James "Jock" Ritchie Haston (1913–1986) was a Trotskyist politician and General Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist Party in Great Britain.
Haston was a member of a small group of members of the Communist Party of Great Britain who moved towards Trotskyism in the late 1930s after splitting with the CPGB in 1934. The group he led, known as the Paddington group, joined the Militant Group led by Denzil Dean Harber and when in 1937 a group of South African Trotskyists appeared in London it was Haston who moved their acceptance into membership of the Militant Group.
The South Africans were led by Ralph Lee, hence they were referred to as the Lee Group and had been active in that country. A dispute with the Communist Party ofSouth Africa was to follow them to Britain however and it was alleged that Lee had stolen strike funds from a group of workers in dispute. These allegations would in time be proven to be lies but were reported to the Militant Group by Charlie van Gelderen, an earlier immigrant from South Africa, and led to the split of those members of the group working with Lee.
By the time the truth had been established and the International Secretariat of the Trotskyist movement had exonerated Lee the damage had been done and the comrades had formed a new organisation. The new group known as the Workers International League (WIL) as organised in late 1937. In its first days the small group was led by Lee but when he returned to South Africa in 1941 Haston became the leading figure within the growing organisation. He would also form a personal alliance with Millie Lee at this time.
In contrast to the official British Section of the Fourth International, the Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL), the WIL was to experience serious growth in this period recruiting supporters from the CPGB, the RSL and from within the Labour Party. Again unlike the official section the WIL accepted the Fourth International Proletarian Military Policy (PMP) although not without an internal struggle that pitted a minority around Haston, Millie Lee and Sam Levy against Ted Grant and Gerry Healy. Haston emerged the victor from this factional tussle and the PMP was adapted to the needs of the WIL.
Haston was also a member of a delegation of the WIL which was sent to Ireland early in the war to prepare a fall back party centre in the event of their being made illegal and having to function underground as had happened to revolutionaries in the previous war. In the event they remained legal, although they were persecuted at one point and the Government spied on them, and the delegation returned to Britain one by one. While in Ireland they did recruit further supporters to their cause aiding in the establishment of an Irish Trotskyist movement. Haston was the last to return from Ireland and found himself arrested and jailed as he was travelling on false papers, his own having been passed to a comrade evading military service.
After 1941 and the turn of the CPGB to support of the war the WIL recruited a number of militants from the CPGB in large part due to their concentration on industrial work. They also sought and succeeded in recruiting from the declining Independent Labour Party picking up members in the Tyneside region. When an apprentices' dispute developed in that area they were then well placed to intervene and as a result Haston was to find himself in jail.
This short term behind bars was because the Trades Disputes Act of 1927 was used against the supporters of the strike among whom the WIL were prominent. Their earlier support for unofficial strikes in the coalfields, particularly in Kent, had also drawn upon them the attention of the authorities.
Shortly after this dispute the WIL was to fuse with the Revolutionary Socialist League the factionally divided official section of the Fourth International, to become the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) Haston was by this time seen as the foremost leader of the Trotskyist movement in Britain.
Like the WIL the new party was opposed to the electoral truce of the war years between the Labour and Conservative parties. However they had been far too small to be able to break the truce in earlier by-elections so when the Neath Division fell open they sought to take advantage and Haston was the obvious choice of candidate.
Despite the RCP lacking a branch in Neath at the start of the campaign Haston was able to poll 1,781 votes in the Neath by-election, 1945. More importantly an RCP branch was constructed and literature sales were large. Haston's relations with the Labour candidate, D. J. Williams, would seem to have been personally harmonious, so much so that later in 1949 Williams was instrumental in finding Haston a job with the National Council of Labour Colleges.
With the turn of the war against the Nazis the RCP was at pains to look for any signs of the coming revolutionary upheavals that were expected in line with the perspectives of the Fourth International as outlined in the famous Transitional Programme. The leading theoretician of the RCP, Ted Grant, was therefore far seeing when he sought to tailor the political demands of the mvement to the actual movement rather than succumbing to a rosy view of events. This realistic view of events was also prompted by the agreement of the RCP leadership with the documents of the Goldman-Morrow-Heijenoort minority in the American Socialist Workers Party.
Divergence from the Fourth International
Therefore when in 1946 Haston led a delegation of the RCP to a conference of some of the sections of the Fourth International in Paris it is surprising that he moved that the conference be considered as a Congress of the movement. This was in part motivated by the opposition of the RCP to the demoralisation of the German comrades of the International Communists of Germany (IKD).
More important, politically, were the amendments that Haston wrote, along with Bill Hunter, to the resolutions of the FI leadership put forward at the meeting. In contrast to the FI leadership the RCP amendments recognise that Stalinism had emerged from the war strengthened and that an economic crisis was unlikely in the near future. Therefore it was argued political demands and expectations had to recognise these changes and not pose revolutionary tasks in the absence of a revolutionary situation. The FI majority around Ernest Mandel and MichelPablo, backed by the SWP in the United States, prevailed however.
The dispute with the leadership of the FI deepened with time and became centered on three interlinked questions. Firstly there was the role of Stalinism in Eastern Europe where the RCP took a different position to the FI in particular when the latter began to support the split of Josip Broz Tito in Yugoslavia from the USSR the RCP became very critical. This criticism being expressed in documents written by Haston. Secondly there was the question of economic perspectives and the growing tendency of the Labour party government of Clement Attlee to take various industries into state ownership as was also happening in eastern Europe. Again it was Haston who opposed the idea that state ownership could be equated with any form of socialism in the pages of Socialist Appeal. A complementary document on more general economic perspectives being written for the RCP by Tony Cliff who later acknowledged himself to have been greatly influenced by Haston in this period. Finally there was the question of political perspectives which raised the question of whether or not to the RCP should enter the Labour Party as a body. Haston opposing this idea while an FI sponsored minority around Gerry Healy was granted permission by the FI to join the Labour Party against the democratically decided views of the RCP in 1947.
A minority faction, led by Healy split from the RCP in 1947 in order to enter the Labour Party. Under pressure from the Fourth International the RCP dissolved itself in 1949 and joined Healy in "the Club" which was the informal name given to Trotskyist entrists. Haston, demoralised by the problems Trotskyism in Britain had been undergoing since the end of the war and facing harassment from Healy, resigned from the movement in February 1950. He remained active in the Labour Party for the rest of his life, becoming a lecturer for the National Council of Labour Colleges and then educational director for the EEPTU.
Letter to the "Club"
10 June 1950
It is now 15 to 16 years since I broke with Stalinism and 14 years since I joined a British Trotskyist organisation. The best, and I think the most fruitful years of my political experience have been spent in the Trotskyist movement. My break, therefore, was a landmark, a turning point in my personal life decided upon only after considerable thought.
During the past period, largely as the result of the development of the world political situation, but more so as the result of the discussions which have taken place within the International Executive Committee and the actual evolution of ideas and organisation of the various sections of the International and its future perspective. I have arrived at the conviction that in its present form and on the present road, there is no future for the organisation as at present constituted.
When the Fourth International was founded in 1938, it was based on a rounded out programme. No section of the International, to my knowledge, in its public agitation today has found it possible to operate that programme without considerable modification or concretisation in a way which, not so long ago, would have been vigorously denounced by us all as revisionism or capitulation to reformism.
Of course, the need of the day remains to unite the working class on an internationalist socialist programme. So also, to give this movement organised political expression. But on the basis upon which we attempted to achieve this task, we have failed, and any comrade who wants to give an honest accounting of our role and examine our history cannot escape this conclusion.
From the thesis that Stalinism and Social Democracy had betrayed the working class, we drew the conclusion that a new International was necessary. We went further and declared that we – who constituted ourselves the Fourth International – werethe established leadership of the world working class. It seems to me, however, that the critical spirit which animated our movement during the early ’30s is dead. The contemporary analysis of political events which placed our movement in the vanguard of the working class when the Old Man was alive has been replaced by an abysmal failure to analyse the great changes following the Second World War. Today we tail behind events which often leads to an outright denial of much of what we said when great historical changes were under way. Consequently, there does not, and there cannot exist among the members that innate conviction that the Fourth International gave, leadership and scientific analysis of the greatest social changes since the Russian revolution., which is essential to any tendency claiming for itself the unchallenged ideological leadership of the world working class.
On all the major questions of the day, phrasemongering has replaced a Marxist analysis and approach. Thus history has struck heavy blows at one "thesis" after another. When European economy, under the impetus of American aid, was already making a considerable upswing, the International repeatedly declared that we faced a period of stagnation and decay. In 1947, when British production was making the biggest leap forward in recent history and the Labour Government was introducing major reforms, the International was declaring that Britain was in a production crisis which they could not overcome, and that there was no possibility of reforms in our epoch. The incredible thesis of the "ceiling", above which production could not possibly be pushed, and the whole discussion of boom or slump, or partial and temporary stabilisation is too ridiculous to discuss in the light of the present economic and political situation.
When I first raised on the IEC the fact that India had achieved political freedom and the right to determine its own form of government under the leadership of the Indian bourgeoisie, this was denounced as a denial of the theory of the permanent revolution and a capitulation to "British imperialist chauvinism". Yet today there is no section of the movement which would claim that India has not freed herself from the political domination of Britain. But not one word of explanation.
Five years after the event, we see the beginning of a grudging admission of what has been plain to every petty bourgeois politician: that capitalism had been overthrown in Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe and that there are no longer capitalist state in these areas. In China, the International not only failed to recognise a revolution when it was in the process of taking place, but vilified those who did, and contented itself with analogies and references to the 1925-27 struggles in China when in fact the situation was completely different.
In the past, the Fourth International was bound together, above all, on its interpretation of the Russian question by the leadership and foresight of Trotsky. It cannot be said that we have this cohesion today. Apart from Shachtman’s position, we have two main currents: the orthodox one that Russia remains a degenerated workers’ state (to which I still adhere) and the state capitalist thesis elaborated by Comrade J.R. Johnson and more recently by Comrade Cliff. Cliff produced the most elaborated criticism of the fundamental Trotskyist conceptions of the class relations in Russia. Yet, despite the fact that his document influenced a number of members in the International in various parts of the world, the International leadership remained completely silent regarding this contribution, as it did to Comrade Grant’s reply to it. In view of the fact that the Russian question is still the yardstick by which orthodox Trotskyists are judged in the International, this silence was nothing short of an abdication of leadership.
Within the majority tendency which accepts the thesis that Russia is still a workers’ state, there are various fragmented ideas regarding the class character of the buffer countries as a whole and their separate parts.
Briefly, the various positions held on this question are as follows:
1) Russia is a degenerated workers’ state and so also the Eastern European countries and China: all must be defended in the event of war with world imperialism.
2) The same position as above, with the exception of China.
3) Russia is a degenerated workers’ state: the Eastern European countries and China are capitalist. Therefore we are for the defence of Russia and not the rest.
4) Russia and Yugoslavia are workers’ states, but not the rest of Eastern Europe. We are for the defence of the former, but not the latter.
5) Russia and Eastern Europe are all state capitalist and we adopt the same defeatist attitude to them as to the rest of world capitalism-imperialism.
6) The bureaucratic collectivist position, held by some comrades who are still in the International, with all that follows from the Third Camp slogans.
The divergencies between these currents are not incidental or secondary, but fundamental. When the question was first posed at the International Executive and the International Conference that, among others, Yugoslavia was a workers’ state, the leadership declared that to concede that the Stalinists could overthrow the capitalist system in Yugoslavia or elsewhere and establish even a deformed workers state, would lead to a revision of our conception of the role of Stalinism as well as that of the Fourth International. The object of this was to frighten those who wanted an objective analysis of the historical changes that had taken place. But we will hear no more of this.
Today the attention of the International is centred on Yugoslavia and here is to be seen the tendency of ideological collapse in the International in its clearest form. When Comrade David James wrote his document in which he said that Yugoslavia was a workers’ state and tentatively posed the question as to whether or not the Fourth International had been by-passed in the historical task, he was answered only with abuse by the international leadership. Only Comrade Grant attempted to answer him, but his reply was condemned as inadequate. But there will be no political answer. For since James was denounced, many of the leading elements in the International have themselves tailed behind James and are putting forward the conception that Yugoslavia is a far healthier workers’ state than James ever suggested! To propose that the Yugoslav regime be criticised in the public organ of the British section is met with blank refusal. (I refer here to Comrade Lee’s letter which was refused publication.) If this position is adopted in the International, it completely vindicates James’ viewpoint, for not only did we, as the Fourth International, fail to recognise the event of the establishment of the workers’ state in Yugoslavia when it was in the process of taking shape, we failed as an International to recognise it for years after; and now, finally having done so, we fail to pose the question: what follows from the fact that some force other than the Fourth International has been capable of overthrowing the capitalist class outside the boundaries of the Soviet Union and established a healthy workers’ state.
It follows from the above that we have no right to claim political and organisational authority as the international leadership of the world proletariat. On the basis of our experiences over the past 10 or 15 years I consider we must adopt a more modest title, perspective and role. Instead of continuing with the pretence that we are a healthy and virile ideological leadership wielding authority over 35 sections. I believe it is time to squarely face up to the fact that the International has not provided the leadership and has no reasonable authority to wield an organisational discipline over its few members. Those who genuinely seek to assemble the experiences of the workers will undoubtedly strive for international collaboration and organisation. In the long run, socialism cannot be a world ideology or system without a world organisation.
What I believe to be needed in the present circumstances is some form of international consultative centre, whose function could only be the exchange of Information and discussion on contemporary theoretical and political problems. This would embrace all left wing currents, including elements of the left wing of social democracy. This is of course a revision of what I have advocated in the past as part of the International. But I consider that our experience calls for such a revision. I do not lay the blame for our failure on this or that group of comrades. On the contrary, it is the objective situation which caused the crisis in the movement, and we ourselves with all our limitations ware the product of the period. It is time to take stock of our real stature and role, and temper our actions and ideas accordingly.
As regards the situation in Britain, here too I have arrived at conclusions that are fundamentally different to those I have accepted and advocated in the past. I reject the thesis that the Labour Party cannot under any circumstances be the instrument of socialist emancipation and that only through the form of Soviets can a transformation of society take place in Britain. Although I have never excluded the possibility of the parliamentary overthrow of capitalism in the advanced countries, particularly in this country, I now believe that it is our task to advocate the use of parliament as the most economical vehicle for the complete transformation of British society. If, however, in the course of the class struggle it becomes necessary not only to advocate, but to participate in the formation of alternative forms of government, only renegades to socialism would fail to advocate such forms. In practice there is not a section of the Fourth International today In the Western countries which advocates the creation of soviets as opposed to the existing parliamentary institutions. I believe it is our duty to state what is and speak with one voice on this question, instead of two.
So also have I revised my view that it is historically and practically necessary to form a tightly disciplined, secret organisation separate from the mass party of the working class as the only possible instrument of socialist emancipation. The perspective that it is necessary to work for a split which we have so unsuccessfully pursued for years. I now believe to be completely false. It seems today to be incomprehensible that I could have seriously visualised success on this basis, namely, that a mass revolutionary current could be developed on the basis of a tight, secret fraction. On the contrary, the very nature of the group necessarily did in the past and will in the future confine the Trotskyist movement to that of a sectarian clique. With this method we cannot approach the workers squarely and honestly with a rounded out case. Only the select few must be brought into the confidence when they are considered to be sufficiently well seasoned. This is not a moral question. It is a political question of the greatest importance.
The Labour Party has many bureaucratic features. Nevertheless, it is one of the most democratic workers’ organisations in existence. There is a considerable measure of freedom to advocate and give organised expression to revolutionary socialist criticisms of policy and to present an alternative to that at present pursued by the leadership. Indeed, there in far more lively written discussion on basic question than there is inside the Trotskyist organisation. (For example numerous pamphlets and articles on mixed economy, workers’ control and socialist management). How long this will and can last will depend primarily on the level of consciousness of the organised workers. But so long as it does, it now appears to me to be one of the basic causes of our sectarian ills that we have preferred to continue on the basis of a secret faction, alien to the mass organisation, instead of acting along the lines of our public declarations, loyally adhering to the mass party and seeking to transform it along the lines it advocates.
The existence of this secret fraction is secret only to the Labour Party rank and file – with the exception of the handful who find their way into the organisation and those who find their way out of it. The Labour Party leadership is fully aware that such an organisation exists. The Stalinists know the most intimate details of its structure and members. The police know it. If the leadership of the Labour Party takes no action it is primarily because they more correctly estimate the role of the group than the leadership of that faction does itself.
It may well be that the Labour Party will not be the instrument through which the working class of Britain will overthrow capitalism and that some other organisation will be necessary for the achievement of that task. But of one thing I am convinced: that it is the party through which the mass of the workers pool their ideas and experiences and work out practical solutions to their problems, as well as seek the solution to the conquest of the capitalist system. Either the Labour Party will carry out the task as the result of its own internal transformations or else the mass socialist current will emerge from its ranks as the party of socialist emancipation.
On this promise, the task is to loyally adhere to the mass party and seek to drive it forward on the road to the complete transformation of the system. It follows that the maintenance of the secret disciplined fraction within the Labour Party is not only unnecessary but undesirable, and may readily prove to be an obstacle in the present conditions of democratic legality to the creation of a mass alternative current and policy to that pursued by the leadership.
The existence of the secret fraction trying to find public expression leads to two distinct and even contradictory lines which cannot assist in the development of a healthy revolutionary wing. Publicly in the paper it is argued, not by right or left wing Labour Party members, but by Trotskyists, that the Labour Party is a socialist party, the mass party of the working class to which all workers must loyally adhere; and that this party can transform society through parliament. But privately within the confines of the groups the opposite is advocated. Allegedly on the basis of Marxist theory, it is categorically denied that the British workers can use the Labour Party as the instrument of its emancipation. It is categorically denied that it is possible to transform this party into an instrument for the overthrow of capitalism, and that parliament can be used as the vehicle for such a transformation. The line in the paper cannot be accepted as a mere stratagem designed to cover up a theory with a more popular approach. It is either "a capitulation before the pressure of bourgeois democratic public opinion" or a tacit admission that this aspect of "fundamentals" is not applicable.
It is not the object of this letter to make a full critical analysis of the contents of the paper of the British Trotskyists. However, the schizophrenic conflict between public and private policies permeates every aspect of the life of the fraction. Thus the editor can write an article uncritically supporting Tito from which the only conclusions to be drawn are that Yugoslavia is a healthy workers’ state. Yet when asked on the EC to publish a mildly critical letter saying we must be careful not to create too many illusions that there exists complete democracy in Yugoslavia, the editor thought up the crushing answer: that he did not know what Comrades Lee and Haston were complaining of since they believed Yugoslavia was a workers’ state while he, the editor, thought it was a capitalist state! To such levels of polemic has the British Trotskyist organisation descended.
One final outcome of this game of speaking with two voices is that the somewhat ultra-left criticisms of the Labour leadership which appear from time to time are combined with the most tender regard for the Stalinists and their fellow travellers in the Labour Party. On the plea that it will drive these fellow-travellers away from the paper, if they criticise Stalinism, they refuse to tackle Stalinism sharply in any aspect of its policy. Thus, instead of guiding the fellow travellers in a socialist internationalist direction, they are drawn onto the trailer of the Stalinist caravan.
I do not believe that a healthy socialist current can live in such a milieu. The first prerequisite is to break the mental bonds, the phrasemongering and double-talk that fetter the movement today. If this is done the Trotskyist cadres may still play a valuable and leading role in the struggles of the working class for socialist emancipation.
Many of my closest friends and collaborators have been highly critical of my action in walking away from the organisation and refusing to conduct a struggle. I wished at all costs to avoid a struggle on the old and now familiar lines when I made the break. I hoped to maintain the best possible relations with the members of the organisation so that a wide field of collaboration could still exist between us. At all costs I wanted to avoid the impression that I sought to form a group along similar lines to the existing organisation. In the long run, I am convinced that the majority of the comrades who will play a useful role in the British Labour movement will travel a similar role to the one I have taken. I do not propose to defend the belated writing of this letter. My inclination was to delay it still further until I could present a fuller exposition of my ideas. However this brief summary will serve the purpose of informing those comrades who have asked for a statement as to the reasons for leaving the organisation.
My break provided the opportunity of witnessing more clearly the degeneration of the British organisation, revealed in the reaction of the leadership. The membership were presented with an ultimatum to break not only political, but also personalrelations with me on the pain of expulsion. It was further stated that Haston had to be driven out of the Labour movement and especially out of the National Council of Labour Colleges. Only the Stalinists, to my knowledge, have carried out this practise, one which was universally condemned by the Trotskyist movement. Unfortunately, this is a tendency which now characterises the movement and reflects its sectarianism. This campaign has, of course, a serious aspect, especially for the illegal organisation. For example, a few days after I left the organisation I was approached by a student of one of my NCLC classes, a Labour Party member, who asked me why I had been expelled from the Trotskyist organisation as a "renegade" and "enemy of the working class". He could not understand this in the light of my lecture with which he was in complete accord. To expose the accusations, it was necessary to give my reasons for leaving the organisation. If a public discussion develops on this premise, the responsibility for the outcome must rest with the maligners.
There is a certain irony in the present situation that the National Executive of the Labour Party have twice turned down my application for membership (although I have acted as full time propagandist for the Acton Labour Party during the General and Municipal elections). Asked why by an influential member of the Labour movement, the answer given was that they knew the Trotskyists had entered as a fraction and I was kept out for this reason. However, with the backing of the Acton Divisional Labour Party, when accommodation can be found for me in that district, I have no doubt that Transport House will accept my membership.
At the present time a widespread discussion is taking place within the Trade Unions and Labour Party on the experiences of five years in power. What next to drive the movement forward? What form of control and management should be introduced in the enterprises which have been taken over? To what extent will the mixed economy be disrupted and shattered by world crisis? What steps should be taken to avoid such a disruption? How far should the policy of nationalisation be pushed forward? All these and other problems are now the subject of an intensive literary and verbal discussion. There is ample scope for the expression of ideas. For my part, I hope to make some contribution without being afraid to make mistakes or learn from others in the course of the discussion.
In Britain, the Labour Party may be pushed back by the swing of the pendulum in the next election. But, in the long run, it will be through the Labour Party that the workers will express themselves when they take the next step forward. There is ample opportunity for every comrade to play a role in pushing the movement forward, and for all who want to remain in contact to exchange ideas and publish material on the basis of a common orientation, to do so within the framework of the Labour Party. With this perspective, I hope that many of the comrades with whom I have worked so closely in the past, will keep in touch so that we can play our part to the full in the socialist tasks that confront us.
Letter on Yugoslavia Sent to the IEC by the RCP (Britain)
Source: Prometheus Research Library, Prometheus Research Series No. 4, New York, 1993
Transcription/Markup/Proofing: John Heckman.
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2007/Prometheus Research Library. You can freely copy, display and otherwise distribute this work. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive & Prometheus Research Library as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & editors above.
The following letter to the International Executive Committee of the Fourth International by British Revolutionary Communist Party leader Jock Haston is undated, but apparently written in the summer of 1948 and was never published in the internal bulletins of the American Socialist Workers Party. The text is taken from a photocopy in the collection of the Prometheus Research Library. Excerpts from the Open Letters by the International Secretariat of the Fourth International cited in the text are from a different translation than the English versions reprinted in this bulletin.
To the IEC
The Yugoslav-Cominform dispute offers the Fourth International great opportunities to expose to rank and file Stalinist militants the bureaucratic methods of Stalinism. It is possible to underline the way in which the Stalinist leaderships suppress any genuine discussion on the conflict by distorting the facts and withholding the replies of the YCP leadership from their rank and file. By stressing such aspects of the Yugoslav expulsion, we can have a profound effect on militants in the Communist Parties.
However, our approach to this major event must be a principled one. We cannot lend credence, by silence on aspects of YCP policy and regime, to any impression that Tito or the leaders of the YCP are Trotskyist, and that great obstacles do not separate them from Trotskyism. Our exposure of the bureaucratic manner of the expulsion of the YCP must not mean that we become lawyers for the YCP leadership, or create even the least illusion that they do not stillremain, despite the break with Stalin, Stalinists in method and training.
In our opinion, the Open Letters of the IS to the YCP Congress failed to fulfil these absolutely essential conditions. They failed to pose directly and clearly what is wrong, not only with the CPSU, but with the YCP. The whole approach and the general tone of the letters are such as to create the illusion that the YCP leadership are communists, mistaken in the past, and discovering for the first time the evils of the bureaucratic methods of Moscow, instead of leaders who have actively participated in aiding the bureaucracy and acting as its agents in the past.
The letters appear to be based on the perspective that the leaders of the YCP can be won over to the Fourth International. Under the stress of events, strange transformations of individuals have taken place, but it is exceedingly unlikely, to say the least, that Tito and other leaders of the YCP can again become Bolshevik-Leninists. Tremendous obstacles stand in the way of that eventuality: past traditions and training in Stalinism, and the fact that they themselves rest on a Stalinist bureaucratic regime in Yugoslavia. The letters failed to point out the nature of these obstacles, fail to underline that for the leadership of the YCP to become communists, it is necessary for them not only to break with Stalinism, but to repudiate their own past, their present Stalinist methods, and to openly recognise that they themselves bear a responsibility for the building of the machine now being used to crush them. Here it is not a question of communists facing a “terrible dilemma,” with an “enormous responsibility” weighing on them, to whom we offer modest advice: it is a question of Stalinist bureaucrats becoming communists.
The aim of such Open Letters can only be limited. By placing on record a correct and principled analysis of the role of the Stalinist bureaucracy and that of the YCP leadership, by offering aid to the YCP in a clearly defined communist struggle, the Open Letters could be useful propaganda, aiding the approach to the rank and file seeking a communist lead.
As they stand, however, by their silence on fundamental aspects of the regime in Yugoslavia and YCP policy, the letter strike an opportunist note.
It is not our experience that the most courageous and most independent communist militants “are today stimulated by your [the YCP] action.” The Cominform crisis has rather sown confusion in the CP ranks and disorientated its supporters. That is to our advantage. But although it is a relatively easy task to expose the Cominform manoeuvres, there is sufficient truth in some of their accusations against Tito—particularly with regard to the internal regime, the National Front—to cause among Stalinist rank and filers an uneasiness with regard to the leaders of the YCP. That gives us an opportunity to win these militants not to the cause of Tito, but to Trotskyism.
Tito is attempting, and will attempt, to follow an independent course between Moscow and Washington, without altering the bureaucratic machine or turning to proletarian internationalism. A bureaucratic regime, resting as it does mainly on the peasantry, can have no independent perspective between the Soviet Union and American imperialism. The main emphasis of the letters should have been to show the necessity for a radical break with the present policy of the YCP, the introduction of soviet democracy within the party and the country, coupled with a policy of proletarian internationalism. The position must be posed to Yugoslav militants, not as a choice between three alternatives—the Russian bureaucracy, American imperialism, proletarian internationalism—but, first and foremost, as a choice between proletarian democracy within the regime and party, proletarian internationalism, and the present bureaucratic setup which must inevitably succumb before the Russian bureaucracy or American imperialism.
The IS letters analyse the dispute solely on the plane of the “interference” of the CPSU leaders, as if it were here solely a question of that leadership seeking to impose its will without consideration for the “traditions, the experience and the dealings” of militants. But the dispute is not simply one of a struggle of a Communist Party for independence from the decrees of Moscow. It is a struggle of a section of the bureaucratic apparatus for such independence. The stand of Tito represents, it is true, on the one hand the pressure of the masses against the exactions of the Russian bureaucracy, against the “organic unity” demanded by Moscow, discontent at the standards of the Russian specialists, pressure of the peasantry against too rapid collectivisation. But on the other hand, there is the desire of the Yugoslav leaders to maintain an independent bureaucratic position and further aspirations of their own.
It is not sufficient to lay the crimes of international Stalinism at the door of the leadership of the CPSU. Not only in respect to Yugoslavia, but also in respect to other countries, the Open Letter gives the entirely false impression that it is the Russian leadership which is solely responsible. To pose the relations in the international Stalinist movement in the manner of the IS letter—that the leadership of the CPSU “forced Thorez to disarm the French partisans,” “forced the Spanish communists to declare...that the seizure of the factories...was ‘a treason’,” “completely prohibits the leaderships of the Communist Parties in the capitalist countries from speaking of revolution”—can create illusions that the leaders of the national Stalinist parties could be good revolutionists, if only Moscow would let them. It is true that the degeneration of the CPs flowed basically from the degeneration in the Soviet Union. But the sickness of the Stalinist movement is also accountable by the utter corruption of the national leaderships who are bound up in the bureaucratic machine. These leaders actively participate in the preparation of the crimes. So also for Tito, it was not a matter of having been “forced” to carry out the wished of Moscow in the past.
It is impermissible to slur over the nature of the YCP, its identity on fundamental points with other Stalinist parties. Such a slurring over can only disorientate Stalinist workers. Yet every attempt is made by the IS to narrow the gulf that separates the policy of the YCP from Bolshevik-Leninism. What other conclusion can we draw from statements such as the following:
“...the Cominform accuse you of misunderstanding ‘proletarian internationalism’ and of following a nationalist policy. This is said by that same Russian leadership whose chauvinist propaganda during the war...is largely responsible for the absence of a revolution in Germany, whereas [our emphasis] in Yugoslavia the partisan movement was able to draw to its ranks thousands of proletarian soldiers from the armies of occupation. This is said by Togliatti, who has not hesitated to throw himself, alongside the real fascists of the Movimento Sociale el Italia (MSI), in a chauvinistic campaign for the return to the capitalist fatherland of its former colonies. This is said by Thorez, whose nationalist hysteria on the question of reparations for imperialist France delights the bourgeois heirs of Poincaré.”
It is true that the Yugoslav Stalinists settled, with some success, the national problem inside their own country. It was their programme with regard to this question that enabled them to win over members of the quisling armies. But the comrades must be aware that the propaganda of the YCP towards Germany was of the same chauvinistic character as that of the Russian and other Stalinist parties. The IS letter deals with the necessity for proletarian internationalism in the abstract, without taking up the concrete question of YCP policy today and in the past. It was surely necessary to point out concretely what this proletarian internationalism means, by dealing with the past and present policy of the YCP, which has been no whit less chauvinistic than that of other Stalinist parties. The IS mentions Togliatti’s chauvinism, and Thorez’ nationalist hysteria, and leaves the impression of a favourable comparison between the policy of other Stalinist parties and that of the YCP. We cannot be silent on the YCP’s chauvinistic campaign around Trieste, their attitude towards reparations, their uncritical support for the Russian bureaucracy’s demand for reparations from the German people. It is necessary to take up these questions so that it shall be clear precisely what the gulf is between a nationalist and an internationalist policy, and precisely what it is that Yugoslav militants must struggle against.
But there is another aspect of the IS letters which cannot pass by without the IEC adopting an attitude and expressing an opinion.
The World Congress majority adopted a position that the buffer countries, including Yugoslavia, were capitalist countries. It rejected the resolution of the RCP that these economies were being brought into line with that of the Soviet Union and could not be characterised as capitalist. The amendment of the British party to the section “The USSR and Stalinism” was defeated. But it is evident from these letters that the IS has been forced by events to proceed from the standpoint of the British party, that the productive and political relations in Yugoslavia are basically identical with those of the Soviet Union.
If indeed there exists in Yugoslavia a capitalist state, then the IS letters can only be characterised as outright opportunist. For the IS does not pose the tasks in Yugoslavia which would follow if bourgeois relations existed there as the dominant form. The letters are based on conclusions which can only flow from the premise that the basic overturn of capitalism and landlordism has taken place.
The second Open Letter gives several conditions necessary if Yugoslavia is to go forward with true revolutionary and communist progress. Yet nowhere does [it] call for the destruction of bourgeois relations in the economy and the overturn in the bourgeois system and regime. The tasks laid down in the latter are:
“The committees of the Front...must be organs of soviet democracy....
“To revise the present Constitution [based on that of the Soviet Union]....
“To admit in principle the right of the workers to organise other working class parties, on condition that these latter place themselves in the framework of soviet legality....
“To procure the broadest participate of the masses in the sphere of planning....
“To establish the full sovereignty of the factory committees...to set up a real workers’ control of production.”
And so on. Nowhere did the IS deem it necessary to call on the Yugoslav workers to overthrow capitalism. Had the IS been able to base itself on the World Congress document, that would have been their foremost, principled demand. The comrades will remember that the Congress document gives as its first reason why “the capitalist nature of the buffer zone is apparent,” that “Nowhere has the bourgeoisie as such been destroyed or expropriated.” Why no mention of this in the Open Letters? Of all the seven conditions given in the Congress document as making “apparent” the capitalist nature of Yugoslavia and other buffer countries, the IS letter mentions only one—the nationalisation of the land. But even here, the question of the failure to nationalise the land is raised not from the point of view of proving the capitalist nature of Yugoslavia. It is raised to point out, correctly, that the nationalisation of the land is necessary in order to combat the concentration of income and of land in the hands of the kulaks. The question is raised in the general context of the letter, as an aid to the socialist development of agriculture in a country where capitalism and landlordism have been overthrown, but the danger of a new exploitation is still present in the countryside.
Not only are the main tasks posed in the Open Letter identical to those to be carried out to cleanse a state similar in productive and political relations to the Soviet Union, but we must add that the impression given is that these relations are a great deal healthier than in Russia.
The articles appearing in our international press revealed one thing: the thesis adopted by the World Congress failed to provide a clear guide to the problems that arose from the Cominform-Yugoslav split and the tasks of the revolutionaries in connection with the regime and its economic base.
We appeal to the IEC to reject the orientation in the Open Letter, and to correct and repair the damage which has been done, by re-opening the discussion on the buffer zones and bringing our position into correspondence with the real economic and political developments of these countries.
on behalf of the Central Committee, RCP
Page 1 of 3