000 by August 1992.

The peculiar feature of the collapse of Stalinism in East Germany is that in the case of Germany there was a full-blown, mature and powerful capitalist state complete with a solid base in one of the most developed capitalist economies in the world, ready and waiting to intervene in the process.

The nascent left-wing leadership that had begun to emerge in the East was no match for the way things are played in the West. New Forum didn't quite manage to get the first edition of their national newsletter out before the Wall came down, and Kohl arrived with a plane load of media-consultants.

In the long run however, the considerable difficulties facing the German workers may prove to be their strength, and a strength for the working class of the whole world. It is reasonable to propose that the German working class will no more allow a repeat of the Hitler experience than it will allow a repeat of the Honecker experience. The reunification of the German nation is also the reunification of the German working class. It may take some time for the wounds of the past decades to be healed, the rich lessons to be drawn from this experience cannot surely be lost on the working class that gave us the first mass Marxist party in the world.


The process of collapse of the deformed workers' state in Yugoslavia has proved horribly different from the almost bloodless crumbling of the Warsaw Pact states.

In January 1990, after 18 months of conflict within the Yugoslavian CP, between delegates from the various republics of the federation, Slovene delegates and a majority of Croatian delegates walked out of the Yugoslavian CP’s special party Congress. The meeting had voted overwhelmingly to end the 'leading role of the Communist Party', but refused to move the country to a looser federation, as demanded by the Slovenes. Subsequently, Slovenes and Croats voted by a margin of 95% in referendums for secession from the 'South Slav state'. The Serbian majority supported Slobodan Milosevic’s position of retaining a centralised state.

Apart from the burden of caring for large numbers of refugees, the fortunate Slovenes seem so far, to have escaped the hell-on-earth unleashed across most of the former federation of Yugoslavia since that day.

The workers' state of Yugoslavia had been founded on the basis of a popular moved led by Tito’s partisans which genuinely united Croats, Serbs, Macedonians and Montenegrans. The partisans had fought and defeated both the dominant Serbian chauvinism, and Croatian fascism, as well as Hitler’s invading army.

However, the apparent resolution of the age-old national antagonisms of the Balkans was nothing more than a chimera created by Stalinist political repression. Croatian fascism lay quietly dormant for 50 years, waiting for its chance. However, more significantly, Greater Serbian chauvinism had re-asserted itself within the apparatus of the Yugoslavian state and the Yugoslavian Communist Party. When Stalinist political repression was no longer able to hold back the outrage of Croats, Slovenes, Moslems and others against their national oppression, then Serbian chauvinism came out into the open.

For the Slovenes, finding what they saw as their rightful place in prosperous and capitalist Europe simply meant secession from the Federation. For the Croatian nationalists, national self-determination (to which they have an inalienable right!) meant smashing the Yugoslavian state, tearing it apart. Serbian chauvinism had joined itself to the Yugoslavian state, just as in earlier times it had joined itself to the Serbian monarchy established in the liberation struggle against the Ottoman Empire.

I believe that Slobodan Milosevic is still properly described as a Stalinist. The horrific civil war, that is tearing the Balkans apart at the time of writing, makes it very difficult to determine the social and economic polices and the social base of the Serbian state. There can be no doubt that a terrible degeneration has taken place however. The merging of Stalinism with ultra-right nationalism is not unique to Serbia. Pol Pot’s ethnic-cleansing policy in relation to the ethnic-Vietnamese in Cambodia, and the Pamyat in Russia (who link Stalin-worship with Great Russian chauvinism and anti-Semitism) are other examples of this phenomenon.

There can be no social progress in the Balkans outside of a termination of the inter-communal fighting. The fragmentary nation-states that will emerge from this cemetery will have scant hope of political, let alone economic independence for many years afterwards. The first requirement is for a voice from the Serbian workers calling for a halt to Serbia’s petty-imperial ambitions.


In the Sino-Soviet split, Albania was the only Stalinist government to follow the Chinese line. When China began to patch up relations with the West from 1968 onwards, relations with China became strained, and from 1978 Albania pursued its own line, more or less keeping to the isolationist policies pursued by China during the 1960s. Enver Hoxha died in 1985, succeeded by his deputy Remiz Alia, and relations with other countries in the region were re-activated in 1988.

In the 1960s, Albania was like a parody of Chinese policy. A tiny country of about one and a half million people, it had been maintained in feudal backwardness by Turkish occupation until 1912. The establishment of an oil refinery, the beginnings of electrification and genuine national government was an achievement under these conditions. But the boasting of 'progress in the electrification program' in their propaganda in Western capitalist countries in the 1970s reflected the effects of political as well as economic isolationism.

Riots in the Yugoslavian province of Kosovo were blamed by officials in Belgrade on Albanian separatists allegedly wanting to secede and join neighbouring Albania. That may or may not have been true, but across the border Albanians were thinking in the opposite direction.

In late 1990, very limited reforms were initiated by the regime in Albania, and elections set for March 31, but the citizens expressed their confidence in these measures by an increasing flow of refugees across the border into Greece.

In February 1991, 100,000, mostly young, Albanians converged on the Albanian port of Durres in response to rumours that three boats were going to offer trips across the Adriatic to Italy. When Sambista (Security) forces arrived with dogs and batons to guard the port, full-scale riots broke out along Enver Hoxha Avenue. The riots rapidly shifted their focus and monuments of Enver Hoxha were smashed and bookshops were raided and Hoxha’s voluminous writings dragged out and ceremoniously burned.

President Ramiz Alia issued a statement: 'The Party of Labour and the Albanian people are proud to have had such a leader as Enver Hoxha'. Rumours abounded that the military was threatening to remove Ramiz and cancel the elections. An estimated 30 young demonstrators were killed in a demonstration directed at the Enver Hoxha Military Academy north-east of Tirana. Oppositionists claimed that 120 officers in the Academy had gone on hunger strike in protest against the violent suppression of the demonstration. Other reports said that a “Commission for the Defence of the Homeland” had been set up by Stalinist officers and Sambista members for the reversal of reform moves, and that they were organising a march on Tirana.

In March 1991, 24,000 Albanians succeeded in catching the ferry to Bari (Italy) setting off a bizarre and acute refugee crisis, which provoked Western governments to put pressure on Tirana to do something to stem the flow.

In the event, the Party of Labour won a landslide in the March 31 election. The opposition Democratic Party had swept the board in the towns, but the countryside had voted solidly for the Party of Labour. This added up to a two-thirds vote for the governing party. The leading Stalinist 'reformers', including Party leader Ramiz, who had run in urban electorates failed to win seats. The Stalinists immediately invited the opposition to join them in a coalition government, but Sali Berisha (a former Stalinist, who resigned the Party in December 1990 and a French-trained heart specialist), leader of the four month-old Democratic Party rejected the offer: 'We will continue to present an alternative to communist bureaucratic mis-management', predicting that the opposition would triumph 'within weeks or months'. 'The situation is so complicated, it will be difficult for Albania to wait four or five years for a Democratic government'.

In May, newly-created trade unions began a general strike and opposition forces took control of all the urban centres and in a stunning confirmation of Berisha’s optimism, only two months later the government resigned, handing over to an interim coalition government until elections to be held in a year’s time. Yili Bufi, food minister in the out-going government was appointed Prime Minister of a caretaker “National Salvation” government with the consent of the opposition, and Bufi negotiated a settlement with the strikers. Members of parliament 'gave up party affiliations' in order to join the government, and the Party of Labour renamed itself the Socialist Party. Ramez Alia retained the Presidency. The minority of seats in the parliament meant nothing, as the Socialist Party deputies dared not oppose opposition proposals.

Within two months, inflation had reached 200 per cent, agricultural and industrial production had fallen by 50 per cent, export income was barely managing to service debts and generating a chronic shortage of raw materials. Bread and milk and other basics were in desperate short supply. Water and electricity were interrupted for hours or days at a time even in Tirana. The “black market” boomed. With the authority of the police at rock bottom, crime also boomed, with armed gangs holding up taxis in the city centre, and abducting women.

There was a huge jump in crime in the year following the election: mainly rape, gunfighting and frequent knife attacks. 'Before, the state was dreaded by everyone. Now, we don't have a state, and people make their own law. Every man is their own judge' explained a government minister who reassuringly showed a visiting diplomat his hand-gun before venturing out.

The flow of refugees continued despite a program of repatriating the mass of Albanians still camped on the docks in Bari. The former nomenklatura quickly adapted themselves to the new rules, and there was a stream of foreign business people to Tirana fixing up deals with aspiring capitalists in the bureaucracy.

On March 22 1992, the re-run election returned a two-thirds majority to the Democratic Party.

'Society has disintegrated here', said Eduard Salami of the Democratic Party, 'When the other countries of Eastern Europe began to open up 20 years ago, Albania went the other way. Now we are like people who have been in the dark for many years, blinking in the strong light'.

Three-quarters of all food consumed in the country at this time was from foreign aid. The collective farms looked like bomb sites, as peasants instituted their own 'spontaneous privatisation' program, stripping buildings and agricultural machinery to pieces and carrying it off. 70 per cent of the workforce was idle simply due to the disorganisation of production. The mines had ceased to operate due to the total absence of dynamite in the country and the lack of foreign exchange to buy it.

So much for the legacy of 50 years of Socialist construction in Albania!

The Baltic States

The Baltic states had enjoyed national independence of a sort between their secession from the Union after the Civil War, and their occupation by the Red Army in 1939. The Baltic Republics lie on the Gulf of Bothnia across from Scandanavia, and historically and culturally see themselves as a part of Scandanavia. However, for centuries they have been dominated by Russia. Liberated from Kerensky’s government by the Bolshevik Revolution they were the scene of bitter battles with the Polish militarist Pilsudsky who annexed them during the Civil War, but were granted national independence in 1920 by the Bolsheviks. During the following period the Baltic States provided bases for British imperialism, but were finally over-run by Stalin’s Red Army when Stalin signed a pact with Hitler and they divided the region between them. While the Eastern European countries occupied by the Red Army after the War were supposed to be pursuing their own 'national road to socialism' under Soviet 'protection', Stalin annexed the Baltic States and the ethnic-Rumanian Moldavia, reducing them to the same status as the other 11 Republics of the union, and integrating them into the centrally planned economy of the USSR. The Karelo-Finnish Republic was dissolved into the Russian Federal Republic in 1956.

While in general, the myriad of nationalities across the old Tsarist Empire participated in the Revolution and voluntarily joined the USSR, the Nordic people of the Baltic States have asserted their right to national self-determination for centuries.

In August 1989, the nationalist movements of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania marked the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Hitler-Stalin Pact by linking arms along the 450-mile road from Vilnius to Riga to Tallinn. Badges bearing a swastika and a hammer-and-sickle side-by-side expressed a popular view of history. Although not an 'official' participant, the Lithuanian CP supported the demonstration, the state radio and TV advertised it, the police tolerated it, and the event was organised through workplaces. At the same time 13,000 people marched in Moldavia. While a demonstration in Moscow by the Democratic Union was being busted up by police, Moscow TV put a brave face on the demonstrations in the Baltic Republics, describing them as 'signs of faith in justice, democracy and human progress'.

The Lithuanian nationalist coalition, Sajudis, whose leader piano-professor Vytautas Landsbergis was now a delegate to the Congress of People’s Deputies, were now also represented in the Republic’s parliament and their national sentiments were shared by many of the CP deputies. The 200-strong assembly strengthened its demand for independence by calling for the restoration of the treaty signed with the Bolsheviks in 1920, which recognised Lithuania as a sovereign state.

In October, the 300,000-string People’s Front of Latvia decided at its second annual congress approved a program 'to restore the independence of the Latvian state by creating a democratic parliamentary republic' and called for multi-party elections and a market economy.

In February 1990, after personally visiting the streets of Vilnius, Gorbachev gave his reluctant consent to the Lithuanian CP splitting from the CPSU with the transparent hope that if the CP adapted to the rising demand for national independence, then they could contain the separatist movement.

However, on 25 February, Lithuanians voted in vast majority to leave the USSR, and elected the nationalist Sajudis to an 80% majority in parliamentary elections. The ethnic Russian populist Algirdas Brazauskas, leader of Lithuanian CP won 92% in his constituency and was personally more popular, among all ethnic groups, than the Sajudis leader Vytautus Landsbergis. Brazaukas' LCP won only 22 seats however, despite its break from the CPSU. The rump CP that split to stay with the CPSU won only 7 seats. More than 50% of Russian nationals also voted for Sajudis.

The Sajudis government then proposed that Lithuania set up their own currency, take over control of factories and set up customs posts on their borders. Gorbachev’s calls on Landsbergis to rescind their declaration of independence were rejected. Lithuania announced the setting up of a volunteer 'regional self-defence force', and there were threatening military manoeuvres by the Army in the region.

In elections for Republic and municipal deputies to the Congress of People’s Deputies held across the USSR in March 1990, Soviet voters expressed their preferences on a range of candidates. The elections were held as a part of Gorbachev’s program of glasnost, in an attempt to decentralise political power and contain the growing tide of opposition. The great majority of those who stood and of those who were elected were Party members, but in the contest, Party members who had some record of dissent or criticism of the bureaucracy fared best. In the Russian Congress, 85% of the Deputies elected were members of the CPSU, but had campaigned on a range of policies from one political extreme to the other. The Deputies formed 14 factions by the time they had settled in. About two-thirds of Deputies advocated restoration of the market. Across the Union, many First Secretaries and Republican Presidents and Prime Ministers failed to get elected. Following the trend, the First Secretary of the CPSU in Latvia, the Second Secretary in Estonia and the Prime Minister and President in Lithuania lost their seats in the Congress.

In elections to Latvian parliament on 18 March 1990, the Popular Front of Latvia won a convincing majority with 109 seats. The Latvian CP won 58. President Anatoly Gorbunov declared Latvian independence in May, 'while respecting current constitutional norms'. In Latvia, the Russian-speaking population is the largest of any of the Baltic Republics, and as elsewhere, the Russian-speakers are concentrated in the industrial working class.

Elections in Estonia also on 18 March gave 68 out of 105 seats to the Estonian Popular Front. The Estonian CP won 13, its ally the Association for a Free Estonia 3, pro-Russian anti-independence group 16. Estonian CP leader Enn-Arno Sillari remained a member of the Soviet Politburo. In April, elections were organised in Estonia to an 'Estonian Congress' with voting rights limited to those who had been citizens of Estonia in 1940 and their descendants.

Also on 18 March 1990, elections across the Union left the city council in Moscow and Leningrad returned a majority of 55% to the Democratic Russia and the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, the nationalist Rukh won 15 of 22 of the parliamentary seats and the city council.

The Lithuanian branch of the CPSU called in paratroopers to seize property claimed by the Lithuanian CP, and the army took the opportunity to arrest army deserters. The US joined Gorbachev in pressuring the Lithuanians to back off with their demands for immediate restoration of independence. Poles and Russians demonstrated in Vilnius.

In May, Gorbachev cut off supplies of energy to Lithuania in retaliation for seizure of property, and Lithuania retaliated by cutting off supplies of milk and meat to the USSR.

Nationalists from the Baltic republics, Moldavia, the Ukraine, Byelorussia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekhistan set up a Union of Democratic Forces with the aim of dismembering the USSR.

In June, Gorbachev proposed the replacement of a 'union of sovereign states' to replace the USSR, 'to guarantee the republics' real economic and political sovereignty and their effective interaction'.

However, on 11 January 1991 a Committee of National Salvation was set up in Lithuania, composed mostly of Russian nationals, organising strikes and demonstrations, as Gorbachev warned the Lithuanian nationalists against 'restoring the bourgeois system' and appealed on behalf of the rights of Russian nationals. A week later tanks moved into Vilnius and occupied TV stations and other strategic buildings. In two hours of confrontation, 14 people were killed and about 140 injured. Speaking to Parliament in Moscow the following morning, Gorbachev said, believably according to people who were with him at the time, “I learned [of the clashes] only this morning, the early morning. The manner of the defence was decreed by the commandant”. Interior Minister Pugo and Defence Minister Yazov also insisted that the initiative had been taken locally. Boris Yeltsin and the opposition accused Gorbachev of being in the hands of the “conservatives”.

NATO leaders panicked, fearing a counter-coup by the Red Army was under way, threatening a return to a Cold War footing, while all their troops were busy in the Gulf teaching Saddam Hussein about the New World Order. In Latvia and Estonia, barricades were set up in preparation for a similar confrontation, and strengthened their 'home guards'. A journalist commented significantly that Gorbachev found it easier to give up the 'Socialist' in USSR than the 'Union', as he signed a decree giving additional powers to KGB officers to suppress the separatist movements in the Baltic republics.

The following week, riot police loyal to the Union attacked the headquarters of the pro-independence CP in Latvia, killing four people, including two regular policemen. The police force was in the majority opposed to the independence forces.

Meanwhile, the Estonian government decided to pre-empt a March 17 referendum on preservation of the Union, with a referendum of their own on national independence.

In a series of referenda held in the Baltic Republics in February, huge majorities voted in favour of national independence. The vote for independence was so high that it is clear that a majority of ethnic Russians and Poles supported the vote.

In Lithuania on February 10, the turn-out was 84%, the vote in favour was 90%, and ethnic Lithuanians compose 80 per cent of the population. (The proportion of Russian nationals is larger in Estonia and Latvia)

On March 3, 77 per cent in Latvia voted for independence, with a Russian population of 48 per cent. In Estonia which has a Russian population of 40 per cent, 90 per cent of rural residents and 78 per cent of city voters voted for independence. In Daugavpils, where only 13 per cent of voters are ethnic Latvians, 51 per cent voted for independence.

Iceland became the first country to recognise Lithuania in February 1991. Russia established state-to-state relations with Baltic states when Yeltsin won the election as Russian President in June, and in the immediate wake of the Moscow coup the Baltic Republics were granted the right to secede. All countries rapidly followed suit by granting diplomatic recognition.

Having won 'national independence' the problem was now what to do with it. Landsbergis' program of rapid privatisation in Lithuania had brought only falling production, his pointless disputes with Russia, only a crisis in energy supplies, and his demagogic, chauvinist and anti-communist rhetoric nothing but boredom. In November 1992, Algirdas Brazaukas led the Democratic Labour Party ('reformed' Lithuanian CP) to an election victory in which the Sajudis were reduced to a mere 19 per cent of the popular vote.

In Estonia, where the predominantly Russian industrial working class had spurned calls to strike against the independence movement in 1991, 2,000 factory workers demonstrated against the government’s credit squeeze on their firm, which had already caused one-third of the workforce to be laid-off. Gripped by run-away inflation and falling output, beggars were now to be seen on the streets of Tallinn. Houses in the Baltic Republics are heated by a formerly very efficient centrally supplied hot water system. Now unable to buy the formerly cheap Russian energy, the houses were freezing. IMF monetary controls combined with the removal of state subsidies to wreck the economy. In elections in Estonia, in September 1992 a right-wing monetarist government was installed, while 40 per cent of the population, mainly workers, who are Russian-speaking were denied a vote despite their solid support for Estonian independence in 1991. The Russian population also includes a large number of former Soviet military people who were permanently stationed in Estonia, although Yeltsin was systematically repatriating 120,000 Russians stationed in the Baltic Republics.

In elections in Latvia in June 1993, the Popular Front which had led the independence struggle and delivered a collapse in production and soaring inflation, failed to get the 5% necessary for representation in the parliament, despite the fact that Latvia had followed the Estonian model and denied the Russian-speaking population a vote. The largest party was the Latvian Way, winning one-third of the vote. Latvian Way is led by Anatoly Gorbunov, former leader of the Latvian Communist Party. One of the first acts of the new government was to review the law on Russian residents.

The people of the Baltic Republics have not wavered in their desire to retain their national independence. Estonia’s Army of 2,500 barely-armed troops was still outnumbered by Soviet troops who not yet been repatriated by January 1994, so this independence is somewhat fragile to say the least. Military experts estimate that the Russian Army would require 16 minutes to occupy Estonia. Communist or capitalist, they are still in Russia’s “back yard”.

But the workers of the Baltic Republic did not take long to learn that nationalism alone was a poor formula for “freedom”.

IV: The State in Eastern Europe

In Eastern Europe, except in Yugoslavia and Albania (and Rumania is exceptional in some ways, too), the Red Army was the state [184.] These countries had never had 'their own' revolution. [185] Their governments were in reality the local administrative apparatuses of the Red Army.

Once the USSR became unwilling or unable to sustain its domination in Eastern Europe, the deformed workers' states collapsed in a heap. The nationalised property relations protected by the state have not been completely overthrown and survive in varying degrees.

The class composition of the movements leading up to this collapse varied from country to country. The context was the decline of Soviet influence (economically and politically), the restoration of market relations in the USSR itself, growing trading relations with capitalist Europe, increasing paralysis in the “planned economy” in each country and COMECON as a whole, the inability of the workers' movement to develop a new leadership and an alternative program while under Stalinist domination, the weakness of the national bourgeoisie, a relatively large peasantry in most cases, internal national conflicts, a growing illicit commodity economy as well as a growing legal private sector, internal conflicts within the ruling clique and the local state apparatus.

Also crucial to the unfolding of the process is the contradiction between the political hegemony of Stalinism within the industrial working class, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the predominant influence of the industrial workers on political life in countries where the state to a greater or lesser extent rested upon them.

All these factors interacted in different ways in the various countries of Eastern Europe.

In the past, viewed from the West, Eastern Europe and the USSR appeared somewhat as an undifferentiated bloc. With the removal of domination by the Red Army, previously existing underlying conflicts combined with the different relations of class forces that have developed during the period of Stalinist domination. The habit of applying global characterisations across “the Soviet Bloc” is no longer tenable.

What were the main processes that affected countries in the region?

We can recognise a number of quite distinct phases in the process of collapse which were exhibited in different ways in each country.

Beginning with the overthrow of the Stalinist governments, the first phase was the fight for democracy and the euphoric success of that campaign. The divisions within the ruling clique were important in this stage, and in many countries intellectuals - poets, musicians, playwrights, etc - played a very prominent role. This phenomenon reflected the fact that the masses did not have any developed economic or class perspective for government. The intellectuals filled a vacuum of political leadership left by Stalinist repression and betrayal. These leaders symbolised an opposite to the bureaucratism of the ruling clique. The Chinese uprising was cut off at this stage and the processes affecting Europe and the USSR have not been replicated in China or the countries of South East Asia.

In the second phase, having 'domesticated' the political process and taken their place in the seats of government, the new leadership adopted a program of capitalist restoration, generally with the consent of the working class. Rumania skipped this and the following phase because the Stalinists were able to manoeuvre themselves past the opposition at a very early stage in the uprising. East Germany diverged at this stage, because the country was absorbed into capitalist West Germany.

In the third stage, the masses realised that nothing had been solved by the overthrow of Stalinism, and the program of privatisation delivered only a massive collapse in production and living standards. This resulted in anger and confusion. The governments were affected by chronic crisis with all parties losing the confidence of the masses.

In the fourth stage, the working class began to fight against the attacks on their living standards and to varying degrees and by a variety of routes, began re-organise itself and recapture what had been lost. This stage was generally a syndicalist stage, but included the growth of Stalinist and other left-wing or socialist groupings parties both in government and opposition. This stage has not begun in some of the countries of Eastern Europe.

In the fifth stage, which has been exhibited in Poland and Hungary, the working class began again to look for political solutions and seeks to influence the policy of the government in favour of pro-working class policies. In Poland, the Stalinists came forward as the main workers party and secured the dominant position in the government of a capitalist country. This means that the working class is again coming into conflict with the Stalinist leadership but under new conditions.

This schema does not apply precisely to any of the countries involved, however. Yugoslavia has worked out differently, for instance. We need to look more closely at how the process has worked itself out in each case. Let us focus on some of the most important questions.

The state

The state is an instrument of violence wielded by the ruling class to maintain the social relations of production. The state was the Red Army and its local apparatuses. In the case of Yugoslavia and Albania, the state apparatuses was based on the partisan forces which fought and defeated the Nazis. Despite the split with the USSR, these forces still enjoyed the protection which flowed from the global deal struck between Stalin and the imperialist powers in the aftermath of the War. Rumania traded a degree of independence from the USSR by offering imperialism favours in return.

This state system proved to be an effective instrument for maintenance of nationalised property relations for 40 years. These states - i.e. the local apparatuses in each country - have not been overthrown or smashed, except in the case of Yugoslavia. (The splitting of Czechoslovakia into two Republics is of secondary significance).

In Yugoslavia, the state machine continues to exist, but has consolidated itself back to an exclusively Serbian national base, while the other nations have constructed new state machines at war with the state of the former-Yugoslavia. But in the other countries, no such counter-instrument of violence has appeared. The issue in Yugoslavia was the issue of the multi-national state. The failure of this state led rapidly to the construction of rival forces, each with its own genesis.

The mass organisations which overthrew Stalinist rule disintegrated as soon as the government changed, and did not form the basis of new states..

The apparent transformation of the states in the Eastern European countries from instruments of the working class (albeit deformed) to capitalist states is explicable when we accept that the Red Army was the essence of these states (as instruments of violence). The only question needing to be answered is why and how the state failed to exercise its function of defending nationalised property. Once the Red Army withdrew, the transformation of the class nature of the local apparatus was not an insurmountable task, though it is a continuing task which will not be completed without class conflict.

It appears that the leadership of the USSR, Gorbachev in particular, and evidently with the consent of the “conservatives” within the state apparatus, decided that it if was to survive at all, it had to pull back from Europe. The evidence is that the USSR fully intended in 1989-90 to retain its power within its own borders (including the Baltic States which had been annexed in the 1940s).

The tactic of withdrawal from Eastern Europe was a part of a strategy to retain Stalinist rule within the USSR.

Where local branches of this apparatus were unwilling to step aside, Gorbachev used his authority as leader of the USSR, to pressure them to submit to the process of collapse. This was a relatively peaceful process in Czechoslovakia for instance, but was fought out with guns in Rumania.

The objective of this tactic was not actually to bring about the transformation of the state machine into instruments of the bourgeoisie. The objective was a re-run of what Stalin had attempted to do in the mid-1940s - to establish Popular Front governments in which Stalinism, as representatives of the working class, would share power with bourgeois parties, protect capitalist property relations and allow a peaceful transition to Socialism.

In the 1940s, this tactic was applied under Red Army dictatorship with capitalism in its worst historical crisis and the working class on the march. It failed then, and the result was the collapse of the popular front , the exclusion of the bourgeoisie and sweeping nationalisation of industry.

In 1989-90, the tactic also failed. In the absence of the Red Army the 'rump state' was transformed into an instrument for the imposition of capitalist property relations. 'Rump state', because in the Baltic States, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and East Germany all that remained after the Red Army withdrew its support was a rump. In Germany, the rump state was swallowed up by the powerful West German capitalist state.

In Rumania, the USSR was able to make a connection with the Army and sections of the Party and possibly even sections of the Securitate to remove Ceausescu, and with the support of the miners, Stalinist rule has actually been maintained for the moment. Reports that the British Army are training Rumanian forces and of internal conflicts within the ruling group indicate that this situation is not at all stable.

In Yugoslavia, the Serbian forces are certainly no rump, and the issue is being fought out by means of civil war.

In Albania, the state fell to bits and was not far from anarchy.

In each case, what remains is a state machine that is very immature and with a class character that is ill-formed and subject to change. Leaving Germany out of account, the state machines now existing in the countries where capitalism is being restored are still very inadequate instruments for the oppression of the working class, to say the least. These rump states could just as easily be recaptured by the working class. The problem, domestically, is political and economic.

In his 1991 book, Beyond Perestroika, Ernest Mandel said that the nature of the repressive apparatuses, as opposed to the parliaments in Eastern Europe had not significantly changed, but he summarised the problem of the state in Eastern Europe in this way:

'government and state power are not identical. ... The nature of the repressive apparatus is at least as important as the nature of the nature of parliament in indicating the nature of the state. ... Furthermore, if the Hungarian and Polish governments have clearly stated their intention of restoring capitalism and the rule of private property, such proclamations have still to be implemented. The social nature of the state cannot be deduced from governmental proclamations. ... For capitalism to be restored, a bourgeois class has to emerge which appropriates and controls the major part of the social surplus product. ...'

'[In Eastern Europe] one has the impression of a new historical process, a 'transition towards capitalism' or towards a third-world type of 'state capitalism', in which the state fosters the primitive accumulation of capital. But this process has not yet reached the point of no return. Five to ten years, if not fifteen years, would be needed for quantity to change into quality.

'The question will ultimately be settled ... in the arena of social struggles'.

The Warsaw Pact was formally dissolved as a military organisation in March 1991. The real protector of capitalist property in these countries will prove to be imperialism. With Russia now re-entering the world stage as a wounded capitalist super-power, the USA still approaches the question of extending NATO to the borders of Russia with some trepidation. They have no interest in defending the national rights of these nations against the threat of Russian nationalism. Great power diplomacy is the order of the day.

The Economic Crisis

The various programs of privatisation, removal of subsidies, introduction of the market, the ending of the state monopoly on foreign trade, etc., have brought about a sharp drop in the productivity of labour and the standard of living and a steep rise in unemployment and poverty. A sudden increase in crime, corruption and such phenomena as drug trafficking and sexual exploitation has accompanied this process everywhere.

To a great extent this crisis is explicable from the standpoint of 'teething problems' and the difficulties in overcoming disorganisation and backwardness of the past. The masses on the whole expected a certain period of difficulty. The whole issue is the prognosis.

It may have been expected that the opening of extensive new markets to capitalism would have provided a big boost for capitalism and that the East European countries would become the recipients of massive new investment. However, this opening comes at a time when capitalism is gripped by a severe economic crisis of its own. The huge economic crisis affecting Germany in the wake of reunification demonstrates that the demand for capital to develop the new economic opportunities is having a negative not a positive impact upon the world capitalist economy which is already drowning in debt, and finding it impossible to pull itself out of slump.

Furthermore, the working class in Eastern Europe is unlike that of the colonial countries that provided a fertile ground for exploitation and capital investment in earlier times. It is highly organised and accustomed to a high level of social welfare. Furthermore, there is no national capitalist class capable of maintaining stable conditions for exploitation. The working class has to be atomised and the large-scale nationalised industries and social services maintained by them smashed up; but how can this be done while maintaining the stable political conditions and the infrastructure required for exploitation?

The result is that foreign investment is not coming. And there is no domestic capital available. The measures taken to stimulate trade have led to a boom in everything but production. In the main, the large nationalised industries remain as they were, but severely disorganised by the sudden removal of centralised planning and subsidies and the disruption of the whole economy. Trade within COMECON has collapsed, but the severe competition in the capitalist world market makes the prospects for export very limited for the Eastern European countries.

The prosperity enjoyed by a section of the population in much of Europe is unlikely to be shared by these new applicants for membership of the EC.

But prosperity is one thing, capitalism is another. If the large industrial enterprises are not re-equipped and re-oriented to the new situation and the economic infrastructure renewed, then productivity will continue to decline. Capitalism may regenerate itself on the basis of petit-trading, small-scale agriculture and crime, but on an extremely low level.

The alternative prognosis is that the working class will re-assert its leadership in the nationalised economies. In this instance, the question of the domination of the world market by imperialism and “sociaism in one country” will come back to centre stage.

The Political Crisis

Once having reached the fourth (syndicalist) stage in the collapse of Stalinism, when disillusionment with the government leads the workers into struggle against capitalism, the working class finds itself confronted with political tasks which are not dissimilar to those of workers in the West.

However, in many of the East European countries today the organised working class remains a powerful, if not the most powerful political force on the national scene. In Poland and Hungary for instance, if capitalism has been restored, it has been because the working class has given its consent. With the continued failure of capitalism to resolve the economic problems of the country, this consent is liable to be withdrawn. In this event, there is no force within the country capable of preventing the working class from re-imposing its will and taking the country in a different direction.

In the fifth stage, as the workers' movement begins again to look for a political solution to the crisis, it is inevitable that Stalinism will be at least a significant factor in the workers' movement. If not as the ruling party, then at least the alternative party of government, like the social-democratic parties of the West. Consequently, the main problem for the workers in Eastern Europe remains as before, overcoming the crisis of leadership, learning the lessons of the history of Stalinism and building a new revolutionary Marxist leadership based on these lessons.

The main bases of the economy in general still remain in public ownership. The task of nationalisation of the means of production in the hands of the workers is still easier in these countries than in the old capitalist countries.

In the event of a significant victory along these lines, the real danger which would then face the working class would be from imperialism, in particular the USA.

The former role of the Red Army in protecting social ownership, now gone for good, may then be seen in a different historical light.

The National Crisis

Red Army occupation covered over and perpetuated relations of national oppression and created new ones. Having destroyed the bourgeois instruments of national oppression or prevented their reconstruction after the War, when the workers' state collapsed the national liberation forces were unstoppable. This meant that nations oppressed over centuries suddenly found themselves independent without having built the national leadership which normally have been required for national liberation.

The problems which resulted from this process are not dissimilar to the problems that afflict newly independent nations in the ex-colonial countries where the colonial power collapsed, such as in the case of the former Portuguese colonies after 1974. In countries such as Poland and Hungary, there was always a high level of national cohesion, and all classes shared the resentment against Russian domination of their national affairs. The transition to capitalism was smoothest in these countries.

In the multi-national states, the oppressed nations demanded separation. Czechs and Slovaks reluctantly, but peacefully parted company, and the Slovaks can now make their own future. The Gypsies and Magyars of Rumania are not strong enough to take any significant advantage of the opening offered by the fall of Ceausescu.

The truism that the multi-national state can only be built upon the voluntary union of free peoples is one that admits of no short cuts. Such a voluntary union cannot be achieved so long as the world scene is dominated by predatory imperialist powers. Multi-national states that may appear in the future in the course of the struggle against imperialism and national capitalists must order their affairs in the light of the bitter experience of this period. National oppression is just as capable of exerting itself through the structures of a deformed workers state as it is through the apparatus of a bourgeois state. The multi-national workers state can only be an alliance of struggling peoples.

The national question is still unresolved on a world-historical scale,. It will not be finally resolved until the class question is resolved. These two contradictions - the national and the class - will co-exist and interpenetrate for the whole historical period ahead of us, first one then the other predominating.

But only class analysis, i.e. Marxism, offers the theoretical tool to understand these processes on an historical level.