The end of the war opens out a new stage of the military, diplomatic, economic and political developments of the world.
The overwhelming economic and military preponderance of the Soviet Union in the East, and of American imperialism with her British satellite in the West, has finally resulted in the reduction of German and Japanese imperialism to dust.
Following in the wake of the victorious 'allied' armies, the 'big three' with their foreign secretaries and advisers meet, discuss, and arrive at secret diplomatic agreements to partition Europe and the world into spheres of influence and zones of exploitation. The satellite states are invited into the councils of the United Nations, but only to create a facade and lend weight to the decisions arrived at by the hard bargaining behind the scenes on the part of the big three.
Overshadowing the military and diplomatic arrangements, however, is the fear of proletarian revolution in Germany and in Europe as a whole; and not only in Europe but in the colonial areas of the East. This cardinal problem, which again and again raises itself for a forceful solution, is rapidly becoming the main preoccupation of the three big powers. Indeed, the cardinal point in the alliance which now cements the 'big three' together, and will do so in the future, is this fear of revolution and the preoccupation with the plans for staving off, or repressing the inevitable revolutionary upheavals in Germany and Europe which will seek to destroy the old capitalist order.
The changed relationship of forces between the world powers since the Treaty of Versailles, hidden in their gradual transformation between the two world wars, is now clearly demonstrated in the military fortunes of the nations.
The destruction of the French army, once the mightiest military force in Europe; the disintegration of the French empire; the miserable role of the ruling class in France during the nazi occupation as Quislings of the conqueror; all these have served to underline the decline of France from the status of a great power to the role of a third rate power in Europe and the world.
The bubble of empire pretensions, widely advertised by the Italian ruling class through their strutting black-shirted legions, has been pricked and shattered. The weak and insufficient economic base, incapable of the slightest strain, cracked at the first test. Italy is reduced to the role of a Balkan country.
Both in the East of Europe and the West, the war has entirely altered the importance of the nations in the new alignment of forces. Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Baltic and Balkan countries, Belgium, Holland, and the Scandinavian lands - all these have a lesser weight and role to play in the 'councils of the nations'.
The collapse of British hegemony of the globe; the inability of Britain to maintain her position on the continent of Europe or to intervene decisively in the military struggles; the subordination of her military leaders on the continent of Europe to those of her Yankee patrons; and her general decline in relation to her Russo-American allies is rapidly placing Britain in her real relationship to the other powers - the 'biggest of the small nations'.
The entry into the world arena of American imperialism with her gigantic economic and military resources, has immediately placed her far in the forefront of the imperialist nations. Both in the East and in the West, the weight of the economic and military forces assures her of a dominant position. The Pacific is fast becoming an 'American lake', while the British dominions gravitate towards the dollar and remain only nominally tied to the motherland.
The Emergence of Russia From The War
But by far the greatest event of world significance is the emergence of Russia, for the first time in history, as the Greatest military power in Europe and Asia. The tremendous victories of the Red Army in Europe have forced the majority of the European bourgeoisie to orientate themselves towards the Kremlin; whilst the pro-Soviet movement on the part of the masses, has created a powerful basis of support.
In Europe today there is no continental power left which can effect a challenge to the Red Army. Nor is it possible to create in a few years a military force capable, materially and morally, of undertaking such a challenge. Only on the basis of a complete defeat for the European working class, the total destruction of its organisations and the introduction of a Yankee black reaction, would it be possible to regroup the forces of European capitalism for an anti-Russian assault.
The weariness of the masses in all countries, especially in Europe, the admiration and support for the Red Army, the sympathy and warm support for the Soviet Union among broad sections of the working class even in the United States - all these factors taken together with the relation of military forces, make it extremely difficult, if not entirely impossible for the Allies to launch an attack on the Soviet Union in the immediate post-war years.
The risks of such an operation are far too great in their political implications, not only in Europe or Asia where the masses would support the Soviet Union, but in Britain and America. Ideologically it would not be possible to mobilise the masses for such a war which would tend to expose the whole nature of the previous struggle against the Axis(1). Moreover, such a war would be inevitably protracted because of the military might of the Soviet Union, thus ushering in revolutionary explosions throughout the globe. For the next period, despite the antagonisms, the Allies will be forced to tolerate a deal with the Soviet Union.
The Plans of the Imperialists Went Wrong
German imperialism confidently anticipated the destruction and disintegration of the Soviet state; the Anglo-American imperialists expected and hoped for the downfall of the Soviet Union, but wished to use Russia simultaneously to break the power of German imperialism, leaving them the victors. They expected at least that the Soviet Union would emerge broken and weakened decisively and thus be unable to resist the demands and impositions they planned to impose upon her.
But their calculations went wrong. An outstanding result of the imperialist war is the definitive emergence of the Soviet Union from a backward state, to the greatest military power on the continent of Europe. This has upset all the calculations of the imperialists of both camps. The results have induced a cold sweat in all the chancelleries of the world.
The war in Europe in great part resolved itself into a war between Germany, armed with the resources of the whole of Europe, and the Soviet Union. And from this decisive test Russia has emerged victorious.
The Stalinist bureaucracy has a two-fold purpose in occupying the countries of Eastern Europe: a strategic defence position against its allies; and the domination, plunder and enslavement of the Balkan and Central European peoples in the interests of the bureaucracy itself. However, the entrance of the Red Army into Eastern Europe provoked a movement among wide strata of the oppressed workers and peasants. The Stalinist bureaucracy has utilised this movement in order to place their puppets firmly in control of the governments. Meanwhile, in order to placate his allies, Stalin has retained capitalism in the areas under his control which have not been incorporated into the Soviet Union, while making concessions in land reforms to the peasants.
Another reason for the retention of capitalism in the occupied areas lies in the fear of the bureaucracy of the inevitable repercussions of setting in motion the forces of the proletarian revolution, even in caricature form in the Balkans and throughout the continent of Europe. The highly explosive situation would mean the spreading of the movement beyond the control of the bureaucracy and would threaten to have tremendous repercussions on the Red Army and the workers and peasants of the Soviet Union.
Thus, the occupation of Germany and Eastern Europe serves, for the bureaucracy, a dual purpose. It aims at defending the Soviet Union by methods which serve the reactionary aims and needs of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Such methods have nothing in common with, in fact are the negation of Leninism. In relation to the European revolution the Soviet occupation is intended for the purpose of strangling and destroying the revolution of the proletariat.
With the fall of German imperialism the defence of the Soviet Union, which formerly assumed the first importance in the tasks of the proletariat of the Soviet Union in relation to the war, now gives place to the defence of the European revolution against the Soviet bureaucracy. The Red Army is used as a weapon of counter-revolution in the hands of the Bonapartist bureaucracy. For the European proletariat the counter-revolutionary policy of the Stalinist bureaucracy assumes the form of a mortal danger.
Nevertheless, the situation is fraught with mortal danger to the Stalinist bureaucracy. Inevitably the Red Army workers and peasants will fraternise with the workers and peasants of the conquered countries. The soldiers will see the complete falsity of the propaganda of the bureaucracy as to conditions in other countries compared with those in Russia.
In general it can be said that in the coming period either the retention of capitalism in the countries of Eastern and Central Europe occupied by the USSR will serve as a starting point for the restoration of capitalism within the Soviet Union itself by providing the bureaucracy with the opportunity of acquiring the ownership of the means of production; or the bureaucracy will be forced, against its own wishes and at the risk of antagonising its present imperialist allies, to nationalise industry in the permanently occupied countries, acting from above and, if possible, without the participation of the masses.
The Fourth International, while explaining the nature of the Soviet Union and the necessity of its defence from world imperialism, will expose the counter-revolutionary role of the bureaucracy in relation to the European and world revolution. At the next stage the main task in the defence of the Soviet Union lies in the defence of the European revolution against the conspiracy of the Stalinist bureaucracy with world imperialism. Where the Red Army, which remains under the control of the bureaucracy as an instrument of its policy, is used to crush and destroy the movement of the masses towards revolution, or in the supression of workers' uprisings and insurrections, the Fourth International will call on the workers to oppose the Red Army with all the means in their power, including strikes, armed force, etc, while appealing to the Red Army soldiers to remember the mission of October and come over to the side of the working class. The defence of the Soviet Union can best be served by an extension of October, and the revival of soviet democracy within the Soviet Union.
The Great Russian Stalinist bureaucracy stifles the national aspirations of the national minorities within the Soviet Union. While subordinating the struggle for independence to the defence of the Soviet Union, the Revolutionary Communist Party stands for the right of the Ukrainian, Baltic and other Soviet minorities to secede from the Stalinist Soviet Union and form independent socialist states. But the secession is a reactionary utopia unless it is conceived of as part of a struggle for soviet democracy, the overthrow of Stalinism, and for the unification of the democratised USSR with the United Socialist States of Europe.
During the course of the war the separation of the bureaucratic caste from the masses and its elevation above them, has received tremendous impetus. Nothing remains of the gains of October except the basic conquest: nationalised property. Power has passed from the hands of the civil bureaucracy to the military bureaucracy with the galaxy of marshals at its head. Contradictory processes are taking place in the Soviet Union. On the one hand the course of the war has accelerated the proletarianisation of new strata of the population, of women and even children. Thus, the Soviet proletariat today cannot be far short of the number of proletarians in the United States. On the other hand, the differentiation between the bureaucracy and the masses, assumes more and more a capitalist character. Thus, two opposite tendencies are revealed. The capitalist tendencies look more and more to the capitalist West, the vices of which the Soviet bureaucracy has completely assimilated. The Soviet masses are well aware of the crimes of the bureaucracy, of whom they have an intense hatred. The victorious workers, peasants and soldiers will present their account to the Soviet bureaucracy on the morrow. The victories of the Red Army cannot but have imbued the Soviet masses with a tremendous elan and self-confidence. They will not so easily acccept the impositions and excuses of the bureaucracy once the danger from capitalist intervention has declined. The war and the Herculean struggle have thrust the mass of the population out of their despair and apathy. The war has been the means of revolutionising Soviet society no less than that in capitalist countries.
The victories of the Soviet Union are a capital for the world revolution, both in the effects on the masses in Europe and the world, as well as in their preservation of nationalised economy. But it is necessary for the working classes to understand the dual, contradictory process.
On the one hand the victories of the Red Army arouse echoes of the October revolution in the European masses; on the other hand the bureaucracy uses the Red Army and its agencies - the Communist Parties - for the purposes of strangling the proletarian revolution.
From a purely economic point of view, even with bureaucratic excesses and the stifling of the initiative of the masses, the Soviet Union will probably be in a position to restore production within a few years, to the level achieved before the war. Further economic successes could he maintained, but that is not to say that the war has not had profound effects upon Soviet economic life, or that post-war economic developments in the Soviet Union will take place smoothly and without crises. During the past four years the whole economy has been adapted to an almost exclusive production of war equipment. The remarkable productive results which have been obtained, have been won only at great cost - the wearing out of machinery, the elimination of consumers' industries, the physical exhaustion of the workers. Consequently in the future, we can expect sharp crises arising out of the disproportions inside the Soviet economy; crises such as occurred in the pre-war years and which no amount of 'planning' by the bureaucracy can overcome, since they are basically due to the fact that the nationalised economy of the Soviet Union is an isolated and not a world economy.
The already existing disproportions between the various branches of Soviet economy, between light and heavy industry, between industry and agriculture, have all been greatly accentuated as a result of the war. In particular the position of agriculture, which had even by 1941 not yet completely recovered from the ravages of the period of forced collectivisation and which has been largely devastated by the present war, will pose problems not capable of final solution within the framework of the isolated economy of the Soviet Union.
But nevertheless, the advantages of the nationalised economy are such, that despite those economic contradictions, and within their framework, great productive achievements are possible upon a scale and at a speed far beyond the powers of even the most advanced capitalist states.
The differentiation within the Soviet Union has reached such proportions that the perspectives resolve themselves into three possibilities:
- It is theoretically not excluded that on the basis of an ascending economy, the bureaucracy could maintain itself for a further period of years; The further degeneration of the Soviet bureaucracy would prepare the way for capitalist restoration; The proletarian resurgence would result in the overthrow of the bureaucracy and the restoration of Soviet democracy.
The bourgeoisie of the world, and above all Anglo-American imperialism, is staking everything on the internal degeneration taking place within the Soviet Union. Through economic pressure from without and the reaction within, they are hoping to restore capitalism in the USSR. On the basis of the victory of the reaction in Europe and Asia, they hope eventually to restore capitalism, if necessary by military means. Meanwhile, despite sharp clashes, they are compelled to defer the settlement of this account and to utilise the services of the Kremlin to strangle the revolution, which directly and immediately threatens the very existence of capitalism in Europe and Asia. Thus the bourgeoisie utilise the services of the bureaucracy today in the hour of mortal danger of capitalism, in order to strangle the Soviet Union when the crisis has been surmounted.
But despite the proportions to which the bureaucracy has grown, the situation presents favourable factors for the resuscitation of workers' power. The economic conquests are in contradiction with the stranglehold of the bureaucracy, which becomes an increasing burden on the economy of the country. The power of the traditions of October, even overlaid as it is with the bureaucratic filth, has been shown in the war. Coming events will reveal many surprises for the world bourgeoisie as well as for the Stalinist bureaucracy. Collective ownership, which has revealed its superiority in peace as in war, now finds itself in sharper conflict with the bureaucracy. It will be in the political crisis which the aftermath of the war will bring, that the full weakness of the bureaucracy will be shown. Collisions between the workers and peasants, between the soldiers demanding the fruits of victory and the usurpers, are inevitable. It is in these clashes that the mighty Soviet proletariat, and its vanguard the Fourth Internationalists, with its tradition of three revolutions and two victorious wars, will find itself once again.
The National Question in Europe
Despite the ease with which the nazi war machine overran all Europe, but a few years were needed to reveal that the conquest was illusory. The nazis were incapable of holding down the suffering peoples for whom the conquest meant intensified poverty and famine, on top of the insufferable burden of a totalitarian alien yoke. Without a clear class programme as the basis of their struggle, and at the cost of innumerable victims, the masses still succeeded in undermining the nazi domination of Europe.
The ruling class of the conquered countries, willingly or unwillingly, joined hands with the nazi overlords and became managers and junior partners of the conquerors. The champions of 'national dignity' and 'national unity' in the hour of defeat, united with the oppressor against the mass of their own nation. Class interests, like water, find their own level.
If the nazis succeeded with the aid of Quislings, backed by the SS with its torture and terror, in maintaining a precarious hold for a time, this was due to the assistance rendered them by the policies of social democracy and Stalinism. The appeal to national chauvinism could not but aid the German imperialists to draw the German worker and peasant behind them in the 'struggle between the races'; it could not but act as a national cement for the nazi gangsters and the German bourgeoisie. Faced with the choice between national enslavement of others, or themselves becoming nationally enslaved, the German soldiers continued to act as forces of occupation, no doubt with bitterness in their hearts. An internationalist socialist appeal from the mass illegal organisations of the working class, or from the leadership of the Soviet Union, and a systematic campaign of class fraternisation would have echoed, and had results in the far corners of the German Reich and nazi empire. But such an appeal was never made. Systematic class fraternisation and action was never organised.
Our Attitude to the Resistance Movements
Organised resistance to the foreign oppressor was initiated by the Stalinists, social democrats, petty bourgeois parties and sections of the bourgeoisie. Within the heterogeneous groups which formed the resistance, the class contradictions and antagonisms found sharp and organised expression, and in some countries came to the point of civil war.
In Poland, Yugoslavia and in Greece, the sharp division resulted in dual and rival movements of resistance. Zervas(2) and EDES were representative of the old feudal capitalist reaction, who at certain stages even rested upon the nazis as against Tito and Siantos, who in turn represented the plebian masses. To a lesser extent, this same division was to be found in all the occupied countries; as in France, with the Maquis and the FTP.
In the clashes and armed struggles which took place from time to time, the 'left' wing, or elements of the resistance resting directly on the revolutionary sections of the people, were forced under the pressure of class antagonisms into collisions with the elements representing the bourgeoisie. Despite the 'national', non-class policy of betrayal by the leadership, the movement represented the strivings and pressure of the masses for a class solution, thus, the revolutionary socialists were duty bound to give critical support to the left wing against the right.
But even the left wing of the resistance movement was not based on broad committees, but on an agreement of the parties. As such it was a bloc of parties, and particularly in face of the Quisling role of the bulk of the bourgeoisie, it was a caricature of the popular front. Despite the support of thousands of loyal proletarian fighters, who saw in these left sections of the resistance movement an answer to their class aspirations, the chauvinist petty bourgeois programme, leadership and activity of the resistance bloc, characterised it as a direct agency of imperialism.
In the midst of the imperialist war, all the objective conditions are such that a genuine struggle for national liberation and a break-up of the alliance with imperialism, could only have been undertaken on the basis of a socialist programme, under the slogan of the Socialist United States of Europe. Organised struggle on any other basis, on the policy of both wings of the resistance was to aid one bloc of imperialists in the midst of the war.
The Trotskyists, therefore, could not dip their banner by entering into the bloc of parties and support this caricature popular front. Whilst supporting and where possible, giving leadership to every real move of the masses: strikes, demonstrations, and armed clashes, the Trotskyists had the duty to denounce the resistance bloc as such, and its leadership as an arm and agency of Anglo-American imperialism, hostile to the class interests of the working class.
In opposition to the military formations of the bourgeois and petty bourgeois-inspired resistance movement the proletarian party has the duty to counterpose, and wherever possible, to organise independent military formations of the working class as well as its own independent military formations.
Implacable hostility to the 'resistance bloc' is supplemented by flexible tactics in the operation of party policy. The organisations of the resistance were important fields for revolutionary activity. The revolutionary party had the duty to send its cadres into the resistance movements counterposing a proletarian to a bourgeois and petty bourgeois programme, helping to destroy the influence of the bourgeoisie over militant sections of the working class, and organising a conscious proletarian opposition to the policy of chauvinism and the chauvinistic leaders.
The 'liberation' of the continent by Anglo-American imperialism posed the problem of the class struggle in an acute form. With the lifting of the heavy hand of totalitarian suppression by German imperialism, the national question tended to be thrust into the background. Only a prolonged military occupation over a period of years by the forces of Anglo-American imperialism and of the Stalinist bureaucracy, could raise the national question to an important place in the politics of the European continent. The indirect oppression and exploitation by the big three powers, the military intervention on the side of the old ruling class against the proletariat would tend rather to raise the class issues in the consciousness of the European peoples. It is in the case of Germany that the national problem will assume an acute character with the dismemberment and subjugation of Germany by the Allies.
Classic Conditions for the Proletarian Revolution
The majority of the European bourgeoisie, which has already been badly shaken by the great mass movements of a few years preceding the outbreak of the war, proved incapable of leading the nations which they had summoned to the 'defence of the fatherland'. Further demoralised by the military defeat, without perspective, and filled with hatred for their own working class, almost the entire ruling class of the conquered countries fraternised with the enemy and organised the joint exploitation together with the foreign oppressor, of the mass of their own nation. Thus, as Quislings they earned the hatred of the overwhelming mass of the workers and petty bourgeoisie.
The victory of the Allies now finds the bourgeoisie seeking to play the same role for the 'liberators' as they did for the 'conquerors'. Without stable organs of state oppression, panic-stricken in the face of the mounting wrath of the masses, demoralised and without that confidence which is essential to an exploiting ruling class, they are completely dependent on allied bayonets for the continuation of their rule.
At the other pole, the mass of the working class no longer wants the old regime. The experience of a generation of capitalist rule since the last world war, plus a demonstration of the role of their own ruling class under the nazi occupation; unemployment and starvation, fascism and national humiliation; the recognition that whilst the masses carried the struggle against the foreign oppressor, the ruling class collaborated and enriched themselves; and finally, the gigantic victories of the Red Army with all its associations with the October revolution - all these factors have resulted in a transformation of the outlook of the working masses.
The workers of Europe are breaking with bourgeois parliamentary politics and social democratic reformism and are turning to revolutionary politics and communism - unfortunately at this stage to the Stalinist parties, its caricatured and distorted form.
Total war and the defeat accelerated the concentration of capital and the ruination of the middle class especially in the towns. In their hundreds and thousands the petty bourgeoisie has been rudely pushed down into the ranks of the workers. They have been forced into the factories and slave labour camps; they have been proletarianised. On the background of working class radicalisation a corresponding change has taken place within the ranks of the petty bourgeoisie.
As always, the most oppressed strata of the population - the women and the youth - have had to bear the greatest burdens of the war, and here too, particularly among the youth the desire for a radical change and a communist solution of the problems of the day has taken a firm hold.
Thus all the objective conditions for the overthrow of capitalism and the introduction of socialism are clearly in existence. But the subjective factors are not yet established. The mass revolutionary parties of the Fourth International have not yet been created. To transform the small Trotskyist groups and parties into the fighting leadership of the working class is the most important question facing our comrades in Europe. Without mass Trotskyist parties the masses, blindfolded by social democracy and particularly by Stalinism will batter their heads in vain against the ramparts of capitalism.
Only the numerical weakness of the cadres of the Fourth International and the isolation of our comrades, gives the ruling class the possibility of a breathing space. The leadership of the bourgeoisie is aware of its own class needs, despite its demoralisation. They must at all costs crush the working class; but they lack the forces to do so at the moment.
The Experience of Greece
The events in Greece(3) marked the beginning of a new phase of revolution and counter-revolution within Europe. In this tiny country, where the explosive force of centuries of class antagonism has accumulated and which has been in turmoil for three decades, civil war broke out and was followed by a ruthless and brutal war of intervention by the British imperialists.
In the conflict between royalists and republicans during the past generation, the bourgeoisie, incapable of taking decisive action against the feudal landlords, were equally incapable of solving the problems of the democratic revolution and invariably paved the way for monarchist reaction. The restoration of King George(4) was followed by the dictatorship of Metaxas in an endeavour to restore 'tranquility' and class 'peace'. This 'experiment' was aimed at atomising the Greek working class and peasant movement which threatened to upset the old regime and move in the direction of socialist revolution - as indicated by the strikes of the workers and revolts of sections of the peasantry. The British imperialists, whose financial and strategic interests forced them to regard Greece as a sub-colony, assisted the Greek ruling class in carrying out this reactionary move.
The viciousness of the Metaxas dictatorship had already undermined the basis of the Greek ruling class and created a popular movement of revolt before the war. But the collaboration of the Greek ruling class with the German conqueror as Quislings crystallised the hostility of the masses and thus generated the explosion once the German troops had been withdrawn.
The attempt to foist the old ruling class and even the monarchy upon the masses was not to be tolerated without a struggle. The masses, who had fought a ruthless and bloody war against the SS had been largely responsible for the liberation of Greece. De facto control was in their hands through the armed organisation, ELAS. Thus, the provocation of the Greek government police in firing on unarmed demonstrators was sufficient to precipitate the armed uprising. Without preparation, organisation, or a clear idea of how to achieve their aims, the valiant Greek proletariat and peasantry went into action. But due to the lack of a revolutionary leadership, the struggle was defeated.
The Stalinist leadership diverted the movement into safe channels on the familiar pattern of the peoples' front, and the movement's social aims were placed in the straight jacket of bourgeois parliamentarism. Thus the ground was laid for defeat and capitulation on the part of the Stalinist leadership.
Once again, the Greek events demonstrated that without a revolutionary party the masses will be led to disaster especially when the class struggle leads to open civil war. Without the party the masses cannot achieve the conquest of power.
However, leaving aside the local peculiarities, Greece represented in itself a model of the problems and lessons for all Europe. Churchill's policy of unrelenting repression was dictated by considerations of imperialist strategy as much as by internal class relationships. With the Stalinist bureaucracy dominant throughout the Balkans by the occupation of the victorious Red Army, it was essential for Britain's imperialist interests in the Mediterranean to have a firm hold over Greece. Even so, in Greece, the imperialists have received an object lesson on the difficulties of an open policy of military repression in Europe. The most sober and realistic section of the ruling class in Britain was opposed throughout to the blundering, adventuristic policy of repression of Churchill. Even in a small country of six million inhabitants, the dangers of such a course of action were revealed by the development of events. British imperialism was compelled to compromise with the petty bourgeois traitors in the leadership of EAM.
The Plastiras(5) government and its successor the Vulgaris government represent an uneasy attempt to restore the equilibrium of bourgeois society in Greece. Elements of Bonapartism and military dictatorship are undoubtedly present in this set-up. Nevertheless, the compromise arrrived at with the capitulation of the Stalinist leadership, in however attenuated a form (due to the struggle of the masses and the uneasiness of the British proletariat), has left the masses with their organisations, though not completely intact, still far from being destroyed.
This uneasy balance of forces cannot last indefinitely. Either the monarchy will be restored which would inevitably lead to a systematic extermination of the organisations of the proletariat, or the reaction might still feel itself too weak and attempt to manoeuvre with a republic. Even with the latter, however, the present regime could not last long. An impulsion from below would inevitably sweep it aside and the bourgeoisie would attempt to manipulate the political scene again through its popular front agencies. However, developments in Greece will depend to a great extent on events in Western Europe, the Balkans and Britain. Only one thing is predetermined: for the next period the regime in Greece will go through one crisis after another.
The Counter-Revolution in a 'Democratic' Form
Greece has revealed the heat lightning of the revolutionary storm gathering in Europe. The bourgeoisie of the entire world has assessed these events in correct perspective. The basis of the old system has broken down throughout the whole of ruined Europe. The disappearance of Hitler and Mussolini means the end of a stable basis for reaction in Europe, at least for the next immediate period.
Under conditions of ferment and radicalisation of the masses, with the rebelliousness of the masses turning directly on the road of insurrection; with the thrice-ruined petty bourgeoisie turning away in hatred and disgust against the combines and monopolies, from the influence of capitalist reaction, the task of Anglo-American imperialism to restore 'order' to Europe, to establish the rule of capital, assumes the shape of complicated and dexterous manoeuvres. To bludgeon the masses will be difficult at this stage and it will be necessary to deceive them with the panaceas of 'progress', 'reforms', 'democracy', as against the horrors of totalitarian rule. In Europe, however, control of the situation has largely slipped out of the hands of the bourgeoisie. It is the mass organisations of the working class which will have the decisive say.
With the fall of Mussolini, the instant appearance of soviet forms of organisation organised by sections of the workers, soldiers and peasants marked the appearance of the proletariat once more on the political arena. Here too, dual power in its elementary stages was immediately apparent. But once again, the main hindrance and drag on the development of the revolution has been the policy of the old workers' parties. The consciousness of the masses is still at an elementary stage; they do not want capitalism and the old regime and have aspirations to follow the example of the Russian workers in the October revolution. But as yet they do not understand the role of the old workers' parties as brakes on the development of the struggle; as yet they do not understand the need for a mass Trotskyist party.
The whole of Western Europe presents a picture of revolutionary crises in their embryonic stages. The lifting of the heavy hand of totalitarian suppression revealed the forces that have been developing beneath the surface. In Belgium, Holland and even Scandinavia the same process of mass resistance to the oppression and the estrangement from the emigre cliques of the old 'governments' is plainly seen.
Eastern Europe presents a similar picture of the development of the molecular process of the revolution. The heroic insurrection of the Warsaw workers(6) at the approach of the Red Army even though distorted and misled by the London Committee, is indicative of the mood of the masses of Poland. The calculated betrayal of Warsaw by the Stalinist bureaucracy underlined the counter-revolutionary role which it played in Europe and the world.
It would be true to say that faced with mass revolutionary parties of the working class in Europe, the position of the bourgeoisie would be hopeless. But given the weakness of the revolutionary vanguard, as Lenin explained, there is no hopeless position for the bourgeoisie. Social democracy saved capitalism after the last war. Today there are two traitor 'internationals' at the service of capital - Stalinism and social democracy. They, together with the leadership of the trade union organisations which sprung up once again immediately the pressure of the nazis was lifted, offer themselves as hirelings of capital.
The SS found it an impossible task to control Europe. After their experience, the bourgeoisie realises the impossibility of controlling the masses by similar means at this stage of reawakening. They find a ready and willing tool in the shape of the social democratic and Stalinist organisations to dam the revolutionary upsurge of the masses into safe and harmless channels of class collaboration through an even more degenerate form of popular frontism than existed in the past. Thus, they will combine repressions with illusory reforms. Smashing the embryo organs of workers' rule and disarming the masses, while simultaneously proclaiming their desire for 'representative' government and 'democratic' liberties. There is no other way whereby they can curb the upsurge of the masses towards the overthrow of the capitalist system. True, the counter-revolution of capital in its early stages, will, within a short period of time following the establishment of military government, assume a 'democratic' form. The bourgeoisie will combine the granting of illusory concessions with reprisals and repressions against the revolutionary forces.
The approaching revolution in Europe can be no other than the proletarian revolution. However, in its early stages it is inevitable that the old organisations of the proletariat should succeed in placing themselves at the head of the masses. The masses will learn only through a new experience, however brief, that these organisations represent the interests of the class enemy. And while absolutely clear on what they do not want, the masses are not clear about the means by which to achieve their ends. Thus, all the factors make for a period of Kerenskyism(7) in the first stages of the revolution in Europe.
Anglo-American imperialism perceives the inevitability of the fall of Franco and with it revolutionary disturbances throughout the Iberian Peninsula once Hitler has disappeared from the scene. With the discontent of the masses increasing, Anglo-American imperialism is already negotiating and manoeuvring with sections of the Spanish bourgeoisie, with Franco and with emigre politicians for the purpose of heading off the revolutionary insurrection of the masses. An insurrection in Spain threatens to have too serious effects in the rest of Europe. Hence their search for a Spanish Badoglio(8) to ensure a 'safe' and 'peaceful' transition from the doomed Franco regime. Whether their efforts are successful or not, the movement of the masses can only be temporarily delayed thereby. However, the serious representatives of finance-capital have learned far more from the experiences of the past decades than the perfidious 'leaders' of the working class. To them the problem of transition from one regime to another is determined by how best the interests of the ruling class can be served and safeguarded.
It is clearly impossible for the bourgeoisie of Britain and America to impose an alien totalitarian yoke on the peoples of Europe for any length of time. Especially important in this connection is the role of the Kremlin. While deadly afraid of the victory of the proletarian revolution, the Kremlin is interested in preserving, wherever possible, the maximum freedom of movement for their agencies, the local Communist Parties. The victory of reaction throughout Europe spells a new and greater danger of imperialist intervention against the Soviet Union on a continental scale. Thus, the policy of the Soviet bureaucracy is that of ensuring the rule of capital, but with the existence of the workers' movement as a safeguard against the bourgeoisie. The broad mass of the peoples of Europe look towards the Soviet Union as the banner-bearer of socialism. The capitalist democracies for the present, are compelled to reconcile themselves to this factor, and on the basis of the preservation of capitalism in Europe, are willing - and indeed have no other choice - than to compromise with the Soviet bureaucracy.
The experience of the Russian revolution, of the German Revolution of 1918, of the Spanish revolution of 1931, all reinforce these conclusions. The upsurge of the masses led to the fall of the monarchy in Spain and the proclamation of the Republic by the bourgeoisie. A coalition government of bourgeois republicans and socialists proclaimed radical programmes on paper, while conducting repressions against workers and peasants. Such a government could not be long lasting. The regime of the Spanish republic was a regime of crises. A period of ebbs and flows, of reaction and radicalisation, culminating finally in half a decade in the bourgeoisie and proletariat attempting to find a solution in sanguinary and desperate civil war.
The Spanish pattern of events will be manifested on an all European scale in the coming period. Backward as well as advanced countries are faced, in some degree or other, with the same crisis. From the Volga to the North Sea, from the Black Sea to the Baltic, nearly all Europe has been reduced to ruins and chaos. A stable basis for bourgeois democracy is thus excluded. Even the relative 'stability' of the Spanish republic will not be achieved. The most revolutionary period in European history is heralded by the events in Italy and Greece.
The Allied Programme for Europe
The Allied programme for Europe, because of the deeper crisis of capitalism, is far more terrible in its provisions than even the Versailles Treaty. Instead of the forcible unity of one gigantic concentration camp which was the aim of the nazis, the Allies wish to atomise and split up Europe on the lines which so signally led to catastrophe after the last war. Europe is to become the prey of British and American imperialism, with sections of Europe as satellites of and within the sphere of the Soviet bureaucracy.
Even under capitalist auspices, a united Europe would loom as too formidable a rival and threat for British and American imperialism. The Soviet bureacracy is unalterably opposed to the prospect of the unification of even part of the continent in capitalist federations, because it would inevitably become the basis for a new war against the Soviet Union in the future. Hence Stalin, together with Truman(9) and Churchill, is committed to the Balkanisation of Europe and the dismemberment of Germany as the only possible formidable foe in a future war on the continent of Europe.
American imperialism with its huge resources and productive capacity, is driven to attempt the 'organisation' of the entire world in an endeavour to escape the consequences of the insoluble contradictions between the capacities and limitations of even the great American market. America seeks to usurp the age-old dominance of Europe - above all of decaying and enfeebled British imperialism - and to grab the markets of the entire world. Not satisfied with the markets of the colonial countries, America wishes to establish a stranglehold on the markets and industries of Europe as well. She wants the dollar to reign over the currencies and economy of Europe. Taking advantage of the chaos and disorganisation of Europe caused by the war, American finance capital hopes to put Europe on rations by means of loans and the weapon of food, supplies and equipment, while simultaneously at moments of stress and turmoil, blackmailing and buying off the revolutions by the same means.
The savagery of Anglo-American imperialism in relation to Germany is dictated not only by the programme of subjugation and exploitation, but by fear of the proletarian revolution in Germany. The German people have had the experience of all the regimes of bourgeois rule within a few decades. The proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie will inevitably turn in the direction of the socialist revolution.
It is in Germany that the bourgeoisie will discover the utopian character of their schemes to retain the old system. All attempts to punish fraternisation will collapse with the occupation of Germany for any length of time. The Tommies(10) and the Doughboys will consider their mission in Europe completed. They will demand demobilisation and a return home to the better world promised them by the bourgeoisie. The struggle of the German proletariat against the occupation forces, against the national humiliation and dismemberment of Germany, the struggle for national and social freedom, will prepare the way, under the very heel of the occupying forces, for a tremendous resistance on the part of the masses.
With their reactionary programme of national enslavement, the Stalinists can hope to bamboozle the German masses for only the briefest of periods. The way is being prepared for a rapid regroupment of forces of the German proletariat in a revolutionary direction. The experience of Italy is an object lesson on how quickly the masses can recover from the effects of terrible defeats under the impact of historic events. The resources and capacity for struggle of the proletariat seem virtually inexhaustible.
The Balkanisation of Germany and Europe, the Anglo-American domination of Western Europe, the claims of France, the domination of Eastern Europe by the Kremlin through bourgeois puppets, will have even more frightful consequences than the 'peace' of Versailles on the tortured continent. In the epoch of aeroplanes and panzer divisions, the absurdity of national frontiers, customs barriers and armies, of small and large states in Europe, assumes a particularly baleful character for the slow and painful strangulation of the productive forces and the decline of European culture. Particularly as the great powers - included among which are none of the European powers, for the first time - will bleed all Europe for their own ends. The next stage will become the classic period of the epoch of wars, revolutions and counter-revolutions, deepened and intensified by the history of the past decades.
It is possible, on the basis of the support rendered to world imperialism by Stalinism and classical reformism (and this is one of the objective factors to be reckoned with) that world imperialism can succeed, for a period, in 'stabilising' bourgeois democratic regimes in certain countries. Stalinism must offer the masses some gains in the shape of restoration of the trade unions, free (relatively, as in Spain in 1931) press, speech, voting, etc, in however attenuated a form. The imperialists need a 'democratic' interlude before taking the road of reaction. Moreover, they have no other choice. The shocks of the war and the debacle of fascism leave no mass basis for reaction in the immediate period ahead. The attempt to set up military dictatorships without social support would be very difficult. Moreover, such regimes could not survive for very long once the British and American troops were compelled to withdraw. The stormy impulsion of the masses compels them to bring forward their reserve weapon in the shape of the labour organisations.
It is possible, on the other hand, that in isolated instances the Anglo-American imperialists and the national bourgeoisie will succeed in immediately introducing military dictatorships. But without a social basis among the masses, these could not be long enduring. On the background of European and world social unrest and clashes such regimes would be faced with crises and convulsions.
Our estimate of the development of events does not mean that we draw pessimistic conclusions. Rather the contrary. But it does demand that the Fourth International utilise the situation in order to prepare for the shocks that await the imperialists. Ours is an epoch of sharp turns. The changes in the situation in Spain following the revolution of 1931(11) developed with tremendous rapidity: upsurge of the masses, sell-out of the reformists, incapacity of the anarcho-syndicalists and Stalinists to give a revolutionary lead (particularly on the democratic and transitional demands). The short period of lull in which reaction prepared its forces to settle with the masses on the basis of disillusionment and despair engendered by their leadership; the masses respond to the whip of the counter-revolution by general strike and insurrection in Asturias and Catalonia; the reaction is unable to consolidate itself; the masses revive, the formation of the People's Front as a bridle for the masses; the February elections; stormy movements of the workers and peasants which the Stalinists and reformists are unable to control; a movement in the direction of the socialist revolution; the July coup of Franco and the answering insurrection of the masses.
Here we have a glimpse of the next period in Europe. The cadres of the Fourth International must study with great care the lessons of these events. To each stage correspond different slogans and tactics, different methods of agitation and propaganda, different actions on the part of the masses.
On this background of crises which extends more or less over the entire continent, spreading across the archaic national boundaries, the objective conditions are created for the establishment of a Socialist United States of Europe as the only solution to the problems which rack every country.
The implications of the war, the struggle of the peoples against Nazi domination, the example of the federation of the USSR, the coming reaction against the Allied domination, the inevitable reaction against nationalist intoxication and chauvinism, the radicalisation of the European masses - all these factors supply also the subjective basis for propaganda for the Socialist United States of Europe to which the masses will respond. As the cord which binds the programme of the Fourth International together, the main strategic slogan will be the United Socialist States of Europe as the only alternative to national decay and disintegration, decline of culture and civilisation in all the countries of Europe.
Our Tasks in Europe
The Fourth International will penetrate the broad masses and build the party of socialist revolution only with a correct tactical approach to the changing situations and moods.
It would require a whole series of terrible defeats before the bourgeoisie could establish an open dictatorial rule on the lines of the fascist regimes of Hitler and Mussolini. The cycle begins all over again, but on a new basis. The decay of the capitalist system weakens the bourgeoisie and renders it less capable of firmly riveting its rule on the masses. It is 1917-21 with which the world is faced - but on a higher level. The degeneracy of the rotted workers' organisations gives capitalism a breathing space. Only if the series of revolutions fails can the bourgeoisie hope to save its system once again by resorting to a neo-fascism of monstrous reaction and repression. Before then the masses will have been put to the test. The proletariat will discard its old organisations if the Fourth international in its strategy and tactics is capable of integrating itself with the mass movement of the workers.
The basic task in this period is the building of the mass revolutionary parties of the Fourth International. While striving for and advocating the setting up of ad hoc organisations of struggle wherever the opportunity arises, while struggling for and advocating the dictatorship of the proletariat as the only solution, our European comrades cannot hope to achieve this in the first stages of the struggle. True, the masses are seeking the socialist solution; but they will have to go through the experience in action of the policy of betrayal of Stalinism and social democracy in order to learn that even the old standards of life can be obtained only by the rule of the working class.
The struggle for democratic, economic and transitional demands, far from being superceded or obsolete during the course of the revolutionary epoch ahead, assumes tremendous importance for the building of the framework of our movement. Thus, side by side with the propaganda for soviets and workers' government, at this stage there must be waged an agitation for the old organisations of the workers which still maintain the confidence and support of the masses, to break their alliance with the decadent bourgeoisie and Allied imperialism, and for the leaders to match their words with deeds. Our comrades will demand that the mass organisations which claim to represent the workers, wage a struggle to take power into their own hands. 'A Government of Socialists and Communists!' This will be the rallying cry which will be utilised by the Fourth International to mobilise the social democratic and communist workers to wage a struggle against the capitalist class.
Together, and side by side with this, must go the demand for general elections on the basis of universal suffrage from the age of eighteen years. The bourgeoisie and the reformist organisations are prattling about democratic rights, but they have allowed power to remain in the hands of bourgeois cliques, for the most part under the protection of Allied bayonets, without consulting the masses or receiving a mandate from them. Thus, the demand for a general election and the convening of a constituent assembly must play a great role in the agitation of our comrades in the first stages of the revolutionary mobilisation of the masses. Together with these will be linked the transitional slogans in various industries at varying stages of the struggle: Nationalise the banks without compensation! Take over the mines, railways and big combines and industry, and operate them under workers' control! Expropriate the trusts which yesterday collaborated with Hitler and today collaborate with the Allied imperialists! A plan of public works! A sliding scale of hours and wages! The arming of the workers and the organising of workers' militias! There is no need to detail all the demands which will be put forward, according to the development of the situation as laid down in the policy of the Fourth International in its Transitional Programme. These demands are not in contradiction with the programme of soviets, of workers' committees in the factories and streets. But without them there is a danger that the groups of the Fourth International would degenerate into sectarian sterility and isolation. They represent a bridge to the broad masses and without them the problem of organising the vanguard is rendered doubly difficult.
It is in periods such as this that the party of the Fourth International will build itself. The Stalinist and social democratic parties will not attain the stability they achieved in the pre-war era. They will be faced with a constant series of crises and splits. Given correct tactics the parties of the Fourth International will grow at their expense. However, ephemeral, centrist currents and groupings are bound to make their appearance in many countries owing to the weakness of the organisations of the Fourth International and their lack of authoritative spokesmen, such as Leon Trotsky. Authority will be built up on the basis of the ability of the young cadres of the International to learn for themselves in the course of the struggles, and on the basis of the masses' experience of the application of the programme of the Fourth International.
(1) The coalition of Germany, Italy and Japan which originated in 1936.
(2) Napoleon Zervas was the head of EDES (Greek Democratic National League) which while participating in resistance against the nazis, became a tool of British imperialism and Greek monarchists in the civil war of 1944-49. George Siantos was head of the KKE (Greek Communist Party) 1942-5. Tito (Josip Broz) led the partisan resistance to the occupation of Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav CP broke with Moscow in 1948 (see Reply to David James). The Maquis were the resistance fighters in the provincial areas of occupied France, while the FTP were the CP-led underground operating mainly in urban areas.
(3) The German occupation of Greece collapsed in early October 1944, in the face of a full scale war of liberation waged by the Greek workers and peasants organised in ELAS (Greek National Liberation Army), the military wing of the CP-led EAM (National Liberation Front). British troops were only landed after the German forces had evacuated Athens, with the aim of reestablishing the Greek monarchy and preventing power remaining in the hands of the armed masses. Civil war broke out in December 1944 when the British forces began to disarm ELAS. An armistice was signed in February 1945, but the civil war reerupted from 1946 until 1949, leaving 158,000 dead.
(4) King George II was king of Greece 1913-24. Restored to the throne in 1935, he made Ioannis Metaxas premier. Metaxas assumed dictatorial powers from 1936-41.
(5) General Nicholas Plastiras of the National Progressive Union became the Prime Minister of the puppet pro-British regime in December 1944. Admiral Vulgaris, Commander of the Greek Fleet, was responsible for crushing an anti-fascist mutiny on ships in Alexandria harbour, April 1944. He took over from Plastiras in April 1945.
(6) In August 1944, the Warsaw workers rose up against the occupying German army. Within two days they controlled the city. However, the Russian army which was within 15 miles of Warsaw, having been checked by the German army, made no attempt to advance for several weeks, leaving the workers to fight alone. Stalin described the rising as a 'reckless adventure', and a 'mindless brawl led by adventurers'. After 63 days of heroic resistance, which left 93 per cent of the city destroyed and 240,000 Poles dead, the nazis regained control. The London Committee was the Polish government in exile from 1940.
(7) From the government of Alexander Kerensky which was in power in Russia from July to October 1917, containing various combinations of reformist and capitalist parties.
(8) Pietro Badoglio, Italian general, became prime minister after Mussolini's fall in 1943. He negotiated an armistice with Allies in Southern Italy, while disarming the workers in the north who had occupied the factories in opposition to the German occupation.
(9) Harry Truman, Democrat president of USA 1945-53. He developed the Truman Doctrine which gave economic and military 'aid' to countries threatened with 'interference'. He introduced the Marshall Plan of economic aid to prevent revolution in Europe in 1948.
(10) Slang term for British and American soldiers.
(11) The events following begin with municipal elections in April 1931, where a clear victory for the republican parties led to the abdication of King Alfonso. This was followed by a massive strike wave. The insurrection in Asturias took place in October 1934. The Popular Front was elected in February 1936, Franco's uprising took place in July 1936.
Written: October 1944
Source: Workers’ International News, Vol. 5 No. 7, October 1944
The German Revolution and the future
The entry of Allied troops into Germany marks the beginning of the end for German imperialism and for the Nazis. The complete collapse of the Hitler regime cannot be long delayed. In four years the swing of the pendulum has brought German imperialism from the attainment of its dream of European domination to the position of imminent dismemberment and powerlessness. There have been few changes in the history of warfare and of the relations between the nations so graphic and so speedy. But in them is reflected the instability of relations between the nations and the social contradictions within the nations themselves.
In 1940, Trotsky wrote commenting on Hitler’s victories:
“The political map has been reshaped with equal speed in no other epoch save that of the Napoleonic wars. At that time it was a question of outlived feudal states which had to give way before the bourgeois national state. Today it is a question of outlived bourgeois states which must give way before the Socialist Federation of the peoples.”
For from Hitler’s defeats refuting, they serve to confirm the idea here expressed. It is the contradictions of world capitalism and the extension of the war to a world, rather than a European arena (which these contradictions made inevitable), which have led to Hitler’s undoing on the military field. Moreover, there is a profound significance in the fact that the heart of Hitler’s Wehrmacht was torn out on the plains of the Ukraine and the banks of the Volga. In however distorted a form, it was a reflection of the superiority of the coming new society of socialism over decaying capitalism. This in itself is an indication of the decline and decay of the bourgeois system.
But in conquering Europe, and in his attempts to hold it down, Hitler had undermined completely the social basis which capitalism possessed. In so doing, the Nazis have left a legacy to the “victors”, a legacy of social storms and convulsions never before attained in the rich history of the Old Continent which once dominated all others.
In articles reflecting the bourgeois disquiet, the Economist has pointed out that the middle class in France and other occupied countries has been reduced to a fraction of what it was, as the result of the Nazi demand for factory workers, the ruin occasioned by the war, general dislocation, lack of supplies except for war industry, bombing, etc. In the rural areas, though on a smaller scale, the same process has taken place. This, coupled with the tremendous psychological shock occasioned by the events of the war, the collaboration of the bourgeoisie of the defeated countries with the invaders, has undermined the former habitual acceptance of bourgeois domination over the nation. Not alone the working class, but the peasant and petit-bourgeois masses inevitably will seek revolutionary solutions to the unbearable agony to which they have been brought by the capitalist regime. The harsh school, through which they are going, will teach the masses rapidly. All the political trends and tendencies will come up for judgment as to their capacity to deliver the goods.
The crisis of the bourgeois regime is far more profound than it was in 1918. The shocks involved with the collapse of Fascism in Italy are but the shadow of coming events.
No stable counter-revolutionary capitalist armies in Europe
It is a fact which has escaped attention in the working class press, but a factor of profound importance, that in all Europe there is not a single stable bourgeois army, which will be left after the destruction of the German army. A startling fact upon which “revolutionary” pessimists could well ponder! The French army has vanished, and the army assembled at Algiers would hardly fulfill the purpose. The Italian army and those of the Low Countries have been dissolved. Poland’s pitiful émigré army, though selected and organised for the purpose, could hardly fill the bill. In the Balkans, the armies of Greece and Yugoslavia have been smashed and those of Romania and Bulgaria which have managed formally to retain their form, are already in a shaky condition. If we include the British as a European army, it is composed dominantly of workers whose ranks are so imbued with an anti-capitalist and even socialist consciousness, that it would be impossible to use it for a protracted period for punitive or repressive purposes. Once Hitler has vanished, in the consciousness of this fine proletarian material, the reason for their presence in Europe will have disappeared as well.
There remains of the bourgeois armies, only the extra European forces of American imperialism. Politically they are extremely backward. And it is on this backwardness that world imperialism is relying to save the situation in Europe. But the Achilles heel of the American colossus lies in the fact that this mass of soldiery is completely lacking in a cohesive ideology. Most of the American soldiers are indifferent to the propaganda of American imperialism on the aims of the war. Those who are at all politically conscious desire the liquidation of Fascism – but all are unanimous in a desire to “go home.” Those who have been affected by the reactionary propaganda, tend to direct their animosity against the Japanese rather than against the Germans. Once Hitler has disappeared, in an atmosphere of universal hostility, the American army too will rapidly become demoralised if used against any section of the European workers. Their desire to return to the States will become transformed into political opposition to the ruling class.
Meanwhile, the bureaucrats in control of the Red Army are more terrified even than those in control of the imperialist armies at the possibility lodged in a mingling of the Red Army soldiers with the workers and peasants of Germany. They have endeavoured by every means in their power to create a wall of hatred between them. Preparations have been made to use the Red Army to crush completely any tendency in the direction of Socialist revolution on the part of the German working class. But immediately the masses in Germany move in the direction of uprising and reprisals against the Nazis and the German ruling class, in Soviet occupied areas it will have a profound effect on the workers and peasants comprising the Red Army. It will tend to rekindle the flame of the October Revolution. Thus as a stable and sure base for capitalist counter-revolution and occupation, the Red Army would be even more unstable than any other.
This is the background on which events in Germany will develop – a background of revolutionary disturbances and convulsions throughout Europe.
Ideological preparation for Allied repression in Europe
Inside Germany all the conditions have matured for social explosions. Revolution is inevitable. If it is assumed that the Allies should succeed in occupying Germany before the revolution breaks out, this could only temporarily delay the dénouement. Inevitably, an upsurge would develop uniting the mass of the people behind the working class in its struggle for emancipation from social and national enslavement. Taking a leaf out of Hitler’s book, the Allies intend imposing a regime on Germany similar to that imposed by the Nazis on France and other countries they have overrun. They can only do this by the use of the same methods of terror, tortures and reprisals by means of which the Gestapo and the S.S. maintained their short-lived and precarious occupation of the countries overrun. The Allies will achieve even less success in their endeavours to hold down the population of Germany.
In their endeavour to prepare the way psychologically for their reprisals and executions, as a means of terrorising the masses in Germany into submission, the Allies have in recent weeks begun a sustained campaign of hatred and vilification against the German people as a whole. The myth that the Nazis and the German people are one and the same thing, and that all Germans are by innate nature “Huns”, “war-loving”, “brutal”, “fascist beasts”, “murderers”, etc., without the slightest spark of human decency, is being systematically propagated. The undoubted atrocities which the depraved elements of the S.S. and the Nazis have perpetrated against the peoples of Europe, serve as the ostensible excuse for the legend that the whole of the German nation is responsible. It is conveniently forgotten by the gentry manufacturing this hatred, that the S.S. learned its sadism in action against the worker-socialists, communists and trade unionists in Germany itself. And that this savagery had begun even prior to Hitler’s coming to power. They wish the masses to overlook the delight with which they regarded Hitler’s oppression of the German masses, and the approval with which it was regarded by the democratic statesmen, as a safeguard against socialist revolution. But in both cases they are remaining true to their aims. Behind the support for Hitler, as behind the attack on the German masses as “poisoned Hitlerites”, lies the same class motive: fear of the socialist revolution.
From a somewhat similar angle can be explained the rabid chauvinism and race hatred preached by the Kremlin. The cooperation with Hitler in the Stalin-Hitler Pact, and now the frenzied and insane denunciation of everything German, in reality present the same symmetrical pattern: fear of the socialist revolution in Germany and its threat to the power and privileges of the Stalinist bureaucracy.
On this question all the forces of the old society are united. Though of course, they intend to utilise the position to squeeze all they can out of the German masses in their own interests.
The German people under the Nazis
Hitler, having come to power, crushed the working class with the aid of the middle class, then speedily turned on the deluded petit-bourgeois. That was the significance of the June 30th purge of 1934. Having duped the middle class with demagogic phrases and propaganda against the combines, the Nazi dictatorship revealed itself as the ferocious agent of finance capital. If the middle class had been ruined in the “democratic” Weimar republic this was as nothing to the state to which they were reduced under the Nazis, crippling taxation and the wiping out of large sections of the middle class as a social grouping were speeded up beyond anything which had obtained in pre-Nazi Germany.
Incapable of solving the crisis of German capitalism the bloated Nazi bureaucracy had no course other than war. Nazism was revealed as the “chemically distilled essence of the pure culture of imperialism”. But on this road, weakened German capitalism could only travel by forcing the masses in. But the pent-up energies of the ((((something’s missing))) to tighten their belts even further. [sic] “Guns before butter” was the grim programme of the Nazis before the present war began.
In the six years between the Nazis coming to power and the invasion of Poland, the mass basis of the Nazis had largely disappeared. The mass of the working class never supported them. The middle class had become disillusioned. The victories of 1939-40 may have resulted in a temporary wave of chauvinism, but this was rapidly dissipated by the horrors of the war against the Soviet Union. One thing alone has paralysed the German masses from taking action against the hated regime, and that has been the fear of the consequences of Allied victory.
Neither in the East from the side of Stalin, nor in the West from the Allies, has any attractive alternative been offered to them. Indeed, the threats emanating from the Soviet Union have been even more frightening to the masses than from the Allied imperialists. Thus, Stalin has presented Goebbels with the “secret weapon” by means of which “national unity” in the Reich has been maintained.
But a “national unity” founded on fear of the consequences of defeat, and backed with the terror of the S.S. and the Gestapo, cannot be maintained indefinitely in the face of the mounting catastrophes suffered by the Nazi regime. The disintegration of the Nazi Reich proceeds apace. Germany is now almost the last of the Nazi-occupied countries. The tens and thousands of arrests of anyone who could be remotely suspected of opposition, and dangerous thoughts towards the regime, are an indication of this. More and more, as the masses become bitter and resentful, the Nazis are like conquerors in a foreign land. The newspapers report of Hamburg—Red Hamburg—that large numbers of the S.S. men have been found either knifed, or with their heads battered in—but with their weapons stolen. It is reported that S.S. and Gestapo men dare not move about in the large industrial cities of Germany at night singly—but go in pairs and groups—so many have been found dead, their firearms missing. Instructive episodes! They mirror the intensity of the hatred towards the regime which surely must be the greatest in history and—the thirst for revenge on the part of the German masses.
All the conditions for revolutionary upheaval are now present. It but requires some accident which will set the workers of one large industrial city in Germany into open collision with the Nazis, and all Germany will be plunged into the Revolution. It is similar to the situation in Italy before the fall of Mussolini, except that in Germany the masses are fearful of the Allies [sic] if they gain the opportunity of marching [sic] German Revolution must burst forth in a far more gigantic explosion than in the Italian peninsula.
Splits in the German ruling class
The knowledge of the inevitability of defeat, and the pressure of the masses from below, has already led the German bourgeoisie to attempt to rid themselves of the mascot Hitler, now transformed into a millstone around their necks. This in itself, is a symptom of the revolutionary crisis in Germany. As always, in history, the coming of the revolution is marked by irreparable fissures and antagonisms opening out within the ranks of the ruling class itself.
Under an open dictatorship, this always manifests itself in plots and conspiracies. The Generals’ revolt, and the reports which indicate an Allied, or even entirely separate conspiracy on the part of certain groupings of industrialists, were manifestations of this process in Germany. But neither the Generals nor the industrialists were completely united on the need or the time to rid themselves of the Nazis. The same cause which propelled a desperate section forward momentarily paralysed and terrified other sections. Their attention was riveted on events in Italy where the removal of Mussolini provoked, instead of forestalling, the revolutionary storm. The freshness of these events and the under-current of social antagonisms now rising openly to the surface, convinced them that the removal of Hitler if anything would provoke even worse consequences for their class.
Moreover, Hitler and his group of human scum, thugs and adventurers, had no intention of retiring from the scene to suit their paymasters, who no longer had any use for them. They did not intend to be cast aside, like the bourgeoisie toss away their worn-out mistresses. They too had observed the events in Italy and attempted to profit by the lesson. This hooligan gang had nothing to gain and would lose all by such a change—including also their lives. They had no particular regard for “Germany”, whether bourgeois or any other Germany, except from the point of view of milking her. These gangsters have sown such a harvest of hatred and scorn that there is no way out for them—they act with the desperation of cornered rats. And the German bourgeoisie which only yesterday had luscious visions of exploiting all Europe, finds itself incapable of asserting immediate control on Germany—the forces they have raised from the depths of society have expropriated them politically, and attempt to act as an independent force threatening even the members of the bourgeoisie itself.
Thus it is revealed that in the dialectics of class rule the pattern is not at all simple, but extremely complex.
Allied plans after Hitler’s fall
However, measures of terror cannot save Hitler. Even if by some miracle the Nazis could stave off military defeat for a time (and this is not entirely excluded by the relationship of forces), the inevitable collapse of the regime from internal explosions is drawing near. The desperation of the regime is but a reflection of the desperation of the masses. Firing squads, arrests, terror, concentration camps are all useless for a regime which has completely outlived itself. There is not a live thread in the whole structure left. Even the S.S. and the Gestapo have no faith in the future, and large numbers are seeking for a way to save themselves. In addition to which the war has compelled the breaking down of the S.S., which is no longer a carefully selected instrument of suppression, but has been diluted with large numbers of fresh elements and even foreign mercenaries with an entirely different training and outlook to the old members. Even these latter cannot remain unaffected by the prevailing mood among the bulk of the population in Germany. Hitlerism is in its death agony. The piling up of contradictions has reached such a degree of intensity that it .has gone far beyond the limits which any society can bear.
What will he the exact course of developments, it would be impossible to predict. All that can be laid down is the general course of events that will ensue. One of the factors which dictates the pathological campaign against the Germans by the Stalinists and the bourgeoisie, is their fear of the tradition of the German workers. Numerically the strongest sector of the European proletariat, the German workers have a tradition of education on the ideas of Marxism which extends back for more than two generations. Under the influence of the crisis, these ideas must inevitably be revived with tenfold strength, especially within the vanguard, now that the masses have gone through the hell of fascism. Hitler has drained the social reserves of German capitalism. The middle class—whittled down to a shadow of what it was before Hitler—or even before the war—can no longer provide a stable basis for reaction. On the contrary, the pendulum must inevitably swing in the opposite direction. The middle class, which drew behind it sections of the backward workers in its period of counter-revolutionary frenzy, will follow the lead of the workers in a new revolutionary upsurge.
If in France, Italy and other countries, the workers have immediately taken to the road of mass expropriations, and arrests of the employers; if there is the tendency to the setting up of Soviets and workers’ committees; if the workers immediately begin to seize factories and to arm themselves in order to make themselves master of the situation once the pressure of the Nazi military machine was released—what will the position bein Germany? Inevitably in a situation of chaos and ruin, the masses will be impelled to settle accounts with the Nazis in the most ruthless fashion. Almost automatically on the morrow of a successful uprising against Hitler, the workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ committees would be compelled to attempt to assert control of Germany: the socialist revolution would pose itself as the sole solution.
An uprising on these lines has already been envisaged in the calculations of Anglo-American imperialism. Churchill’s statement in Parliament that the “Germans” could not escape responsibility for their crimes by turning to Communism was a warning in advance of the repression of the Allies in that event. But the consequences for Europe and the world of such a movement, would slip beyond the control of the imperialists. Revolutionary convulsions as far away as Asia and Africa would be felt among the already restless colonial slaves of the imperialists.
Accepting the worst variant in developments in the immediate future—that Hitler could succeed in holding down the population till the Allies march in and occupy the whole of Germany, and that the fall of Nazism takes place through its military debacles—what follows would be a different pattern to the one sketched above certainly! But how different? From the Nazis oppressing the German workers, the German workers would become oppressed not only socially but nationally as well, by the foreign conquerors.
And what can the bourgeoisie of Germany, or the Allies, offer any section of the German population? Under present conditions, the Allies as well as the German bourgeoisie regard the existence of a democratic regime as dangerous, because it could not be long lasting. Hence the programme of the German bourgeoisie cannot but be, to accept the position of a satellite of Anglo-American Imperialism—of Quislings.
The Allies intend to place themselves in the position formerly occupied by the Nazis, but hope to retain the present political relationships intact. Everything is to remain unchanged! With or without the Allies, the Nazi Party would disappear—and its existence [??] would extremely embarrass the Allies at home. They still have to maintain the pretense of a war to exterminate Fascism and too open a revelation of their aims would provoke repercussions among their own working class. Consequently, a few hundreds of the Nazi tops would have to be removed as a gesture to satisfy the “mob”. But as for the rest, the Nazi bureaucracy and the Capitalists would remain as subordinate partners of the Imperialists. The system of repression established by Hitler—except the racial discrimination against the Jews, the abolition of which would not cost the Allies anything, and would be an inexpensive gesture, would remain in operation with additional “improvements” such as the curfew. The pariah race would now be the Germans. That is the pattern of occupation as established by the military regulations on the first strip of territory in Germany occupied by the Allies.
The bourgeoisie have noted with dread the experience of Fascism in Europe, but are unable to profit thereby. Hitler’s rule, as that of Mussolini, depended on a number of factors, all of which have disappeared today. No regime can last without mass backing. This backing was given in the first period of the rule of fascism by the deluded middle class. Once they had become disillusioned it was only the inertia, apathy, and disappointment of the masses in the failure and incapacity of their own organisations, which prevented the dictators’ overthrow. With the masses aroused by the events of the war, Mussolini was doomed, as is Hitler. Hitler endeavoured, by military force, to replace the shattered ranks of Mussolini’s militia. He has found in North Italy that once overthrown, it was impossible to reinstate the fascists, though they tried hard enough. A totalitarian oppression is bad enough. A foreign totalitarian repression is unbearable!
But the Allied capitalist statesmen realise this only too well. They are expecting as desperate a resistance as the Nazis received in the lands they conquered. Hence there is a clear and cool calculation in the campaign pushed forward in the bourgeois press of Britain and America that the Nazis expecting inevitable defeat are preparing to go “underground”. The idea in itself does not bear examination. No more than in the case of Mussolini, could Hitler with what little support he still possesses, survive the military debacle.
But the thoroughly roused German masses who have had to put up with unbearable repression, would not for long tolerate the repression of the Allies, especially as they witness the Allied fraternization with and protection of, the Nazi bureaucrats and capitalists. They would inevitably resist in the most desperate fashion the Allied oppression and exploitation. In order to kill any sympathy or support for such movements of opposition among the workers in the Allied countries the Allied command are preparing to use Stalin’s technique and label every such uprising, strike, protest or demonstration, as “underground Nazi” or “Nazi inspired”. Hence, their terror and fear of fraternization between the German workers and Allied armies; hence their adoption of the same technique as Hitler (who in turn had learned it from the repression of the Imperialists in the colonies in the occupied territories). The destruction of the little town of Wallendorf had the same deliberate aim as the destruction of Lidice and other towns by the Nazis: to terrorise the population and create a gulf between them and the Allied soldiers. But all such efforts in the long run will break down, on the disgust of the Allied soldiers at being used for such reprisals and punishments.
Prepare for the socialist revolution
Meanwhile, in Germany itself under the claws of the Nazis a new generation of revolutionaries is being fashioned. A generation hard and unbreakable, tested and steeled in the fire of Nazi repression. The Allied ruling class directs its propaganda against the German youth. With good reason! Not at all because it is “corrupted” by the teachings of Nazism, but because of its striving towards revolutionary change. Again the example of Italy indicates how easily youth, which feels the burden of fascist repression and stifling of all initiative and independence, more than any other section of the population, assimilates rapidly revolutionary ideas and methods at the first opportunity. The reports which have trickled through show the strong opposition in Germany against Hitlerism even now among the youth. The working class and even the middle class student youth and schoolboys have provided groups of recruits to the anti-Nazi organisations.
For many reasons it is likely that the old workers’ organizations, which so ignobly surrendered to Hitler, may not gain so firm a support even in the early stages of the revolution in Germany as in the other countries in Europe. Any attempt to cooperate with the Allied conquerors would immediately label them as traitors in the eyes of the masses. The Stalinist programme of Vansittartite repressions and reparations would speedily lose these gentry any support they might muster in Germany. From the ranks of the German workers will come some of the finest fighters for the Socialist revolution. In Germany what groups of Socialists, Communists and worker-oppositionists existed and developed have been compelled to weigh up the situation and give a lead independently of the bureaucrats of Stalinism and the Social Democrats, by the very conditions of the unparalleled Nazi terror. In the factories the best militants have learned to appraise the situation carefully and thoroughly. Upon these revolutionary fighters, it will not be so easy to impose the policy of class collaboration. The thoughts of the German workers are bitter and they have been coloured by the excesses of the Nazis. Every worker must have cast longing glances at the lamp-posts when faced with some particularly irksome tyranny on the part of the Nazis or his bosses—he does not make much distinction between his employer or factory “führer” and the Nazi regime.
But the fate of Germany obviously cannot be separated from the fate of Europe. The millions of foreign slaves that Hitler imported into Germany will play an important role in this respect. They have established secret and friendly relations with the German workers despite the strict Nazi prohibition against this. They will take back memories of the German workers' opposition to the regime and their fraternal class solidarity when they return to the countries from whence they came. The problem of the German revolution cannot be separated from the problem of the revolution in all Europe. The war has tied the fate of all the European countries together. Events in one will have immediate repercussions in all the others.
In this connection the events in Bulgaria when the Red Army marched in, mirror in miniature the possibilities lodged in the situation in the whole of Europe. Despite all, when the Red Army marched into Sofia the class not the national or racial instincts immediately exerted their supremacy. According to the report published in the News Chronicle (significantly the only paper which carried the news in Britain and even more significantly only in the early editions, as it was suppressed in the later issues) the Red Army soldiers were fraternising with the civilian population, with the Bulgarian Army and with the German soldiers! One ecstatic mass exchanging the Red Front salute!
As the British correspondent who witnessed these events ingeniously remarked, the Communist Party could have taken power without any possibility of opposition but did not seem to want to do so! What an historical crime has been committed by the perfidious role of Stalinism!
However, the task is not to meditate on the role of Stalinism and reformism but to prepare actively to combat them. The military battles in Europe are drawing to a close—the era of class battle will replace it.
If the Revolutionary Communists of Germany together with the Fourth International everywhere, can succeed in finding their way to the masses and building strong revolutionary parties, it is they who will determine the future—that of the Socialist United States of Europe.
A reply to some comrades of the IKD
Written: October 1945
Source: Workers' International News, Vol.6 No.1, October 1945. Reprinted in Fourth International, vol.7 No.3, March 1946, pp.72-76.
Transcription/Markup: Einde O' Callaghan. Reworked by Maarten V
Introduction from Fourth International
We are publishing Comrade E. Grant's article as a contribution to the discussion on the national question in Europe which was opened in our magazine in 1942. We reprint this article from the October 1945 issue of Workers' International News, theoretical organ of the Revolutionary Communist Party of England. Among the discussion articles on this question that have previously appeared are the following: Three Theses on the European Situation and The Political Tasks (December 1942); The National Question in Europe by Marc Loris (September 1942); Revolutionary Tasks under the Nazi Boot by Marc Loris (November 1942); Our Differences with the Three Theses by Felix Morrow (December 1942); The Central Slogan for Occupied Europe by M. Morrison (January 1943).
The official position of the Socialist Workers Party on this question, adopted unanimously at the Tenth Convention in October 1942, appeared in our November 1942 issue under the heading The National Question in Europe. (See also European Revolution and the Tasks of the Revolutionary Party, Resolution of Eleventh Convention, November 1944, which was published in our December 1944 issue).
The contribution of our German comrades (Problems of the European Revolution published in July-August Workers International News) is an indication of "retrogression" from the fundamental doctrines of Marxism. Abandoning the Leninist criterion, the class criterion, of all processes taking place in society, they have adopted a pre-Leninist, even pre-Menshevik theory of "democratic" revolution in Europe. A "national democratic" revolution which, after the collapse of Hitler, will now be directed throughout Europe, against the Allies!
It would seem incredible that, after the tremendous struggle that Trotsky waged for the conception of the permanent revolution against the revisionists of Stalinism, a petty bourgeois democratic, revisionist tendency would develop within the ranks of the Fourth International. It is explained, of course, by the uninterrupted series of defeats which have been suffered by the proletariat and the isolation to which the comrades have been doomed by the emigration. They have succumbed to the pressure of the petty bourgeois reaction.
These comrades pride themselves on their understanding of dialectics, but fail even to attempt to examine the problem they are facing from a genuine historical point of view. From what to what is society today evolving? The coming to power of Hitler, the war and its aftermath are a reflection of the blind alley of capitalism, its disintegration and decay, its incapacity to solve a single one of the problems confronting it. It is a result of the failure of the proletariat through the treachery of its leadership (Stalinist and Reformist) to overthrow capitalism and institute the rule of the working class. To these elementary propositions, not even the confused comrades of the IKD would dare to object, but, not stating the problem clearly, they draw the most fantastic conclusions from the gangrenous and rotting collapse of capitalism. They draw the conclusion that the bourgeoisie through a "democratic" revolution, can still play a progressive role! It is true that they put this forward under the guise of a "peoples" movement, the class character of which they do not define. But never in modern times has the "people" or the "nation" as such played an independent role. The petty bourgeois masses, in all their layers, can support either the proletariat or the bourgeoisie. There cannot be, in modern society, any other state but that of the proletariat or the bourgeoisie. Lenin clearly developed this idea when he wrote:
... all political economy – if one has learned anything at all from it – the whole history of the revolution, the whole history of political development during the nineteenth century, teaches us that the peasant goes either with the worker or with the bourgeois. If you do not know this, I should like to say to such citizens, just reflect upon the development of any one of the great revolutions of the eighteenth or the nineteenth centuries, upon the political history of any country in the nineteenth century. It will tell you why. The economy of capitalist society is such that the ruling power can only be either capital or the proletariat which overthrows it. Other forces there are none in the economics of society. (Vol.XVI, page 217). [First All-Russian Congress on Adult Education on May 19,1919, Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 29, pp. 367-68]
The IKD's intentionally vague talk of the struggle of the "whole people against the national and political oppressor" is intended to cover up their capitulation to the petty bourgeois conception of the revolution. Confronted with the above quotation, they would undoubtedly be compelled to accept it, if only in words. But what follows from it? What is the class character of this "peoples" movement? Is it proletarian, is it bourgeois or is it petty bourgeois? In attempting to skip over the class character (always a characteristic of petty bourgeois thought) of this movement, the IKD reveal the genesis of their ideas, petty bourgeois capitulation to bourgeois democracy and imperialism.
Taking as their point of departure, the failure of the proletariat to overthrow capitalism, the IKD comrades argue that society has been thrown so far back that the bourgeois-democratic revolution solved by the French Revolution of 1789 is posed anew for solution! What a conclusion. From the failure of the proletariat (due to its leadership) they turn to the petty bourgeoisie, the people, for salvation. But precisely the impotence of the petty bourgeoisie to find a new road, and its frenzy opened the way for the Fascist gangs to come to power. From the petty bourgeoisie, there can come no leadership. In modern society, they must find leadership in one or the other basic classes, bourgeoisie or proletariat. Having rejected the proletarian revolution as a solution, quite naturally the IKD find themselves in tow to the bourgeoisie. But these conceptions represent an entire break with the Marxist conception of the epoch which is, in the words of Lenin, one of wars and revolutions, proletarian revolutions. Thus the bourgeoisie is plunged into its wars and bestial repressions not because there is any solution for it thereby, but because they are driven to these extremities by the insoluble contradictions of the system. Wars and repressions cannot provide a solution, but only aggravate the problem.
The victory of the German imperialists led to the collaboration of the conquered bourgeoisie of France and other countries in Europe with the victors as junior partners in the exploitation of the masses. This could not but lead to an intensification of the class hatred of the workers, not alone against the foreign oppressor but against his agents at home. The petty bourgeoisie as well as the workers could not but conceive hatred for the trusts and combines who placed their profits above the fiction of the "nation." Consequently, the basis for an alliance of proletariat and petty bourgeoisie against the foreign and home oppressors, against capitalism, arose.
In the backward countries, the national bourgeoisie prefers in the last analysis to combine with the landlords and foreign imperialist oppressors against their own workers and peasants because of the incapacity to solve the problems of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, according to Lenin and Trotsky. (Especially the latter developed this idea with the theory of permanent revolution.) Because of the impossibility of the petty bourgeoisie playing an independent role, only the proletariat as a class could lead the struggle against the foreign oppressor and carry through the bourgeois democratic revolution and the struggle for national liberation. But such a struggle, by its very nature, could only lead, either to the victory of the imperialist bourgeois counter revolution or to the conquest of power by the proletariat. Under such conditions, the task of the proletariat and its vanguard is to maintain its independence from the bourgeoisie and to fight to win the plebian masses to its side.
The ideas of the IKD thus revise the conception developed by Trotsky for the Chinese and Indian revolutions and apply this revised conception to the advanced countries of Europe!
The confusion in the minds of these comrades is shown by their insistence on the necessity of a transitional revolution before the proletarian revolution, a so-called "democratic" revolution. In this they repeat all the mistakes of Stalin-Bukharin in 1925-27, in the Chinese revolution. With the difference that the Stalinist clique could manufacture the semblance of a case as the national democratic revolution had not been accomplished in the East. But even here, as the experience of the Russian revolution had already shown, such conceptions could only lead to disaster. But to apply an even more crass formulation than that which the Stalinists applied in China, to Europe, is to reach the limit of revisionism of the doctrines of Trotskyism. At least Stalin tried to cover his confusion with the outworn Bolshevik formula of the "democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry." That was the only class formula he could find to describe the "democratic" revolution which he foresaw in Asia. Not having sufficiently thought out the problem, our German comrades leave these questions unanswered. What will this democratic revolution look like? Which class will play the leading role in its realization? Which class will rule in the government? What difference is there between the regime of bourgeois democracy and the regime of this "democratic" revolution?
Posing the problem correctly is already half-way to answering it. Not using the Marxist method, our comrades have lost themselves in a fog of petty bourgeois phrasemongering.
It seems fantastic that there should be any argument on questions that any raw student of Trotskyism should understand. Especially so with people with great "theoretical" pretensions. It underlines the necessity for a regular re-statement of the basic theories of the movement, not alone for the benefit of new recruits but for people to whom such propositions ought to be elementary.
In dealing with the problem of the permanent revolution in China, Trotsky, answering in advance our comrades of the emigration, explained "...in China, the question of national liberation occupies a Large place. This demonstrates that the formula of the democratic dictatorship (to replace that of struggle for proletarian dictatorship) presents a much more dangerous reactionary snare ..." And again "in a bourgeois society with already developed class antagonisms there can only be either an open or disguised dictatorship of the bourgeoisie or of the proletariat. There cannot be any talk of a transitional regime." [source]
Our comrades have been unable to think their ideas through to the end and thus they end up with a policy which is a ludicrous caricature of that of Stalinism. They argue:
"The retrogressive development of capitalism led to the destruction of national independence and democratic liberties of the most important European nations. Nowhere did the movement go beyond the limits of bourgeois demands, the first attempt of the suppressed masses of Europe to realize the democratic revolution and to re-conquer national independence, was doomed to failure ... the second wave of democratic revolution will find many obstacles removed which impeded the first ..."
Since these comrades argue that Europe has been thrown back centuries and that the task is to carry out the bourgeois revolution (for that is the class nature of the "democratic revolution") how is this to be accomplished? In the past it was carried through by the plebian masses who could not go beyond the limits of the bourgeois forms of property. If this so-called bourgeois revolution is to be carried through by the proletariat, then the whole scheme does not make sense. For if the proletariat is to play the leading role, then the revolution can only be the proletarian revolution, leading to the dictatorship of the proletariat. In lashing the Stalinists, Trotsky remarked on the attempt to separate "democracy" from its social content. "The hopelessness of the epigones is most crassly expressed in the fact that even now they still attempt to contrast the democratic dictatorship with the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, as well as to the dictatorship of the proletariat. But this means that the democratic dictatorship must have a transitional character, that is, a petty bourgeois content." [source] If the comrades argue that they stand for a bourgeois democracy then the leading role of the bourgeoisie is reinforced and their criticism of the Stalinist line in France is absurd. The Stalinists and reformists who had developed a "line" in France and the other occupied countries very similar to that of the IKD consistently fought for the "national war of liberation" in which all classes were involved in the fight for "democracy" without explaining its social content. Consequently the feeble criticism of the IKD of their role in the "national liberation" movement is completely unreal. If the position of the IKD were correct, instead of criticizing, they should have agreed entirely with the course pursued by the old workers' organizations in Europe.
The trouble with the IKD is that, having been thrown off course by the reactionary wave, they mistake history's posterior for its face. Searching for an impossible "democratic" revolution, they cannot see the visage of the early stages of the proletarian revolution and equate bourgeois "democratic" counterrevolution of the period of the decline of the bourgeoisie with the democratic revolution of its rise! They do this because they confuse the democratic demands of the proletariat with the nature of the revolution which the proletariat is called on to face. Democratic demands, the right to strike and organization, the right of free speech, press, elections, Constituent Assembly, etc., etc., are part of the transitional demands of the proletariat in its struggle for the Socialist revolution. These demands must be inscribed on the banner of the Revolutionary Party in its efforts to mobilize the masses in the struggle to educate them in the need for the conquest of power. In every revolution of the proletariat in modern times, one or the other democratic demand has played its part in the struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. But in and of itself, this did not determine the nature of the struggle upon which the proletariat was embarked.
Both the opportunists of the IKD and various sectarians were answered in advance by the tactics pursued by the Bolsheviks in the Russian revolution. Here, while steering a course towards the October insurrection, on the basis of the understanding of the social nature of the tasks facing the proletariat, the Bolsheviks combined this strategical objective with flexible tactics. They fought for democratic demands, but this struggle was indissolubly linked with the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Our epoch, even in the backward countries which have not accomplished the democratic revolution, remains the epoch of proletarian revolution and bourgeois counter-revolution (whatever its specific form), not at all the epoch of democratic revolution. The victory of fascism in no way alters the social character of the regime, the economy of capitalism or the role of the different classes in society. The victory in war, the plunder and national oppression of one capitalist nation of other imperialist powers, in itself marks no decisive change within bourgeois society. The epoch of the democratic revolution is long since past, consequently, the policies that base themselves on non-existent phantoms of "democratic revolution" can only play into the hands of the bourgeoisie. Not at all accidental is the fact that the Stalinists-reformists in Spain during the civil war, and under the German occupation in Europe, carried out their counter-revolutionary work under the guise of a "struggle for democracy."
Such a conception of the tasks facing the proletariat can be no less than a "democratic noose" to strangle the movement of the proletariat. It represents an idealization of the role of the petty bourgeois masses and because it involves capitulation to their conceptions inevitably hands the proletariat bound hand and foot to the "national" bourgeoisie.
Precisely because of this, what the Three Theses comrades imagine to be the "clever" utilization by the Stalinists of the so-called "national" movement constituted the greatest betrayal. Our comrades announce "unconditional support" of the "Resistance Movement." But which section of the Resistance Movement, they do not explain. They reject, apparently, the leadership of de Gaulle and the other imperialists. But unconditional support to the Resistance Movement, in its very essence, must mean support for the imperialists who were in control of it. Perhaps they mean unconditional support of the Stalinist wing of the Resistance Movement? We can imagine the shudders such a suggestion would bring to the comrades of the IKD.
However, they land themselves in the camp of Stalinist theory, simply because they have not understood, or have forgotten, the social content of the "democratic" revolution: the creation of the national state; the overthrow of feudalism and the introduction of bourgeois relations; the separation of Church from State; the agrarian revolution.
What they imagine is the basic content of "democracy": freedom of organization, speech, etc., is in reality a by-product of the class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. It is the building up of the bulwarks of proletarian democracy within capitalism, points of support for the new system within the framework of the old. Precisely here is the real "retrogressive" mark of fascism: the razing to the ground of all the independent organizations of the proletariat. It is not without importance that this work is accomplished using the petty bourgeoisie as a lever against the working class. True, the petty bourgeoisie can play a different role under certain conditions. But only if the proletariat in an independent struggle fights to win the middle classes to its side and does not dissolve itself into the petty bourgeois swamp.
Certainly the plebian masses carried through the bourgeois revolution in 1789. But they are incapable of ever again playing a leading role, an independent role, in the development of society. They will always be an adjunct to one of the two basic classes, the bourgeoisie or the proletariat. Where they do not follow the proletariat, as all history shows, they inevitably land in the camp of reaction. Thus in the struggle for the socialist revolution, under the Nazis as well as under the regime of the "liberated" countries and the Allies, the proletariat fights for the winning over of the petty bourgeoisie to the socialist revolution by economic as well as democratic transitional demands. There may be many ebbs and flows in the struggle. At one stage or another the revolutionary communists may demand a fight for elections, local and national, Constituent Assembly, etc. But whether successfully realized or not the struggle for these demands can be but episodes on the road to the proletarian revolution and the programme of socialist revolution with which they must be linked.
The hopeless muddle and eclectic outlook of the comrades is indicated when they say in one passage, which contradicts everything else they write, that the "democratic revolution" they visualize can only be carried out by the proletariat. As a matter of fact, in the sense in which they visualize "democratic revolution," it is not at all excluded for a longer or shorter period that parliamentary democracy will exist in Western Europe. Indeed, this process is taking place before their eyes in France, Italy and other countries. They are too blinded and biassed by the so-called "national question" to see this process taking place and to understand what it means. No, comrades, this is not the democratic revolution, but the means utilized by the bourgeoisie (democratic counter-revolution) in its struggle against the proletarian revolution.
But transitional demands, if allowed to become ends in themselves and separated from the strategic policy to be pursued by the Marxists, must inevitably become a trap for the proletariat. Thus, under the Nazis, the struggle for national liberation had to be linked to the struggle for the Socialist United States of Europe. The collapse of the national states objectively posed the problem of the unification of the proletariat of Europe against all the oppressors.
The movement of the resistance in the various countries was a class movement of the proletariat and the lower strata of the petty bourgeoisie. Directed against German imperialism under correct guidance and leadership, it should have been directed against the quisling bourgeoisie as well. Events have shown that it was the mass organizations which constituted the core of the resistance movement. The class antagonism, despite the Stalinists' attempt to reconcile the proletariat to the "national" bourgeoisie (which could only be done by capitulating to it), could not damp down the class struggle which burst forth in Yugoslavia, Greece, Poland in civil war even before the ousting of the Germans. Was this also the result of the attempted carrying through of the democratic revolution?
In reality, the so-called "democratic" struggle, the uniting of the whole "people" was in itself an example of the worst caricature of Popular Frontism and class collaboration, under the pretext of unity with the middle class. It was unity in a national struggle together with the agents of the bourgeoisie while the decisive sections of the bourgeoisie were in the camp of the foreign oppressor.
Against the foreign oppressor, as the comrades in Europe correctly understood, the struggle could only be waged as a class struggle appealing to the solidarity of the German workers and peasant soldiers. The chauvinist methods of Stalinism and reformism were grist to the mill of Hitler. A "democratic" phase in Europe will result not from the objective need for the phase of democratic revolution but because of the sell-out of the old workers' organizations. Had Stalinism and Social Democracy stood on the program of Marxism, there would have been the possibility of a transition immediately to the dictatorship of the proletariat. The one thing lacking was precisely the revolutionary party which could imbue the masses with a consciousness of their Socialist task. Only the weakness of the revolutionary party and the counter-revolutionary role of Stalinism has given capitalism a breathing space. Seeing that it is virtually impossible to rule by the method of fascist or military dictatorship, the bourgeoisie has prepared to switch, for the time being, to the bourgeois democratic manipulation of their Stalino-reformist agents. This does not constitute a democratic revolution, but, on the contrary, a preventative democratic counter-revolution against the proletariat. Under modern conditions, there can be no other kind of democratic revolution or regimes. In Germany in 1918, precisely the Social Democracy carried out their hangman's work under the slogan of "democracy." But this was no democratic revolution wherein different classes replaced those already in power. It was a proletarian revolution which was strangled by the agents of the bourgeoisie.
Similarly, what Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin (who understood the problem much better apparently, than the comrades of the IKD) were afraid of in Italy, Greece, Germany, France, Belgium, was not the "democratic" revolution, but the proletarian revolution, as Churchill clearly explained.
After the recent experiences in Europe, only those who have abandoned the idea of the class struggle, could in any way doubt this. Our comrades must have a peculiar sense of humor to say, with a straight face, "The situation today is, therefore, in its fundamental traits, the same as that of 1941 and the Three Theses have not only been confirmed, but their practical proposals retain full validity." To back this up, they tell us
"The national oppression has remained, only the uniforms of the oppressors have changed. For the French, 'national independence' by grace of the USA, is a farce and an ever-growing part of the French people realize this...American imperialism has not the slightest interest in restoring to health an old imperialist competitor. In consequence, it does not lift a finger to put on its feet again, the absolutely broken down French industry and, with it, French national independence."
To compare the domination of America over France and "liberated" Europe which is maintained by means of economic pressure, with the direct visible jackboot of the Nazis is ridiculous. In the consciousness of the masses, while there may be a dislike of Uncle Sam, it is against the French bourgeoisie, the trusts and combines that the hatred of the masses is directed. This talk of merely the uniform being changed is an indication of how far from reality the comrades have strayed. The workers' parties and organizations are legal in France and the totalitarian heel has been lifted. It would have been quite impossible for the Anglo-American imperialists to rule France and the other liberated countries with the methods of the Gestapo and SS, if only because of the resistance of their own soldiers to the playing of such a role.
Thus the attempt to justify a false position only leads to further errors. In reality, the position in Europe arising out of the collapse of capitalism and the aftermath of war is that the most favorable objective conditions are created for the victory of the proletarian revolution. All the conditions laid down by Lenin are present: loss of confidence and uncertainty of the ruling class, vacillation and discontent of the petty bourgeoisie, readiness of the discontented working class to make the most heroic sacrifices in order to overthrow the capitalists. All that is lacking is the subjective condition – the revolutionary party.
The mass, not alone of the working class, but of large strata of the petty bourgeoisie, are looking towards Communism as a way out of the social impasse. Yet the revisionists and fainthearts put forward a policy far more backward and reactionary than even the reformists in Europe have dared to do, for the period which now unfolds. The "crisis" in Europe consists only in the fact that the Stalinists and reformists are carrying out a policy of collaboration with the bourgeoisie in the construction of "democracy." With this, the comrades of the Three Theses should really have no quarrel. It is impossible with an orientation towards a "democratic" revolution to carry out any other policy.
If the comrades of the Three Theses condemn the Stalinist course, that can only be from force of habit and because they have not thought out their own policy to its necessary conclusions.
The shift away from the ideas of the proletarian revolution and the petty bourgeois capitulation to nationalism can best be seen in the references to Germany. Here, the comrades appeal to the tradition of the national liberation war of 1813-1815, the students' movement (Burschenschaft) and 1848. This is an entirely reactionary and retrogressive movement on the part of the comrades: the great tradition of the proletarian revolution of 1918, the tradition of Liebknecht and Luxemburg: this is not even thought worthy of mention!
It is true that, as a consequence of her defeat, Germany will suffer national oppression and dismemberment. But after the last war, Germany was also reduced to the status of a State oppressed by her imperialist rivals. Nevertheless, the emphasis was laid on the class issues in Germany by the Leninist Comintern, while opposition to the Versailles Treaty was maintained. Similarly, today the German workers can struggle against the foreign oppressor, only through the struggle against the national bourgeoisie, which collaborates with the victors. The struggle against national oppression can only be waged as a struggle for the proletarian revolution.
The comrades have written a lot of nonsense about the change from the regime of the Nazis to that of the Allies in Europe merely being a change of uniform (as usual with opportunists, they find themselves in warm support of the ideas of the ultra-lefts). Even in Germany itself, that is not so. The Allies rapidly, even if reluctantly, were convinced of the impossibility of merely continuing the Nazi regime with the Allies in the place of the Hitler gangsters. They had neither the internal points of support within the population, the backing among the masses at home, nor the willingness of the British and American troops to play the role of SS. Thus, in order to gain some sort of basis, they have had to allow organizations and rights to the proletariat, however limited these may be.
In Germany, obviously it will be the duty of the Trotskyists to fight for an extension of democratic rights against the dismemberment and reparations, against the occupation of Germany. But, no more than the struggle against Versailles, can such a struggle be regarded as a "detour through the democratic revolution."
The struggle for the national liberation of Germany, by its very essence can only be a struggle directed against the German bourgeoisie. The German ruling class will be only too willing to play the same lackey role to the Allies as the French bourgeoisie played to Nazi imperialism. The German capitalists called Hitler to power, they bear the responsibility for the catastrophe Germany has suffered. That should be the axis around which the propaganda of the German Marxists will revolve. Far from being separated, the struggle for German freedom can only be won as a struggle for the proletarian revolution. The British and American troops will only respond to class propaganda, to the idea of a Socialist Germany and a Socialist Europe, as an answer to the nightmare of war and economic misery.
The ideas of the Three Theses, especially for Germany, are false through and through. In appealing to the moth-eaten and now reactionary tradition of 1813, etc., they are playing the traditional role of the German petty bourgeois intellectuals, whom Marx so scathingly castigated. If these ideas played any role at all, they could only be the basis for a new petty bourgeois reaction. Having been utterly discredited in its Nazi guise,
the Nationalist reaction is quite likely to hark back to these old traditions. The Stalino-Social Democracy, acting as agents of the conquerors, will discredit themselves in the eyes of the masses. If the Trotskyists do not put forward a clear internationalist revolutionary alternative, the way will be cleared for the petty bourgeoisie to rally round such a platform and become a helpless tool once again in the hands of the bourgeoisie. How "imminent" or not the proletarian revolution in Germany may be, it is the goal to which .all the "democratic" and economic demands from the transitional bridge and not the bridge to the "democratic" revolution. In Germany, as in Europe, there can be no "democratic" revolution separate and apart from the proletarian revolution.
In Europe today, we stand, not on the threshold of the struggle for "democracy" and "great national wars of liberation" but on the struggle for the proletarian revolution and revolutionary wars against all attempts at capitalist intervention.
To end this article, we can do no better than quote extensively from Trotsky on the problems of the revolution against Fascism in Italy. Foreseeing, in advance, the reactionary arguments of the type of those of the IKD, though he could not have expected that such would emanate from within the ranks of the Fourth International, Trotsky wrote:
... what social character will the anti-fascist revolution acquire? You deny the possibility of a bourgeois revolution in Italy. You are perfectly right. History cannot turn backward a big number of pages, each of which is equivalent to half a decade. The Central Committee of the Italian Communist Party already tried once to duck the question by proclaiming that the revolution would be neither bourgeois nor proletarian but popular, (i.e. "democratic" – E.G.). It is a simple repetition of what the Russian Populists said at the beginning of this century when they were asked what character the revolution against Czarism would acquire. And it is still the same answer that the Communist International gives today about China and India. It is quite simply a so-called revolutionary variant of the social democratic theory of Otto Bauer and others, according to which the state can raise itself above the classes, that is, be neither bourgeois nor proletarian: This theory is as pernicious for the proletariat as for the revolution. In China it transformed the proletariat into cannon fodder for the bourgeois counter-revolution.
Every great revolution proves to be "popular" in the sense that it draws into its tracks the entire people. Both the Great French Revolution and the October Revolution were absolutely popular. Nevertheless, the first was bourgeois because it instituted individual property, whereas the second was proletarian because it abolished this same individual property. Only a few petty bourgeois revolutionists, hopelessly backward, can still dream of a revolution that would be neither bourgeois nor proletarian, but "popular" (that is, petty bourgeois) ...
However, while holding to this or that democratic slogan, we must take good care to fight relentlessly against all forms of democratic charlatanism. The "democratic Republic of the workers," watchword of the Italian Social Democracy, is a sample of this low-grade charlatanism. A republic of the workers can only be a proletarian class state. The democratic republic is only a masked form of the bourgeois state.
It is precisely the type of "democratic charlatanism" propagated by the supporters of the Three Thesesthat Trotsky warned the cadres of the Fourth International against. Continuation on the road mapped out by the comrades of the IKD must, in the long run, lead to a break with the Fourth International, with the program of the proletarian revolution.
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