Saturday, December 24, 2011

Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-In Honor Of The Frontline Defenders Of “Occupy” Albany And Berkeley Arrested For Standing In Solidarity-Drop All The Charges!-Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up!”

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Bob Marley performing his classic song of struggle, Get Up, Stand Up.

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An Injury To One Is An Injury To All!-Defend All The Occupation Sites And All The Occupiers! Drop All Charges Against All Protesters Everywhere!

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Fight-Don’t Starve-We Created The Wealth, Let's Take It Back! Labor And The Oppressed Must Rule!
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A Five-Point Program As Talking Points

*Jobs For All Now!-“30 For 40”- A historic demand of the labor movement. Thirty hours work for forty hours pay to spread the available work around. Organize the unorganized- Organize the South- Organize Wal-mart- Defend the right for public and private workers to unionize.

* Defend the working classes! No union dues for Democratic (or the stray Republican) candidates. Spent the dough on organizing the unorganized and other labor-specific causes (example, the November, 2011 anti-union recall referendum in Ohio).

*End the endless wars!- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops (And Mercenaries) From Afghanistan! Hands Off Pakistan! Hands Off Iran! Hands Off The World!

*Fight for a social agenda for working people!. Quality Healthcare For All! Nationalize the colleges and universities under student-teacher-campus worker control! Forgive student debt! Stop housing foreclosures!

*We created the wealth, let’s take it back. Take the struggle for our daily bread off the historic agenda. Build a workers party that fights for a workers government to unite all the oppressed. Labor and the oppressed must rule!
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Markin comment:

In this series, presented under the headline Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here.
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Markin comment October 26, 2011, updated December 17, 2011:

This having to send solidarity messages almost daily is getting too redundant, way too redundant. Forget this notion of each occupation site being a separate operation. We had better unite to fight nationally (and internationally) or they (and you know who the "they" is) will pick us off one by one like they are doing now. It is the same struggle, same fight! An injury to one is an injury to all!
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Bob Marley Get Up, Stand Up Lyrics

Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!

Preacher man, don't tell me,
Heaven is under the earth.
I know you don't know
What life is really worth.
It's not all that glitters is gold;
'Alf the story has never been told:
So now you see the light, eh!
Stand up for your rights. come on!

Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!

Most people think,
Great god will come from the skies,
Take away everything
And make everybody feel high.
But if you know what life is worth,
You will look for yours on earth:
And now you see the light,
You stand up for your rights. jah!
[ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/b/bob+marley/get+up+stand+up_20021743.html ]
Get up, stand up! (jah, jah! )
Stand up for your rights! (oh-hoo! )
Get up, stand up! (get up, stand up! )
Don't give up the fight! (life is your right! )
Get up, stand up! (so we can't give up the fight! )
Stand up for your rights! (lord, lord! )
Get up, stand up! (keep on struggling on! )
Don't give up the fight! (yeah! )

We sick an' tired of-a your ism-skism game -
Dyin' 'n' goin' to heaven in-a Jesus' name, lord.
We know when we understand:
Almighty god is a living man.
You can fool some people sometimes,
But you can't fool all the people all the time.
So now we see the light (what you gonna do?),
We gonna stand up for our rights! (yeah, yeah, yeah! )

So you better:
Get up, stand up! (in the morning! git it up! )
Stand up for your rights! (stand up for our rights! )
Get up, stand up!
Don't give up the fight! (don't give it up, don't give it up! )
Get up, stand up! (get up, stand up! )
Stand up for your rights! (get up, stand up! )
Get up, stand up! (... )
Don't give up the fight! (get up, stand up! )
Get up, stand up! (... )
Stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up!
Don't give up the fight! /fadeout/

From The Archives-The Struggle To Win The Youth To The Fight For Our Communist Future-From The "Socialist Alternative "Press- Britain 1931-Coalition, cutbacks and crisis

Markin comment on this series:

One of the declared purposes of this space is to draw the lessons of our left-wing past here in America and internationally, especially from the pro-communist wing. To that end I have made commentaries and provided archival works in order to help draw those lessons for today’s left-wing activists to learn, or at least ponder over. More importantly, for the long haul, to help educate today’s youth in the struggle for our common communist future. That is no small task or easy task given the differences of generations; differences of political milieus worked in; differences of social structure to work around; and, increasingly more important, the differences in appreciation of technological advances, and their uses.

There is no question that back in my youth I could have used, desperately used, many of the archival materials available today. When I developed political consciousness very early on, albeit liberal political consciousness, I could have used this material as I knew, I knew deep inside my heart and mind, that a junior Cold War liberal of the American For Democratic Action (ADA) stripe was not the end of my leftward political trajectory. More importantly, I could have used a socialist or communist youth organization to help me articulate the doubts I had about the virtues of liberal capitalism and be recruited to a more left-wing world view. As it was I spent far too long in the throes of the left-liberal/soft social-democratic milieu where I was dying politically. A group like the Young Communist League (W.E.B. Dubois Clubs in those days), the Young People’s Socialist League, or the Young Socialist Alliance representing the youth organizations of the American Communist Party, American Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S.) respectively would have saved much wasted time and energy. I knew they were around but not in my area.

The archival material to be used in this series is weighted heavily toward the youth movements of the early American Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S). For more recent material I have relied on material from the Spartacus Youth Clubs, the youth group of the Spartacist League (U.S.), both because they are more readily available to me and because, and this should give cause for pause, there are not many other non-CP, non-SWP youth groups around. As I gather more material from other youth sources I will place them in this series.

Finally I would like to finish up with the preamble to the Spartacist Youth Club’s What We Fight For statement of purpose:

"The Spartacus Youth Clubs intervene into social struggles armed with the revolutionary internationalist program of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. We work to mobilize youth in struggle as partisans of the working class, championing the liberation of black people, women and all the oppressed. The SYCs fight to win youth to the perspective of building the Leninist vanguard party that will lead the working class in socialist revolution, laying the basis for a world free of capitalist exploitation and imperialist slaughter."

This seems to me be somewhere in the right direction for what a Bolshevik youth group should be doing these days; a proving ground to become professional revolutionaries with enough wiggle room to learn from their mistakes, and successes. More later.
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Britain 1931-Coalition, cutbacks and crisis

While no historical period is identical with Britain now, the tumultuous events that shook the country 80 years ago – combining the great depression, a ‘grand coalition’ government wielding the axe, and a damaging currency peg – are rich in lessons for workers in Britain and Europe today. HANNAH SELL looks back at the autumn crisis of 1931.

THE 1929 WALL STREET crash was the trigger for the most profound global crisis in the history of capitalism, the great depression. And it took the second world war to create conditions for an escape from the economic cul-de-sac. For over half a century, capitalist economists believed that studying the depression was of purely historical interest. Then, over one weekend in 2008 – as the world financial markets teetered on the edge of breakdown following the collapse of Lehman Brothers – even the most obtuse representatives of capitalism realised that they faced the possibility of a repeat of their system’s worst ever crisis.

Unprecedented state measures – quantitative easing and stimulus programmes in the US, Japan and other major economies – were taken to bail out the financial system. While this prevented a repeat of the 1930s, however, it did not solve any of the underlying problems. It is the recognition that there is no prospect of healthy recovery, and that the global economic crisis is still developing, that has caused turmoil on the world’s financial markets again over the summer.

Like the Bourbon kings, capitalist governments seem to have forgotten nothing but learnt nothing. In the immediate aftermath of the 2007/08 financial crisis, capitalism behaved as if it had learnt something from their studies of the 1930s. However, the period of nation states ‘priming the pump’ was brief. Now, the world’s governments, above all the Con-Dems in Britain, have switched to savage cuts in public spending which are startlingly similar to the deflationary policies in the aftermath of the 1929 Wall Street crash.

The result, as in the 1930s, has been to worsen the economic situation, forcing the capitalists to consider priming the pump again. Even if they do so it will not solve the underlying economic problems. During the great depression the Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky, explained that only the richest capitalist country, the US, could afford even the minimal Keynesian policies of the pump-priming New Deal, which president Franklin D Roosevelt switched to in the mid-1930s in the aftermath of the savage cuts in state spending carried out by his predecessor, Herbert Hoover.

Today, in a sense, no country can afford a ‘New Deal’. US imperialism is weakened, crippled by the twin deficits of the federal budget and trade. Globally, we are witnessing a prolonged and deep, organic crisis of capitalism which, due to the massive and economically unsound financial bubble that has developed over the past 20 years, is becoming still deeper and dramatic in character. Capitalism will be hobbled for a protracted period. The lessons of the 1930s have never been more relevant to the working class than they are today.

The return to the gold standard
THE GREAT DEPRESSION meant appalling misery for the working class in Britain. By the end of 1930, UK exports had plummeted by 50% and unemployment had more than doubled to 20% of the workforce. Other countries, including the US, suffered an even greater fall in production but in Britain it followed many years of inexorable decline. Once the world’s great imperialist power, British capitalism had been first challenged and then decisively pushed down the pecking order by the development of German then US capitalism.

In 1925, the Tory government had put Britain back onto the ‘gold standard’, which linked sterling to the value of gold and, in reality, to the US dollar. This was an attempt to restore the power of British imperialism by re-establishing sterling at pre-war parity with gold and to slow the tendency of Britain’s colonies to orientate towards the ever more powerful USA. However, "the British empire [was] being mortgaged to the United States", as the Daily Mail commented.

In September 1931, the national government took Britain off the gold standard, following panic on the world financial markets. There are innumerable parallels between Britain’s experience of the gold standard and the crisis currently engulfing southern Europe. Both involved national capitalist classes tying their currencies to a more powerful country. Initially, both were hailed as a success when, as Trotsky explained regarding the gold standard, "we seem to have a great victory for British capitalism [but] in actual fact Britain’s decline is nowhere more clearly expressed than in this financial achievement". (Where is Britain Going? 1925) Just as with the gold standard, the outcome of the crisis in Europe will be the break up of the euro, sooner or later, with at least some countries being forced out of it. In the meantime, again as in the 1920s and early 1930s, the price of membership of a common currency is being extracted in the misery of millions of working-class people.

The decision to return to the gold standard at too high a level – overvalued by around 10% – had immediate economic consequences. The capitalist class responded by attempting to make the workers pay with savage pay cuts. The economist John Maynard Keynes attacked the decision, saying that it would be the workers in general, and miners in particular, who were the "victims of the economic juggernaut… Mr Churchill’s policy of improving the exchange by 10% was sooner or later a policy of reduction everyone’s wages by two shillings in the pound [10%]".

Like the Greek working class today, workers in Britain refused to pay for a crisis that was not of their making. The magnificent nine-day 1926 general strike, in which four million trade unionists took part (out of a total of five-and-a-half million), still remains the most important event in the history of the British working class. Due solely to the criminal betrayal of the trade union leaders, it is also its greatest defeat. That defeat forms a vital part of the backdrop to the events of 1931. In the aftermath of the strike, Britain’s capitalist class exacted a terrible revenge on the working class, with widespread wage cuts and hundreds of thousands of the most militant activists thrown out of work. Trade union membership fell by half a million in 1927 alone. The unemployed were treated with appalling brutality. The diseases of poverty, tuberculosis, rickets and polio, were common.

The 1926 defeat was heavier because the young Communist Party (CP), which included many of the most militant workers, had not put forward a clear strategy for victory during the strike. It followed behind the trade union leaders, particularly those of the left, too uncritically. As a result, it did not come out of the general strike strengthened as it could have been. Nor was it able to prepare effectively the most militant sections of the working class for the battles that were to come. The Minority Movement, founded by the CP and involving half-a-million trade unionists at its peak, went into terminal decline. These failings were exacerbated as the CP followed the policy zigzags of the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union.

Today, the working class is not suffering from recent industrial defeats. On the contrary, workers in Britain are only now beginning to awake and attempt a serious struggle to defend their interests. Nonetheless, the defeats the working class has suffered over the longer period of the last three decades still have a negative effect. The ideological defeat caused by the collapse of Stalinism in 1989/90 and the resulting wave of capitalist triumphalism which pushed back socialist consciousness remain an important factor, albeit a decreasing one. Working-class consciousness today is still on a lower level than in the 1930s. Today, the lack of mass parties of the working class complicates the resistance to the capitalists’ onslaught. In 1931, the crisis was of the leadership of the political organisations of the working class. Today, it is of its very organisation. The trade unions, which organise over six million workers in Britain, remain intact and are crucial means for the working class to defend its interests. To do so effectively, however, trade unionists need to exert enormous pressure on the right-wing leaders of the TUC who are even more integrated into the capitalist system than in the past.

The profound crisis of capitalism is, however, pushing a new generation into searching for an alternative. The revolutionary wave that has swept North Africa, and the mighty uprising in Greece, represent the dramatic beginnings of a new stage of struggle. In Britain, we have already seen the biggest student movement in a quarter of a century, the biggest trade union organised demonstration in history and, most importantly, 750,000 workers taking co-ordinated strike action. One lesson that can be drawn from 1931 is that, despite the difficulties, the capitalist class could still not carry out its savage programme without mass and heroic resistance from the working class. Even against the background of a savage assault on the working class, the resistance forced the capitalists to retreat, at least partially. When the working class was blocked in the official trade unions it found other means of struggle, including the so-called bread riots, and the biggest naval mutiny in Britain for 150 years. The same kind of struggles will undoubtedly develop today as part of the current battle against cuts and could be central to it if, as in 1931, the trade union leaders succeed in blocking serious industrial struggle for a period.

The 1929-31 Labour government
IN THE AFTERMATH of the general strike, a defeat in the industrial struggle, the working class first turned to the political arena to try and defend itself. In May 1929, the second Labour government in history came to power as a minority government, backed by the Liberals, with ‘moderate’ Labour politician Ramsay MacDonald as prime minister.

The Labour Party at that stage was a capitalist workers’ party. While the leadership acted in the interests of the capitalists, the mass, working-class base of the party was able (unlike today) to influence it through the party’s democratic structures. This was to be graphically demonstrated by the events of 1931. Trotsky anticipated what would develop in Where is Britain Going? "The masses will liberate themselves from the yoke of national conservatism, working out their own discipline of revolutionary action. Under this pressure from below the top layers of the Labour Party will quickly shed their skins. We do not in the least mean by this that MacDonald will change his spots into those of a revolutionary. No, he will be cast out".

The Labour Party had come to power in a period in which capitalism could not afford to carry out reforms: "Without reforms there is no reformism, without prosperous capitalism no reforms", Trotsky explained. "The right reformist wing becomes anti-reformist in the sense that it helps the bourgeoisie, directly or indirectly, to smash the old conquests of the working class". (Once More on Centrism, 23 March 1934, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1933-34)

From the start, the MacDonald government disappointed the millions of workers who had voted for it, not least on the central issue of the day, unemployment. Even Hugh Gordon, a right-wing Labour MP, later admitted: "The government ran away from its programme [on unemployment] from the first day". (Nick Smart, The National Government 1931–40) A bill introduced by the Minister of Labour, Margaret Bondfield, Britain’s first woman cabinet minister, did not deal with any of the central issues facing the unemployed. Some of the most brutal aspects of the benefit system were left in place, such as the waiting period before benefits could be claimed and the onerous proofs of ‘genuinely seeking work’. Anger was such that, at the Labour Party conference in October 1929, an attempt to stage a protest against the Bondfield bill was only narrowly defeated.

This shows the difference between Labour at that stage and New Labour today. New Labour was able to carry out numerous attacks on the working class, including cutting disability benefits, introducing unprecedented privatisation in the NHS, and invading Iraq and Afghanistan, with barely a ripple at the Labour Party conference. When one lone pensioner dared to shout ‘nonsense’ at the occupation of Iraq in 2005 he was physically evicted from the conference and arrested!

In July 1931, as unemployment soared, the Labour government commissioned the May report into the public finances. This called for huge public-sector cuts, including a 10% cut in unemployment benefits. Like the Pasok government in Greece today, Labour was being told it had no choice but to dance to the tune of the markets. As Henry Pelling puts it in his Short History of the Labour Party: "In August [1931] the government faced the alternatives of abandoning the gold standard or securing fresh loans in Paris or New York; but the New York bankers would only help if they were sure that the government was taking sufficient measures of retrenchment to restore confidence on orthodox lines. This meant, in fact, cuts in civil service pay and in the pay of the forces, and also in unemployment benefits".

A narrow majority of the cabinet were in favour of implementing the May report, but senior figures who opposed it made it clear that they would resign if it was implemented. More to the point, the power of the organised working class, the trade unions, within the party made it impossible for the Labour government to go ahead and implement the report. Ernest Bevin, general secretary of the largest trade union, the Transport and General Workers’ Union and very far from being on the left, was among those who met the chancellor to report on behalf of the TUC that they could not accept the cuts.

In Britain, the so-called ‘cradle of capitalist democracy’, the capitalist class, when it could not use the Labour government as a reliable servant of its interests, did not hesitate to find another, more reliable, instrument in the form of a national government headed by MacDonald. On 23 August, MacDonald resigned. Early the next morning he accepted the invitation of the king to form a new government with the Liberals and the Conservatives. MacDonald and those Labour MPs who went with him were expelled from the Labour Party and gave themselves the name National Labour. This betrayal was burned into the consciousness of broad sections of the working class. Today, Ed Miliband and the leadership of New Labour clearly believe, wrongly, that a majority Labour government is ruled out and dream only of a coalition with the Liberals. However, up until the development of New Labour, no post-war Labour leader dared to support a coalition or national government, such was the memory of MacDonald’s betrayal. Tony Blair had hoped to change this, and to involve the Liberal Democrats in government in some form after the 1997 general election. The scale of Labour’s majority, however, made this impossible.

In any case, New Labour in power was such a reliable capitalist party that there was no need for a coalition. The leadership of the party was able to completely isolate itself from the pressure of the organised working class. The party conference had all of its powers taken away, while the trade union conference vote was reduced below 50%. Yet Miliband is now launching a campaign to remove even the few vestiges of democracy that still exist within the Labour Party, including the election of the shadow cabinet. While a Lib/Lab government is more likely in the future than a national government, the scale of the crisis means it can no longer be excluded despite the ingrained hatred of the Tories among big sections of the working class. Unlike in 1931, a majority of the current Labour Party could probably accept this in a ‘national emergency’.

In Europe, all the ex-workers’ parties have become safe tools for the capitalist class. In Greece, it is Pasok which is loyally trying to meet the demands of the ‘troika’ by implementing 33% wage cuts, benefit cuts and mass privatisation in a country which is already suffering an economic crisis of 1930s proportions. On 21 June, while a 48-hour general strike paralysed the country, the Pasok government used so much tear gas to clear the streets that, had the country been at war, it would have been illegal under the Geneva convention. Only one Pasok MP voted against the cuts, and was expelled from the party on the spot! Meanwhile, it was the traditional capitalist party, New Democracy, which has refused to join a national government, at this stage, and has cynically stated it would vote against the cuts.

Mutiny in the navy
AT THE END of August 1931 a national government was formed ‘to defend the gold standard’. Its slogan, like the Con-Dems’ ‘we’re all in this together’, was ‘equality of sacrifice’. It immediately introduced an emergency budget which demanded no sacrifice by the rich and meant starvation for the poor. It was incredibly similar to the budget of the government in Greece today which is, supposedly, to defend the euro. It is also echoed in the Con-Dems’ benefit cap and campaign to declare the disabled ‘fit to work’. In 1931, unemployment benefits were cut by 10% and the dreaded means test led to 193,542 men and 77,995 women immediately having all their benefits stopped. The means test meant that benefits were denied to the unemployed if anyone in the family – parents, grandparents, siblings – were judged able to keep them or if they had any goods, including basic furniture, which could be sold to buy food. At the same time, public-sector workers were told their pay would also be cut by 10%.

Mass opposition to these measures was given form, not by the trade union leaders, but in a dramatic naval mutiny. Sailors were facing pay cuts of between 10% and 25%. On 11 September, when ten warships of the Atlantic fleet arrived in Invergordon in Scotland, the sailors read about their pay cut in the newspapers. The next night a group met on shore at a football field, voted to organise a strike, and left singing The Red Flag. On 15 September, four warships refused to leave on manoeuvres and the mutiny had begun. It ended in the evening of 16 September when the navy conceded that sailors’ pay would be cut by no more than 10%, along with some other concessions.

The end of the mutiny was not the end of the story. The world financial markets panicked, and exerted huge pressure on the pound. On 21 September, the three-week old national government was forced to abandon the gold standard and the value of sterling fell by 25%.

Even those capitalist academics who try to deny that the Invergordon mutiny was responsible for Britain coming off the gold standard actually accept that it was the sailors’ determination which was the trigger for what followed. Nick Smart, for example, says: "The political impact of the Invergordon ‘mutiny’ was considerable. It is doubtful, however, whether the event, in itself, caused… the suspension of the gold standard on the Monday. What is more likely is that foreign holders of sterling… interpreted ‘disobedience in the fleet’ as a symptom of government unpopularity". Exactly! Compare the sailors’ spontaneous determination not to accept the misery being heaped on them with the pathetic servility of the right-wing Labour leaders, summed up by their Fabian guru, Sidney Webb, who when he heard Britain was off the gold standard whined: "No-one ever told us we could do that". In 1931, the British ruling class came up against the inner resistivity of the working class in the form of the naval mutiny and was forced to abandon its long held goal of sticking to the gold standard. Workers’ refusal to accept the scale of misery being demanded of them was bound to find an outlet, if not through the naval mutiny, by other means. The same will be true of the working class in Britain today, who will not be able to swallow the scale of cuts being demanded by the capitalist class.

It is possible that the police or armed forces will again play a role in the struggle. This is the first attempt since 1931 to cut the pay and conditions of the armed forces and the police. Margaret Thatcher did the opposite, stuffing the mouths of the police ‘with gold’ to ensure their loyalty. The current government proposes cuts of over 10% in real terms in the average police officer’s pay, plus major pension ‘reform’. The £4.7 billion that is being cut from the armed forces is mainly being found by cutting the conditions of ordinary soldiers and the pensions of ex-soldiers, not least those who have been disabled in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The police and armed forces ultimately play the role of ‘the armed bodies of men [and women]’ defending the interests of the capitalist class. The student movement has already suffered police brutality. The importance of organised, democratically controlled mass stewarding of demonstrations to protect them from police attack and agent-provocateurs will be an increasingly important demand. At the same time, socialists stand against cuts in all workers’ pay and conditions, including those of the police and armed forces. In a period of heightened class struggle it can be possible to split the forces of the state. We should support the moves of the Police Federation to campaign against the cuts, and to demand the right to be a real trade union. Police strikes, last seen in Britain in 1919, could be posed in the coming period and would make it far harder for the government to implement its cuts, just as the sailors’ mutiny of 1931 sent the government into retreat within 48 hours.

Other outlets of resistance
JUST AS MEMBERSHIP of a common currency is for the euro ‘periphery’ countries, the gold standard was a disastrous deflationary straitjacket for British capitalism. Coming off it, however, did not mean an end to the crisis or to deflationary policies. The capitalist class continued with its assault on workers’ living conditions. It was met with ferocious resistance. The left Labour MP, Nye Bevan, demanded in parliament to know if the unemployed would receive the same concessions as the sailors if they showed the same "rebellious tendencies". Over the coming years they did.

Over recent years, socialists have warned that, unless a determined mass movement of the working class against all cuts is organised by the trade union leaders, riots were inevitable as a cry of despair against mass unemployment, poverty and police brutality. This summer we have seen communities burn as a ‘lost generation’ rage against their lot. However, the riots of 2011 are on a far lower level and scale than the mass uprisings of whole communities which took place in the 1930s. Socialists and the trade union movement need to begin again to organise the unemployed around a clear programme in order to channel their anger into an effective movement. Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) has already begun important work in this direction.

In the 1930s, the CP, despite its political failings, played a crucial role in organising the unemployed in the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement (NUWM). Two of its leading activists, Fred Copeman and Len Wincott, were first brought into activity and then membership of the CP after they helped to lead the Invergordon mutiny and were thrown out of the navy as a result. Today, it is the march of the unemployed from Jarrow to London in 1936 which is most remembered but, prior to this, the NUWM organised a whole series of marches of the unemployed. The first, in 1932, was greeted when it arrived in London by a brutal police assault, snatching the petition to parliament from the marchers, and subjecting them to a vicious beating.

In Birkenhead, in 1932, the labour movement, led by the CP, organised a magnificent struggle around clear demands: abolition of the means test; extension of work schemes, including building houses, schools and road repairs; a 25% rent reduction for corporation (council) houses and no evictions. They marched with clear slogans: ‘fight the means test’; ‘unemployed workers – struggle or starve’. The so-called ‘bread riots’, in fact a mass uprising of the Birkenhead working class, forced the council to make significant concessions, including an increase in unemployment benefits by two shillings a week. (See: Struggle or Starve, by Peter Taaffe, The Socialist No.656, 2 February 2011) In the aftermath of the Birkenhead victory, unemployed workers in many other towns and cities followed suit, including in Salford, Birmingham, Belfast and Glasgow. The 1934 reversal of the 10% cut in unemployment benefit, limited as it was, would not have taken place without these heroic struggles.

The workers’ political response to the experience of 1931 was multi-faceted. Superficial historians report that Labour suffered a massive defeat in the general election of October 1931. In terms of MPs this was true, but Labour’s vote only fell from 8.3 million in 1929 to 6.6 million. This showed the loyalty of the majority of the working class to the Labour Party, seeing it as a party that, unlike the betrayers MacDonald and Philip Snowden, stood in their interests. In that election, all the capitalist parties stood as a bloc, including National Labour, and an avalanche of vitriol poured forth from the capitalist class against the Labour Party. Former leader, MacDonald, gave an election broadcast describing the Labour Party’s programme as "Bolshevism run mad".

Trotsky had predicted in 1925 that, in the first instance, MacDonald would be replaced as leader of the Labour Party by "people of the ilk of [George] Lansbury…[who] will inevitably reveal that they are but a left variant of the same basic Fabian type". This was exactly what happened. However, under the impact of the crisis of capitalism and the experience of the 1929-31 Labour government, the Independent Labour Party moved rapidly to the left. In 1931, it disaffiliated from the Labour Party taking with it over 16,000 members. Although its failure to adopt a clear Marxist position meant that its membership dwindled over subsequent years, its rapid development in the immediate wake of the MacDonald betrayal gave an indication of the potential for a sizeable Marxist party to develop in Britain in the 1930s. The number of brave militants who were attracted to the CP despite its leadership also shows the revolutionary conclusions that were being drawn by the most advanced sections of the working class.

The weakness of the capitalist parties was shown by the fact that variations on a national government remained in power until the end of the second world war. The next government by a single party was the 1945 Labour government which, under the mass pressure of the working class – determined not to return to the misery of the 1930s – carried out a ‘quarter of a revolution’ by nationalising 20% of industry and creating the NHS. Successive governments, including New Labour’s, have systematically undermined the gains of 1945-50. Now the Con-Dem government intends to finish the job. However, it will face mass opposition from the working class. All kinds of heroic struggles will develop against the cuts, just as they did in the 1930s. The potential for many tens of thousands of workers to be won to Marxism, and for a mass party of the working class to develop again, will arise from the mighty battles that are coming

The Latest From The "Jobs With Justice Blog"-The Seemingly One-Sided Struggle Continues-It's High Time To Push Back-Push Back Hard-30 For 40 Is The Slogan Of The Day.

Click on the headline to link to the Jobs With Justice Blog for the latest national and international labor news, and of the efforts to counteract the massively one-sided class struggle against the international working class movement.

From the American Left History blog-Wednesday, June 17, 2009

With Unemployment Rising- The Call "30 For 40"- Now More Than Ever- The Transitional Socialist Program


Google To Link To The Full Transitional Program Of The Fourth International Adopted In 1938 As A Fighting Program In The Struggle For Socialism In That Era. Many Of The Points, Including The Headline Point Of 30 Hours Work For 40 Hours Pay To Spread The Work Around Among All Workers, Is As Valid Today As Then.

Guest Commentary

From The Transitional Program Of The Fourth International In 1938Sliding Scale of Wages
and Sliding Scale of Hours


Under the conditions of disintegrating capitalism, the masses continue to live the meagerized life of the oppressed, threatened now more than at any other time with the danger of being cast into the pit of pauperism. They must defend their mouthful of bread, if they cannot increase or better it. There is neither the need nor the opportunity to enumerate here those separate, partial demands which time and again arise on the basis of concrete circumstances – national, local, trade union. But two basic economic afflictions, in which is summarized the increasing absurdity of the capitalist system, that is, unemployment and high prices, demand generalized slogans and methods of struggle.

The Fourth International declares uncompromising war on the politics of the capitalists which, to a considerable degree, like the politics of their agents, the reformists, aims to place the whole burden of militarism, the crisis, the disorganization of the monetary system and all other scourges stemming from capitalism’s death agony upon the backs of the toilers. The Fourth International demands employment and decent living conditions for all.

Neither monetary inflation nor stabilization can serve as slogans for the proletariat because these are but two ends of the same stick. Against a bounding rise in prices, which with the approach of war will assume an ever more unbridled character, one can fight only under the slogan of a sliding scale of wages. This means that collective agreements should assure an automatic rise in wages in relation to the increase in price of consumer goods.

Under the menace of its own disintegration, the proletariat cannot permit the transformation of an increasing section of the workers into chronically unemployed paupers, living off the slops of a crumbling society. The right to employment is the only serious right left to the worker in a society based upon exploitation. This right today is left to the worker in a society based upon exploitation. This right today is being shorn from him at every step. Against unemployment, “structural” as well as “conjunctural,” the time is ripe to advance along with the slogan of public works, the slogan of a sliding scale of working hours. Trade unions and other mass organizations should bind the workers and the unemployed together in the solidarity of mutual responsibility. On this basis all the work on hand would then be divided among all existing workers in accordance with how the extent of the working week is defined. The average wage of every worker remains the same as it was under the old working week. Wages, under a strictly guaranteed minimum, would follow the movement of prices. It is impossible to accept any other program for the present catastrophic period.

Property owners and their lawyers will prove the “unrealizability” of these demands. Smaller, especially ruined capitalists, in addition will refer to their account ledgers. The workers categorically denounce such conclusions and references. The question is not one of a “normal” collision between opposing material interests. The question is one of guarding the proletariat from decay, demoralization and ruin. The question is one of life or death of the only creative and progressive class, and by that token of the future of mankind. If capitalism is incapable of satisfying the demands inevitably arising from the calamities generated by itself, then let it perish. “Realizability” or “unrealizability” is in the given instance a question of the relationship of forces, which can be decided only by the struggle. By means of this struggle, no matter what immediate practical successes may be, the workers will best come to understand the necessity of liquidating capitalist slavery.

From The Archives-The Struggle To Win The Youth To The Fight For Our Communist Future-From The "Socialist Alternative" Website-Russia How the Bureaucracy Seized Power- Part Two- "Socialism in One Country" and "The Bureaucratic Counter-Revolution"

Markin comment on this series:

One of the declared purposes of this space is to draw the lessons of our left-wing past here in America and internationally, especially from the pro-communist wing. To that end I have made commentaries and provided archival works in order to help draw those lessons for today’s left-wing activists to learn, or at least ponder over. More importantly, for the long haul, to help educate today’s youth in the struggle for our common communist future. That is no small task or easy task given the differences of generations; differences of political milieus worked in; differences of social structure to work around; and, increasingly more important, the differences in appreciation of technological advances, and their uses.

There is no question that back in my youth I could have used, desperately used, many of the archival materials available today. When I developed political consciousness very early on, albeit liberal political consciousness, I could have used this material as I knew, I knew deep inside my heart and mind, that a junior Cold War liberal of the American For Democratic Action (ADA) stripe was not the end of my leftward political trajectory. More importantly, I could have used a socialist or communist youth organization to help me articulate the doubts I had about the virtues of liberal capitalism and be recruited to a more left-wing world view. As it was I spent far too long in the throes of the left-liberal/soft social-democratic milieu where I was dying politically. A group like the Young Communist League (W.E.B. Dubois Clubs in those days), the Young People’s Socialist League, or the Young Socialist Alliance representing the youth organizations of the American Communist Party, American Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S.) respectively would have saved much wasted time and energy. I knew they were around but not in my area.

The archival material to be used in this series is weighted heavily toward the youth movements of the early American Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S). For more recent material I have relied on material from the Spartacus Youth Clubs, the youth group of the Spartacist League (U.S.), both because they are more readily available to me and because, and this should give cause for pause, there are not many other non-CP, non-SWP youth groups around. As I gather more material from other youth sources I will place them in this series.

Finally I would like to finish up with the preamble to the Spartacist Youth Club’s What We Fight For statement of purpose:

"The Spartacus Youth Clubs intervene into social struggles armed with the revolutionary internationalist program of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. We work to mobilize youth in struggle as partisans of the working class, championing the liberation of black people, women and all the oppressed. The SYCs fight to win youth to the perspective of building the Leninist vanguard party that will lead the working class in socialist revolution, laying the basis for a world free of capitalist exploitation and imperialist slaughter."

This seems to me be somewhere in the right direction for what a Bolshevik youth group should be doing these days; a proving ground to become professional revolutionaries with enough wiggle room to learn from their mistakes, and successes. More later.
*******
Part Three: "Socialism in One Country"

11. The Invention of "Trotskyism"

The party bureaucracy resorted to vote-rigging to exclude Opposition delegates from the thirteenth conference in January 1924, where the inner-party debate was to be decided.


In Moscow, for example, the Opposition had majority support in most of the cells (branches). In the regional elections, despite ruthless weeding out of Opposition supporters by Stalin's appointed secretaries, 36 percent of the vote still went to the Opposition. Yet, at the provincial level, this vote was mysteriously halved.

From the whole of the USSR, only three Opposition delegates managed to get into the conference!

Then came the news of Lenin's death. The mass of workers and youth were plunged into even deeper gloom, while the bureaucracy immediately felt themselves in a stronger position.

The triumvirate now set out to defeat the Opposition's power base among the party activists. Supposedly in tribute to Lenin, they threw the party open to workers - had not Trotsky criticized the fact that only 15 percent of the membership were workers?

Between February and May 1924 some 240,000 workers were admitted. This so-called "Lenin levy" was, in fact, a mockery of the method of party-building that Lenin had developed.

As the party congress had explained in 1919:


"The Communist Party is the organization which unites in its ranks only the vanguard of the proletariat and the poorest peasantry - that part of these classes which consciously strives to realize in practice the communist program.
"The Communist Party makes it its task to win decisive influence... in all organizations of workers..."

Flooding the party with raw recruits went directly counter to this task - but it served another purpose. The "Lenin levy", the trio calculated, would in the first place provide them with voting fodder to swamp the Opposition. Inexperienced members, confronted with unfamiliar problems, will tend to follow the lead they are given. Very few would feel able to challenge the Politbureau.

As in Russia, there was strong support for the Opposition in the Comunist parties internationally. The central committees of the mass-based French and Polish parties, for example, protested against the attacks on Trotsky.

The triumvirate could not tolerate this. Zinoviev, as Comintern president, ruthlessly abused his position, disbanding the leading bodies of national parties to get rid of Trotsky's supporters - under the slogan of "Bolshevization"!

Yet the bureaucracy could not feel secure as long as Trotsky, with his giant authority as theoretician and co-leader of the October revolution, continued to subject their opportunism and blunders to merciless Marxist criticism. It was essential for the Zinovievites and Stalinists to rewrite history and cover Trotsky's name in mud.

Their tactic was to invent "Trotskyism" (a phrase coined by Zinoviev in December 1923). This consisted of raking up each and every past difference between Lenin and Trotsky in order to insinuate that Trotsky had "always" been opposed to Bolshevism.

Trotsky was reviled as a Menshevik (after the confusing split between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks in 1903 he had, for a few months, found himself in the Mensheviks' camp before the political differences between them became clear) and also as an ultra-left! In particular his theory of permanent revolution was seized on to demonstrate his "petty-bourgeois deviation from Leninism".

In face, Trotsky's fundamental disagreement with the Mensheviks was precisely the basis for his political alliance with Lenin in 1917 and after.

The Mensheviks, Trotsky explained, "took as their point of departure the idea that to the liberal bourgeoisie... belonged the leading role in the bourgeois [democratic] revolution. According to this pattern, the party of the proletariat was assigned the role of Left Wing of the democratic front." (Introduction to The Permanent Revolution, page 3).

From this it followed that the revolution should be carried out in two stages: first, a "democratic" stage (on the basis of capitalism); and only at some point in the future would "socialism" be on the agenda.

Trotsky rejected this mechanical formula and developed his own analysis of the character of the revolution in a backward country such as Russia. This analysis, brilliantly confirmed by the October revolution, became known as the theory of "permanent revolution".

"In the event of a decisive victory of the revolution," Trotsky wrote in 1906, "power will pass into the hands of that class which plays a leading role in the struggle - in other words, into the hands of the proletariat... The political domination of the proletariat is incompatible with its economic enslavement. No matter under what political flag the proletariat has come to power, it is obliged to take the path of socialist policy." (Results and Prospects, pages 201, 233).

He added: "Should the Russian proletariat find itself in power..., it will encounter the organized hostility of world reaction, and on the other hand will find a readiness on the part of the world proletariat to give organized support... It will have no alternative but to link the fate of its political rule, and, hence, the fate of the whole Russian revolution, with the fate of the socialist revolution in Europe." (page 247)

Lenin, in April 1917, came to identical conclusions. By 1924, the term "permanent revolution" had not been an issue for years, and the debate about it was purely historical.

For the bureaucracy, however, the party's commitment to revolutionary internationalism - defended above all by Trotsky - was becoming an intolerable thorn in the flesh.

With the defeat of the German revolution it became clear that the Soviet Union faced a period of prolonged isolation. To the bureaucracy, the perspective of world revolution became more and more wishful thinking. They wrote off the working class in the west, and settled down to the "practical" task of managing the Soviet Union in the midst of a capitalist world.

Material conditions call forth ideas. In the 1890s, Bernstein had developed the "theory" of reformism to justify the real-life retreat from the program of class struggle by the right wing of social democracy.

Similarly, in 1924-25, Stalin produced a "theory" which reflected the conservatism of the Soviet bureaucracy, expressing their opposition to the Marxist position that Trotsky represented, and attempting, in "Marxist" terms, to justify their break with it: the "theory" of "socialism in one country".


12. "Socialism in One Country"

On the strength of three quotations plucked from Lenin's voluminous writings, Stalin in December 1924 put forward the unheard-of idea that socialism could be built in Russia without the victory of the working class in the developed countries.

This idea went counter to everything Lenin had tried to explain, even in the documents Stalin quoted. Lenin went no further than to point out that in Russia the political conditions for socialist transformation (a workers' regime supported by the peasantry) had been created by the October revolution. At no stage did Lenin entertain the illusion that the economic preconditions existed in backward Russia.

As late as February 1924, Stalin himself had still preached the exact opposite of "socialism in one country":


"...can the final victory of socialism in one country be attained, without the joint efforts of the proletariat of several advanced countries? No, this is impossible... For the final victory of socialism, for the organization of socialist production, the efforts of one country, particularly of such a peasant country as Russia, are insufficient. For this the efforts of the proletarians of several advanced countries are necessary." (Quoted in Woods and Grant, Lenin and Trotsky: What They Really Stood For, pages 108-109)
Yet, within months, Stalin took a completely different line:


"If we knew in advance that we are not equal to the task [of building socialism in Russia by itself], then why the devil did we have to make the October revolution? If we have managed for eight years, why should we not manage in the ninth, tenth or fortieth year?" (Quoted in Carr, Socialism in One Country, Volume 2, page 181)
What made Stalin turn his ideas upside-down?

Basically, it was the changing balance of forces that emboldened the non-theorist Stalin to throw down the gauntlet to all the theorists of Marxism. The Opposition, the ideas of Marxism and the class demands of the workers were being silenced while the bureaucracy, increasingly arrogant, was prevailing.

The idea of revolutionary struggle against capitalism internationally ("permanent revolution") was entirely alien to the new masters of the Soviet Union. Stalin's thoroughly dishonest argument was not a theory in the true sense of the word (an attempt at explaining reality). It was nothing more than an attempt at burying the program of permanent revolution, of Marxism itself.

To cover their tracks, the bureaucracy increasingly "altered" party history, and Marxist textbooks, to make it appear to the workers that their policy was the consistent continuation of Bolshevism. By November 1926, for example, Stalin felt able to declare:


"The party always took as its starting point the idea that the victory of socialism in one country means the possibility to build socialism in that country, and that this task can be accomplished with the forces of a singly country"! (Quoted by Woods and Grant, page 109)
Taken to its conclusions, Stalin's "theory" denied the need for a revolutionary International. Defense of "socialism" in the Soviet Union, in contrast to the building of socialism through world revolution, now became the primary task of the Communist parties internationally.

In practice, this meant uncritical support for the policies and national interests of the Soviet bureaucracy. (In 1943, Stalin himself confirmed this in the most blatant manner when he dissolved the Comintern - by then a bureaucratic shell - at the stroke of a pen, in order to prove to his wartime allies, the imperialist leaders Roosevelt and Churchill, that the Soviet leadership had abandoned all thought of world revolution.)

The Opposition were denounced as "pessimists" and "cynics" for questioning the bureaucracy's crude, anti-Marxist ideas.

In reality it was the Opposition who had consistently explained the need for industrialization to strengthen the basis of workers' rule in the Soviet Union. (For this, in turn, they were denounced as "super-industrializers"!) But they had also explained that this in itself would not be enough to complete the transition to socialism.

On the other hand, cutting loose from the program of internationalism meant writing off the perspective of reconstruction in Russia in any real sense - i.e., as part of a socialist Europe. The bureaucracy's alternative was to rely more openly on the kulaks as mainstay of the "national" economy. Bukharin, in April 1925, went so far as to blurt out:

"To the peasants... we must say: Enrich yourselves, develop your farms, do not fear that constraint will be put on you." (Quoted in Carr, Socialism in One Country, Volume 1, page 280) This slogan came under attack because it was too blatant and it was dropped by the central committee, byt the general idea became party policy.

Before the year was out, Stalin was even considering whether to denationalize the land!

By this time the triumvirate was breaking up. Its purpose had been accomplished. Zinoviev and Kamenev had joined forces with the mediocre Stalin out of hostility towards Trotsky; now they recoiled from the ruthless Stalin who had taken virtually all power into his own hands.

Political difference among the trio now began to surface.

At the party congress in December 1925, Zinoviev and Kamenev began to raise questions about Stalin's ideas. It was left to Trotsky, however, to develop a fundamental Marxist refutation of "socialism in one country", and expose its inherent dangers.

Today the question has taken on even greater importance than in the 1920s. The powerful present-day Soviet regime has enormous influence in the mass movement internationally, especially in the underdeveloped countries. The bureaucracy's philosophy of "socialism in one country" (or "national roads to socialism") has become the conscious or unconscious starting point for many of the leaders.

Trotsky's reply to Stalin remains the clearest basis for answering these ideas and working out the Marxist way forward.


13. Why Marxism Stands for Internationalism

Trotsky demonstrated that the program of internationalism (now labeled "permanent revolution") had never been challenged in the Bolshevik Party prior to 1924. Stalin's crude challenge, however, made it necessary to once again explain the question fundamentally.

Trotsky started with the basic ideas of Marxism. Civilization, he explained, advances through the development of the productive forces - through the struggle by people and classes in society to supply their material needs, in the process stimulating the development of science, technology, politics and culture.

Social systems come into existence on the basis of the organization of production. A social system can only be swept away when it has come to the limits of its development, and a new revolutionary class, with the capacity to reorganize and further develop the forces of production, is prepared to take power.

The necessity for socialism arises out of the obstacles created by the capitalist system to the further development of the productive forces. The historical purpose of socialism is to develop society beyond the economic and political limits of capitalism, to new levels of abundance and freedom.


"Socialist society", as Trotsky explained, "can be built only on the most advanced productive forces, ... on combining, generalizing and bringing to maximum development the highest elements of modern technology... Socialism, however, must not only take over from capitalism the most highly developed productive forces but must immediately carry them onward... and give them a state of development such as has been unknown under capitalism." (The Third International After Lenin, pages 40-41)
The struggle and sacrifice to end capitalism and build socialism, in other words, could have no justification - and no attraction for the mass of working people - if it represented no advance (or a step backward) from the standards of living that capitalism is able to offer.

Why does socialist transformation make possible a huge leap forward even from the highest achievements of capitalism? On the one hand, because it frees production from the anarchy of market forces, the distortions of private ownership and the limits of national states. On the other hand, it liberates the collective ingenuity and creativity of the mass of working people from the repressive discipline of capitalist production.

Workers' democratic rule, in other words, is an essential political precondition for the transition to socialism and communism.

Why can this transformation not be carried through within the borders of one country? Precisely because capitalism has developed as a world system. The "most advanced productive forces" are not contained in any single country; they depend on the combined efforts of the working class in whole series of countries, tied together through world trade. Certainly they could not exist in an underdeveloped country, such as Russia in 1917.

The transition to socialism - for control of the "most advanced productive forces" - can only be an international process, depending on the conquest of power by the working class in at least a number of industrialized countries (which would seal the doom of the capitalist class on a world scale).

As long as workers' rule remains confined to a single country, it will face the combined hostility of the capitalists of the world, with vast economic and military resources at their disposal.

Stalin's crude argument, that the October revolution could have no other aim than the construction of socialism in Russia, therefore completely missed the point. Lenin, in one of many statements on the question, answered him in advance:


"Single-handed, the Russian proletariat cannot bring the socialist revolution to a victorious conclusion. But it can give the Russian revolution a mighty sweep that would create the most favorable conditions for a socialist revolution, and would, in a sense, start it. It can facilitate the rise of a situation in which its chief, its most trustworthy and reliable ally, the European and American socialist proletariat, could join the decisive battles." (Collected Works, Volume 23, page 372)

14. What "Socialism in One Country" Really Meant

The Soviet Union could not overtake capitalism and advance to socialism because it did not dispose over the "highest productive forces" within its boundaries. Even basic necessities for survival could only be obtained through trade with the imperialist powers.

The immediate challenge was to catch up with capitalism, to conquer the "commanding heights" of the world economy, and so lay the basis for constructing socialism as an international system.

The Soviet Union's fundamental weakness, in other words, lay in its economic and technical backwardness compared with the advanced capitalist countries. Backwardness was the root of bureaucratization (see Section 6); bureaucratic rule excluded workers' democracy, and formed an absolute barrier to socialist transformation.

The bureaucracy persisted in seeing the international problems of the revolution in essentially military terms, and gambled on the ability of the Soviet Union to defeat future imperialist invasions.

As Trotsky pointed out, even the military threat of imperialism resulted from its technical superiority. But, he added, "it is not so much military intervention as the intervention of cheaper capitalist commodities that constitutes perhaps the greatest immediate menace to the Soviet Union. (The Third International After Lenin, page 37)

In other words: the Soviet masses would defend their gains, and fight the threat of open counter-revolution. But demoralized and disillusioned by bureaucratic rule, they could not be expected to defend their own backwardness against a capitalist enemy apparently offering them a superior way of life.

In the event it was not the armies of capitalist democracies that invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 but those of Hitler. With them, instead of "cheaper commodities" for the Russian masses, they brought barbed wire and the gruesome paraphernalia of slave labor and extermination camps.

Subjected to barbarous racial repression by the Nazis, the Russian workers rallied heroically in defense of the Soviet Union.

Today the balance of forces internationally have swung massively against the imperialist powers, and there is no longer any possibility of capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union. The bureaucracy have diverted huge resources into military development, and transformed the Soviet Union into a nuclear superpower. The threat of imperialist invasion has effectively been ended.

But even this spectacular economic progress, possible only on the basis of a state-owned and planned economy, could not overcome the distortions in Russian society created by the rule of a privileged elite.

Bureaucratic repression stifled all initiative from below. The workers were driver forward through a combination of bribes and compulsion. The bureaucracy's soothing phrase of building socialism "at a snail's pace" (in Bukharin's phrase) made a mocker of workers' aspirations.

All it meant, in real terms, was the laborious struggle to develop the state-owned economy in a backward country - under their own rule.

Marx and Engels, as early as 1845, had anticipated why socialism could not be built under conditions such as these:


"this development of productive forces... is an absolutely necessary practical premise [of socialism] because without it want is merely made general, and with destitution the struggle for necessities and all the old filthy business would necessarily be reproduced." (From The German Ideology, in Selected Works, Volume I, page 37)
This insight was starkly borne out by the bureaucratic degeneration of the Russian workers' state. The bureaucracy could only build a society of inequality. With inequality came increasing corruption and police repression on the part of the bureaucracy and, among the masses, a grim battle of "each one for himself".

A letter from a kolkhoz (collective farm) worker, written in April 1930, summed up the new relations being created between the working people and their bureaucratic masters:


"The members of the kolkhoz have for two months received no pay... Fifty percent of the revenue goes to the kolkhoz treasury, fifty percent for taxes and rent. What remains for the workers? No one knows. The president pays himself several flour certificates each month and refrains from all physical labor..."
A factory worker in March 1930: "They are squeezing us, and how! Twenty-five percent increase in the productivity of labor and 1.9 percent increase in wages. For three years wages have not varied, though production has very much increased. Five men to the brigade instead of six, without change of equipment. The system of bonuses is applied in such a way that... they should be paid every six months, but in reality no one hopes to receive any..." (Quoted by Serge, From Lenin to Stalin, pages 60, 61)

Socialism cannot be built under these conditions. The essential political condition for the development of socialism, created by the October revolution and destroyed by the bureaucratic counter-revolution, has still to be re-conquered: democratic working-class rule.


Questions for Discussion

1. What was "Trotskyism"?

2. Wasn't "Permanent Revolution" a disruptive policy? Wasn't the task to get on with building socialism in the USSR?

3. If socialism can't be built in one country, what was the point of the October Revolution?

4. If Trotsky was right in his analysis and Stalin wrong, how did Stalin manage to defeat Trotsky?

5. Isn't internationalism really a pious dream?


Further Reading: Introductory

Ideals of October (p9 & 10)

Rise and Fall of the Communist International

Bureaucratism or Workers' Power (p42-46)


Further Study

Lenin and Trotsky: What They Really Stood For (Chapter 4 deals with permanent revolution, chapter 8 pp108-115 with socialism in one country)

Revolution Betrayed by Trotsky. Appendix deals with Socialism in One Country

The Third International After Lenin

From Lenin to Stalin
*******
Part Four: The Bureaucratic Counter-Revolution

15. Tragedy in China

Zinoviev and Kammenev, with their supporters, joined forces with Trotsky and the Opposition in 1926 in a struggle to pull the party back from Stalin's increasingly anti-Marxist course.


Stalin, for his part, joined forces with the extreme right, pro-kulak wing of the party, headed by Bukharin, for the purpose of defeating the United Left Opposition.

This struggle was cut across by new upheavals internationally.

In Britain, the general strike of May 1926 provoked a profound crisis. The small Communist Party was presented with the opportunity of leading hundreds of thousands of workers in opposition to the reformist TUC leadership, and prepare the transfer of power to the working class.

But the Stalinist leadership in Russia were tied in an opportunistic alliance with the "lefts" on the TUC General Council, and permitted no struggle against them. The TUC right wing betrayed the strike at the first opportunity. Stalin's "left" allies offered no resistance.

After ten days, with the strike still spreading, the General Council unanimously called it off and surrendered to the bosses. This condemned the British working class to a historic defeat.


"The cause of the proletarian revolution in the West", wrote Serge, "seemed lost for many years to come. And now an immense light was rising in the East; the Chinese masses... were advancing from victory to victory." (From Lenin to Stalin, page 44)
The Chinese working class was moving independently of the nationalist movement, the Kuomintang, led by the reactionary Chiang Kai-shek. The Chinese Communist Party was becoming a mass force. Shanghai and Hankow were in the hands of the workers. A struggle for power was inevitable.

Again, Stalinist opportunism stood in the way of victory. Stalin and the Comintern leadership had dangerous illusions in Chiang Kai-shek, and declared the Kuomintang to be "a revolutionary bloc of the workers, peasants, intellectuals, and urban democracy [i.e. the capitalist class] on the basis of a community of class interests... in the struggle against the imperialists and the whole militarist-feudal order". (Resolution of ECCI, March 1926)

In practice this meant that the Communist Party had to submit to Chiang's authority. What was this except the old Menshevik idea of common struggle by the working class and the "democratic" capitalists" for democracy on a capitalist basis?

The Left Opposition fought this policy every inch of the way. They explained that Chiang was defending the capitalists and landlords; that a soviet (workers') government was needed to give land to the peasantry and establish democracy.


"We know that Chiang Kai-shek is preparing the open betrayal of the unions and his communist allies", wrote Serge, "We are not permitted to speak. And Stalin takes the floor in Moscow before thousands of workers and solemnly assures them that we have nothing to fear from Chiang Kai-shek." (From Lenin to Stalin, page 45)
Chiang used the opportunity that Stalin gave him to prepare a savage massacre of Communists and workers in April 1927. The Comintern (after flirting with a "left" rival of Chiang, and suffering further defeats) swung over to an opposite, ultra-left course, and tried to engineer an insurrection in Canton. It was drowned in blood.

These events spelled the end of the Chinese Communist Party as a revolutionary workers' organization.

The Chinese revolution set enormous shock waves in motion internationally.


"A wave of excitement swept over the [Soviet] party", Trotsky wrote. "The opposition raised its head... Many younger comrades thought the patent bankruptcy of Stalin's policy was bound to bring the triumph of the opposition nearer... I was obliged to pour many a bucket of cold water over the hot heads of my young friends... The fact that our forecast had proved correct might attract one thousand, five thousand or even ten thousand new supporters to us. But for the millions the significant thing was not our forecast, but the fact of the crushing of the Chinese proletariat. After the defeat of the German revolution in 1923, after the break-down of the English general strike in 1926, the new disaster in China would only intensify the disappointment of the masses in the international revolution. And it was this same disappointment that served as the chief psychological source for Stalin's policy of national-reformism [i.e. "socialism in one country"]." (My Life, pages 552-553)
Thus the international defeats, caused by the bureaucracy's shortsighted opportunism, at the same time strengthened the bureaucracy, and created conditions for the isolation and defeat of the Marxist opposition. Trotsky explains:


"The advances workers were indubitably sympathetic to the Opposition, but that sympathy remained passive. The masses lacked faith that the situation could be seriously changed by a new struggle. Meantime the bureaucracy asserted: 'For the sake of an international revolution, the Opposition proposes to drag us into a revolutionary war. Enough of shake-ups! We have earned the right to rest. We will build the socialist society at home. Rely upon us, your leaders!' This gospel of repose... indubitably found an echo among the weary workers, and still more the peasant masses." (The Revolution Betrayed, page 92)

16. The Defeat of the Joint Left Opposition

In a major document entitled The Platform of the Joint Opposition (1927), Trotsky drew a balance sheet of ten years of Communist government, and reasserted the policies of Marxism in contrast to the blind opportunism of the bureaucracy.

The Platform called for the revival of the soviets, the restoration of workers' democracy, and a bold program of industrialization. Under pressure of the Opposition, the bureaucracy had put forward proposals for a limited five-year plan. But it was based on the kulaks' interests, and neglected the need for industrial development. The Platform explained the alternative:


"We must carry out in deeds a redistribution of the tax-burden among the classes - loading more heavily the kulak and Nepman, relieving the workers and the poor...
"we must steer a firm course towards industrialization, electrification and rationalization, based upon increasing the technical power of the economy and improving the material conditions of the masses." (pages 45-46)

The Opposition criticized Stalin's disastrous foreign policy of seeking "instant" support from left-reformist and nationalist leaders, rather than building the Comintern as a mass revolutionary force. The danger of imperialist attack, it explained, could only be defeated through an all-out struggle to mobilize the support of the mass of the working class internationally.

The bureaucrats had no answer to these ideas. Their "reply" was to unleash a campaign of vicious intimidation against the Opposition.

On the central committee, now packed with Stalin's hand-picked yes-men, Trotsky, Zinoviev and others were sworn at and howled down when they tried to speak. It was no better in the rest of the party. Victor Serge describes the scene in meeting after meeting:


"I had occasion to speak, or rather to try to speak, before gatherings shaken with a sort of frenzy. We were given the floor for five minutes after three-hour harangues. And against eack of us they unleashed five, six, sometimes ten 'activists' eager to procure the favor of the secretaries. The crowd looked on passively, with a certain anxiety; they were often on our side, but they were afraid." (From Lenin to Stalin, page 49)
On the tenth anniversary of the October revolution, in the face of this merciless witch-hunt, the Opposition heroically took their slogans to mass demonstrations in Moscow and Leningrad: "Let us turn our fire to the right - against the kulak, the nepman and the bureaucrat"; "Let us carry our Lenin's Will"; "Against opportunism, against a split, and for the unity of Lenin's party"!

The bureaucracy reacted with panic-stricken fury. They had seen, at a demonstration in Leningrad the previous month, how thousands of workers had flocked to listen to Trotsky and Zinoviev when, by mistake, the police had escorted them to a platform. Now the Opposition demonstrations were violently broken up. A shot was fired at Trotsky's car.

At the fifteenth congress, in December 1927, not one Oppositionist was permitted to attend as a delegate. 940 leading supporters of Trotsky were expelled. Yet the Opposition continued to fight for its ideas. The London Times, under the headline "Trotsky versus Stalin", reported:


"The views of the Opposition, in spite of all prohibitions and the efforts of the Ogpu [secret police] ... continue to be widely propagated by means of illegal pamphlets, which, according to Pravda, are each being printed in editions of tens of thousands..." (December 2, 1927)
Marxist opposition to the rule of the bureaucracy was from this point driven underground.

Zinoviev's and Kammenev's courage deserted them and, together with 2,500 supporters, they surrendered to Stalin. More expulsion of Trotskyists followed. Trotsky himself was expelled, exiled to Siberia, and then - because he remained a focal point for the Opposition - deported from the Soviet Union early in 1929.

In spite of these terrible blows, Trotsky and thousands of his supporters remained committed to the ideas of Bolshevism and the program of the October revolution. In their propaganda they identified themselves as the Bolshevik-Leninists, to distinguish themselves from the upstart bureaucrats who had installed themselves at the head of the Communist movement.

From exile, Trotsky continued his theoretical work - his exposure of opportunism, pretences and treachery of the Stalinist bureaucracy, and his clarification of the Marxist alternative under rapidly changing conditions - that had formed perhaps his greatest contribution to Marxism. These ideas would serve as the guideline for a new revolutionary generation.


17. Proletarian Bonapartism

From the late 1920s onwards the policies of the Soviet bureaucracy went through a series of bewildering zigzags, creating enormous confusion in the labor movement internationally.

The regime's supporters applauded each contradictory new turn as a "correct" and "necessary" measure to defend "socialism" in the USSR. Some opponents, despairing at the hideous travesty of "Leninism" presented by the regime, claimed that the gains of the revolution had been destroyed, and that Russia could no longer be regarded as a workers' state in any sense.

Trotsky, grappling with these questions in the early 1930s, concluded that the Soviet workers' state had, in reality, degenerated into a regime of a new kind:


"As the bureaucracy becomes more independent, as more and more power is concentrated into the hands of a single person, the more does bureaucratic centrism turn into Bonapartism [named after the French military dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte]". (Writings 1934-35, page 180)
Bonapartism, Trotsky explained,


"was and remains the government of the bourgeoisie during periods of crisis... Bonapartism always implies political veering between classes; but under Bonapartism in all its historical transmigrations there is preserved one and the same social base: bourgeois [capitalist] property...
"It is absolutely correct that the self-rule of the Soviet bureaucracy was built upon the soil of veering between the class forces both internal and international. Insofar as the bureaucratic veering has been crowned by the... regime of Stalin, it is possible to speak of Soviet Bonapartism." (The Class Nature of the Soviet State, in Writings1933-34, pages 107-108)

The "proletarian" character of this bonapartist regime arises from the fact that it is based not on "bourgeois property", but on the state-owned and planned economy created by the October revolution, reflecting the historical interest of the working class.

The regime's history from the 1920s onwards has been a graphic illustration of "veering between class forces both internal and international".

By 1927, precisely as the Opposition had warned, the kulaks were holding a gun to the head of the regime. To force prices up they withheld their grain from the marked, and hoarded gold and arms in preparation for a showdown.

The cities were threatened with hunger. The threat of capitalist restoration suddenly became real.

The bureaucracy reacted in panic, attempting to stamp out the danger by administrative decree and, where that failed, by force. They imposed compulsory requisitions of grain. The kulaks resisted; the bureaucracy responded with an all-out attack.

The Left Opposition had long explained the need for collectivization of the land, but stressed that this should be voluntary so as to keep the support of the peasants and minimize disruption. Stalin's declaration of war of the peasantry had nothing in common with Marxism; it was a blind reflex action, with disastrous results.

As late as 1929 Stalin maintained that "individual farming could continue to play a predominant role in supplying the country with food..." (Quoted by I. Deutscher, Stalin, page 320) Now, abruptly, the peasants' land was collectivized by decree. By 1930, 55 percent of peasant land had been turned into state farms, and 88 percent by 1934.

Rural Russia was convulsed by civil war. Famine broke out as the peasants slaughtered their animals sooner than give them to the regime. An estimated ten million people perished as a direct consequence of these bureaucratic excesses. Whole peasant communities and even whole national groups were murdered or deported. In the cities, bread rationing returned.

These events shattered NEP, ended Stalin's alliance with Bukharin and the party right wing, and formed the real basis for his plunge into violent ultra-leftism between 1927 and 1934.

Industrialization had long been argued for by the Opposition, and scornfully rejected under pressure from the right. Now Stalin could see no alternative to industrialization - as a panic measure, under ruthless compulsion from above. In 1928, prompted by the Opposition, the bureaucracy had half-heartedly adopted a five-year plan of economic development. Now, abruptly, the order went out to complete the plan in four years!

Vast projects were launched - dams, power stations, steel plants, mines - which transformed the Soviet Union within the space of a decade. While the capitalist world was plunged into the Depression of the 1930s, Soviet industrial production leaped ahead by 250 percent. Amazingly, backward Russia by 1935 produced more tractors than any other country in the world.

Under capitalism, such concerted development would have been impossible. Russia, under capitalism, would have continued to languish in hopeless poverty like most of the third world to this day.


"Socialism", said Trotsky, "has demonstrated its right to victory, not on the pages of Das Kapital... but in the language of steel, cement and electricity." (The Revolution Betrayed, page 8)
The Soviet Union's progress in the 1930s impressed working people the world over. But, under bureaucratic rule, it took place at a terrible cost.

Orders, often wildly unrealistic, were issued from bureaucrats' offices. Failure to execute them was treated as sabotage. Forced labor was used on a vast scale. Up to 15 million Soviet citizens - peasants who opposed collectivization and, later, opponents of every description - were herded into slave labor camps. Countless numbers perished.

The working class swelled from 11 million in 1928 to 23 million in 1932. Passes, called "Labor Books", were introduced in 1931 to chain workers to their jobs. While the bureaucracy cultivated a labor aristocracy, the value of workers' wages dropped by two-thirds between 1928 and 1935.

Milk consumption per person dropped from 189 kilograms per year in 1927-28 to 105 kilograms in 1932; meat consumption from 27.5 kilograms to 13.5 kilograms - while the bureaucracy became entrenched in their privileged lifestyle.

But in spite of the workers' superhuman sacrifices, the Soviet Union continued to lag far behind the industrialized capitalist countries in almost every aspect. Its cultural backwardness could not be overcome by bureaucratic dictate. Sophisticated new industries, requiring a high technical level, could not be built like railway lines.

To enforce industrialization on this bases, driving millions of workers to the limit and crushing all opposition, the most ruthless centralization of power was needed. The bureaucratic regime degenerated into out-and-out police dictatorship.

Stalin's faction, having crushed both the left and the right, remained as supreme arbiters in the bureaucratized "Communist" Party. Stalin, once the scheming henchman of the bureaucracy, now became its master - the top bureaucrat, dispensing privileges and positions to his hangers-on.

Trotsky sums up:


"Stalin guards the conquests of the October Revolution not only against the feudal-bourgeois counter-revolution, but also against the claims of the toilers, their impatience and dissatisfaction; he crushes the Left wing which expresses the ordered historical and progressive tendencies of the unprivileged working masses; he creates a new aristocracy, by means of an extreme differentiation in wages, privileges, ranks, etc. Leaning for support on the topmost layers of the new social hierarchy against the lowest - sometimes vice versa - Stalin has attained the complete concentration of power in his own hands. What else should this regime be called, if not Soviet Bonapartism?" (Writings 1934-35, page 181)

18. From the "Third Period"...

Foreign policy flows from domestic policy, serving the same interests. The bureaucracy's violent break with the kulaks and the right wing of the party was accompanied by an equally violent swing to ultra-leftism in the international arena.

Recoiling from the opportunist line that had led to disaster in Britain and China, Stalin moved to salvage the regime's "revolutionary" credentials by imposing an exact opposite course at the sixth Comintern congress in August 1928 (the first in four years).

Capitalism, Stalin proclaimed, had passed through two "periods" since 1918 - first, a revolutionary period until 1923; then, a "gradual and partial stabilization". Now a "third period" of intensive crisis was beginning, that would spell the "final collapse" of capitalism, and place the struggle for power on the order of the day.

Marxism explains that there is no such thing as a "final crisis" of capitalism. The capitalist class will always resolve their problems at the expense of the working class until their rule is overthrown.

Stalin's aim, however, was not to develop a Marxist position but to stampede the Comintern to the left. The Communist parties had to smash all other tendencies in order to capture the leadership of the movement; the time for debate was over!

As a recipe for civil war in the labor movement, Stalin put forward the insane argument that "objectively, Social Democracy is the moderate wing of fascism... They are not antipodes but twins." (Quoted in Deutscher, Stalin, page 401)

The most disastrous result of "third-period Stalinism" were experienced in Germany, where it split the working class, allowed Hitler to take power, and made the Second World War inevitable.

For reasons unforeseen by Stalin, the collapse of the New York Stock Exchange in October 1929 led to a world-wide capitalist depression. Germany, in particular, was devastated. The crisis of leadership and sectarianism which paralyzed the labor movement, however, allowed Hitler's Nazis to build up growing support.

The ruined middle class, the unemployed, the workers and youth looked in vain to the SPD and KPD for a solution. The SPD leaders were married to capitalism; the KPD was obsessed with attacking the SPD and breaking up its meetings.

The middle class and the most downtrodden layers in particular were drawn in increasing numbers to the "National Socialist" rallies. The fascists' demagogic attacks on capitalists and Jews; their mystical promise to restore German "greatness"; above all, their appearance of purposeful determination seemed the only alternative to these layers.

Among organized workers, support for Hitler was almost non-existent.

Trotsky explained the critical need for a united front of workers' organizations to crush the fascist menace and, in so doing, to prepare the working class for the conquest of power. But the Stalinized leadership of the Comintern was blind and deaf to reality.

The German labor movement was the most powerful in the world. Both the Social-Democrats and the Communist Party had military wings. But, on Moscow's instructions, the KPD leaders refused all cooperation with the "social-fascists" - even going so far, in 1931, as to join the Nazis in trying to bring down a Social-Democratic government in Prussia!

The German workers' movement, the hope of workers everywhere, was annihilated without any serious attempt at resistance by its leadership.

The Stalinists were incapable of drawing the conclusions. In April 1933, with Hitler in power, the Presidium of the ECCI declared that the KPD's policy had been "completely correct"!

This historical failure of leadership, and the absence of any criticism from the ranks of the Communist International, finally convinced Trotsky that the Cominterns - like the Second International before it - was dead as an instrument of workers' revolution.

The forces of genuine Marxism had been decimated by the savage blows of a decade. The perspective of a new world war, and new revolutionary upheavals, was opening up. Objectively, a new international was necessary to regroup, to build and prepare the Marxist tendency for the critical struggles ahead.


19. ...to the "People's Front"

The changed alignment of class forces in Europe rapidly pushed the Soviet regime into a new U-turn.

Germany under Hitler posed a far more immediate threat to them than the western imperialist powers. Above all, Stalin feared war and the effect it would have on the Soviet masses. To avoid war, he calculated, it was essential to appease Hitler.

Throughout 1933, while Hitler liquidated the KPD, the SPD and the trade unions, and began the genocide of the Jews, Stalin uttered not a word of criticism. Throughout the 1930s the Soviet bureaucracy hoped to reach an agreement with Hitler.

But Hitler was relying on the "Communist menace" as a pretext for rearmament in defiance of his "Allied" imperialist rivals. He could not be seen to fraternize with Stalin at this stage. (Only in August 1939, when Hitler was preparing to strike to the west, was the notorious Stalin-Hitler pact of non-aggression signed.)

Surrounded by fascist and right-wing regimes, Stalin's "revolutionary" ultra-leftism evaporated. Trotsky and the International Left Opposition explained (as the Comintern had explained a dozen years earlier) that the only real security for the USSR lay in revolutionary internationalism - in supporting the workers' struggle for power in the capitalist states, carrying the war to the enemy and paralyzing reaction.

But the Russian bureaucracy were incapable of following this course; their own dictatorship would have been the first casualty if the Russian workers became infected with these ideas! Instead, quietly forgetting that capitalism was in its "third period", they looked for support against Hitler to - the western imperialist powers!

The imperialists were not unwilling to use Stalin for their own purposes. In September 1934 they accepted the Soviet Union's application to join the League of Nations (describe by Lenin as a "robbers' den"); in May 1935 French imperialism signed a pact of "mutual assistance" with Stalin!

This turn by the Soviet bureaucracy marked a qualitative new stage in their degeneration. For the first time they entered openly and deliberately, into political alliances with the capitalist class itself. Their opportunist failures, from this point onwards, became transformed into a deliberate betrayal of the workers' revolution internationally as a condition for capitalist "friendship".

The writing had been on the wall at the 1928 Comintern congress, where the idea of "socialism in one country" was swallowed without a murmur. Trotsky warned that this would be "the beginning of the disintegration of the Comintern along the lines of social-patriotism". (The Third International After Lenin, page 55) After 1934 this prediction rapidly became a fact.

The Soviet bureaucracy's entanglement with the "progressive" capitalist powers was followed, inevitably, by the turn of the Communist parties internationally seeking alliances with "progressive" capitalist and reformist parties in their own countries.

The slogan now became "the people's front". The workers' class demands were dropped from the programs which the Communist partied put forward - this would "alienate" the "progressive" bourgeoisie!

"Broad support" among the middle class, the Stalinists wisely proclaimed, could only be won through a program confined to bourgeois-democratic demands. Today the middle class is no longer a mass force in the industrialized countries; yet the same program and the same arguments are still used by the "Communist" parties. This confirms that the real purpose, then as now, was not so much to win mass support as to build up a bargaining position in relation to the capitalist parties.

The full bankruptcy of this position was exposed in the revolutionary events that erupted in France and Spain during 1935 and 1936. First in France, then in Spain, "Popular Front" governments swept to power with Communist support. In both countries, after the rigors of the depression and right-wing rule, this opened the floodgates of mass struggle.

In Spain, a military coup was launched against the "People's Front" government in July 1936. The reformists, Stalinists and bourgeois Republicans dithered; the workers and peasants took up arms. Within days, most of the country was under their control. Spain was plunged into a full-scale revolutionary crisis, at a far higher level than Russia in 1917.

"Red rule in Barcelona - Extremists out of hand", headlined the London Times on August 1. Two days later its correspondent summed up the demands of the masses:


"a 36-hour week, unemployment pay, control of production, the seizure and distribution of land, ... the maintenance of the [workers'] militias in arms..."
and after another few days:


"'Committees of Workers' have taken over the big railway companies. It seems only a question of time for this to happen to the trams, the banks and other key establishments." (The Times, August 8, 1936)
Stalin, no less than the capitalist class, viewed the unfolding revolution with horror. All his hopes of stable ties with the Anglo-French imperialists were at risk. Worse still, the example of the Spanish workers threatened to infect the Russian workers with the same will to struggle for control of society. The Spanish revolution had to be strangled at all costs.

Slavishly following Moscow's directives, the Communist Party of Spain waged an all-out struggle against the workers' revolutionary movement.

In the name of "Bolshevism" they argued the Menshevik theory of "two stages", confining their program to "bourgeois democracy" in the futile hope of reassuring the capitalists that "Communism" posed no threat to them. GPU death squads were sent to Spain to assist in the gruesome task of disarming the workers' militias and exterminating their vanguard.

Deferring to Stalin's wheeling and dealing with the imperialist powers, the "Communists" shut their eyes to the first lesson of the Russian revolution: capitalism cannot guarantee democracy and stability to the working class in the conclusive epoch of imperialism. The tasks of "bourgeois democracy" in semi-developed countries such as Spain could only be carried out under the rule of the working class itself.

Tragically, Trotsky's sympathizers in Spain missed the golden opportunity of winning the Socialist youth to their program, establishing a mass base for Marxism and leading the movement to victory.

Without Marxist leadership the working class could not withstand the onslaught of the class enemy combined with that of their own reformist and "Communist" leaders. Stalinism succeeded in dividing the movement, isolating the left and murdering its best fighters. This made the victory of fascism inevitable.

The last hope of working-class victory had been extinguished in Europe, at least until the conclusion of the imperialist war which now became unavoidable.


20. Rivers of Blood

Inside the Soviet Union, the sharpening contradictions between the bureaucracy and the working class led to the liquidation of the remnants of the Bolshevik cadre.

The "Communist" parties internationally were presenting the Soviet Union as the happy fatherland of socialism. Stalin's successor, Krushchev, at the 20th party congress in 1956, lifted a corner of the veil on what was really happening:


"Stalin acted not through persuasion, explanation and patient cooperation with people, but by imposing his concepts and demanding absolute submission to his opinion... He abandoned the method of ideological struggle for that of administrative violence, mass repressions and terror." (Quoted in The Moscow Trials, pages 17, 18)
Bureaucratic tyranny takes on a logic of its own. As repression intensifies, the rulers' fear of revenge increases. Opponents, driven from power, are mistrusted. Even if they recant, won't they become a threat again? Might they not provide the spark for insurrection from below?

Whole layers of the party came under intense suspicion from Stalin and the bureaucracy - none more so than the surviving "Old Bolsheviks", who could remember the party of Lenin, who kept silent about the bureaucracy's crimes only out of fear.

Bukharin, as early as 1928, shrank back from the monster he had helped to create. In a secret discussion with Kamenev he exclaimed in terror: "What can we do? What can we do in the face of an adversary of this sort, a debased Genghis Khan...?" (Quoted by Serge, From Lenin to Stalin, page 91)

While the old Bolsheviks kept their heads down, a younger generation was coming to the fore, eager to restore the ideals of October. Contradictions were sharpening between the regime and the growing working class. The whole party seethed with discontent. Expulsions in the early 1930s ran into hundreds of thousands.

Yet the old Bolshevik leaders, despite their capitulations, commanded vastly greater respect than Stalin and the ruling bureaucratic clique - many of them disreputable ex-Mensheviks and former enemies of the October revolution who had crossed to the winning side after the war.

These contradictions were brought to a head by the Spanish revolution in 1936, sending shock waves through the workers' movement internationally, inspiring the Russian masses afresh with the example of workers' democracy in action.

The bureaucracy moved to nip the danger in the bud. With grisly irony, while protesting their commitment to bourgeois-democracy internationally, they unleashed a reign of purest nightmare in the Soviet Union itself.

There now took place the "Moscow trials": incredible frame-ups where broken old Bolsheviks were accused of murder, sabotage, terrorism - any fantastic crime to discredit them and terrorize others.

But the main charge against them was "Trotskyism". One after another they were accused of "conspiring with Trotsky", now vilified as an "agent of capitalism" and a "German spy" since 1921!

In this way the regime betrayed the real motive for the "purges": their obsessive fear of Marxism, of workers' democracy and the workers' revenge, and their hatred of the foremost representative of Marxism in the labor movement internationally - Leon Trotsky.

As the Times correspondent in Russia admitted:


"The root of the matter is that Stalin never completely won the battle between his own policy and Trotsky's internationalist policy. Nor can final victory ever be his... Communism remains an international creed... lately, the discontent of zealot communists [revolutionaries] has increased... More still are alarmed at the great wage inequalities... It has been determined to silence the voice of opposition once and for all, and break the remnants of Trotskyism within the country." (August 21, 1936)
This there passed before Stalin's "judges" a tragic parade of human wrecks who had once been Bolshevik leaders, blackmailed and cowed into admitting anything and everything demanded of them.

Three "trials" were staged: in August 1936 (Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov and others); January 1937 (Radek, Pyatakov and others); and February 1938 (Bukharin, Rykov, Rakovsky and others). Their accuser was the former Menshevik lawyer, Vyshinsky, who during the civil war had collaborated with the Whites. Now he could shriek the hatred of the bureaucracy against the former leaders of the revolution:


"Mad fascist police dogs!" "Despicable rotten dregs of humanity! Scum of the underworld! "Shoot the reptiles!"
No evidence was brought against the accused except their GPU-dictated "confessions". But, with one or two token exceptions, all were condemned to be shot.

Each of these murders, every curse by Vyshinsky, wass admiringly reported and defended by the "Communist" parties internationally.

Trotsky explained the logic of the whole grotesque performance:


"To justify the repressions, it was necessary to have framed accusations. To give weight to the false accusations, it was necessary to reinforce them with more brutal repressions. Thus the logic of the struggle drove Stalin along the road of gigantic judicial amalgams." (The Moscow Trials, page 129)
The Moscow trials were only the fa├žade of what Trotsky termed "a one-sided civil war of the bureaucracy against the Bolshevik Party". Arrests followed waves of arrests. Countless old Bolsheviks, who refused to "confess" in public, were assassinated in prison. Left Oppositionists in Siberian labor camps were taken out in groups to be shot. Altogether tens of thousands - the flower of the Russian workers' movement 0 were wiped out.

The Left Oppositionists remained revolutionaries to the end. An example of their unbending courage were the events at the Vorkuta labor camp in Siberia towards the end of 1936, when the Trotskyists led a massive fight-back by prisoners against the petty tyranny of the authorities with the only weapon still available to them - the hunger strike. (See Militant International Review, no 33, page 43)

After four months, all their demands were conceded. But soon the executions began. When a male political prisoner was shot, his wife and any children over the age of twelve would normally be killed as well.

Of the 1,966 delegates to the 17th CP congress in 1935, 1,108 had been arrested by 1938 for "anti-revolutionary crimes". Of 139 central committee members, 98 were shot.

Of 1,558,852 CP members in 1939, only 1.3 percent had belonged since the October revolution. Of Lenin's central committee of 1917, only Stalin survived as a leader, surrounded by ex-Mensheviks and bootlickers. The last vestiges of the Bolshevik Party had been eradicated.

One of the leaders of 1917, Raskolnikov, survived during the 1930s as Soviet ambassador to Bulgaria. Recalled to Moscow in 1938 for "promotion" (i.e., to be shot), he fled into exile instead and wrote an open letter to Stalin:


"With the help of dirty forgeries, you staged false trials and made up accusations which are more ridiculous than the witch trials of the middle ages... Inert pulp writers glorify you as a semi-deity born of the sun and the moon and you, like an Eastern despot, enjoy the incense of crude flattery. You mercilessly exterminate talented writers who are personally displeasing to you... sooner or later, the Soviet people will put you on trial as a traitor to socialism and the revolution." (Published for the first time in the USSR in the magazine Ogonyok in June 1987)
The total death toll under Stalin in the 1930s is estimated at 12 to 15 million. Survivors, such as Raskolnikov, were understandably embittered and filled with hatred towards Stalin. But it must not be forgotten that this slaughter was not simply the consequence of power-hunger, ruthlessness or (as Krushchev falsely explained it) the "cult of the individual". It was the culmination of the political counter-revolution by the bureaucracy against the revolutionary working-class tendency in the Russian workers' state.

The regime established under Stalin had nothing in common with the regime of Lenin and Trotsky, though the outward trappings (the "Communist Party", the "Politbureau", the title "soviets", etc.) were preserved to give the opposite impression. Rivers of blood separate Marxism from the regime of the Russian bureaucracy.

Testimony as to the historical significance of Stalinism is contained in the gloating poem that appeared in a White magazine after the first Moscow trial:


"We thank you, Stalin!
Sixteen scoundrels,
Sixteen butchers of the Fatherland
Have been gathered to their ancestors...
"But why only sixteen?
Give us forty,
Give us hundreds,
Thousands;
Make a bridge across the Moscow river,
A bridge without tower or beams,
A bridge of Soviet carrion -
And add your carcass to the rest!"


21. Conclusion

Under the spreading terror of Stalinism in the Soviet Union and fascism in Western Europe, the forces of Marxism were decimated or extinguished during the 1930s. Only the genius and determination of Trotsky (murdered by a GPU agent in 1940), and a very small band of followers, remained to re-educate a coming generation in the ideas of the workers' struggle for socialism.

To the end of his life Trotsky continued to defend the gains of the October revolution - in essence, the state-owned and planned economy - despite the monstrous bureaucratic deformation of the "Soviet" regime, and rejected the idea that Russia had become "state capitalist".

At the same time, he explained that there was no possibility of "reforming" the regime to re-establish workers' democracy. It would have to be defeated and overthrown by the mass movement of the working class, once again taking power into its own hands, to re-open the road to socialist transformation.

Outstanding among Trotsky's works is The Revolution Betrayed, providing a detailed and scientific explanation of the processes that have been outlined in this pamphlet.

Today the balance of forces in the Soviet Union is radically different. The working class is the most powerful and best-educated in the world. The bureaucracy has no role left; it had become an absolute obstacle to economic and social progress. Gorbachev's attempts to streamline the bureaucracy (like those of Brezhnev and Krushchev before him) cannot alter the historical bankruptcy of its rule.

Rather, it reflects a new stage in the crisis of Soviet Stalinism, in which the objective conditions are ripening for political revolution to overthrow the bureaucracy and restore the role of the working class. (This id fully explained by Ted Grant in Gorbachev: Reform or Revolution?)

Brilliant "dress rehearsals" of the approaching political revolution have already been provided by the working class in Hungary in 1956, in Poland in 1980-81, etc.

Internationally, also, the conditions of the 1980s are the reverse of the late 1930s. Revolutionary movements are awakening in every sector of the world. The program of Marxism is once again gripping the minds of workers and youth from Liverpool to Sri Lanka, from South Africa to Spain.

The lessons of the triumph and degeneration of the Russian revolution must be relearned in order to rise to the task that will face us in the next period: the conquest of power by the working class on every continent, the establishment of workers' democracy, and the socialist transformation of the world.


Questions for Discussion

1. What was wrong with the Communist Party uniting with democratic capitalists against feudalism and imperialism in China?

2. Shouldn't the Left Opposition have called for setting up a new party after it was expelled from the CP in 1928?

3. Ok, so Stalin made mistakes, but he corrected them when he introduced the five year plans, didn't he?

4. Wasn't the Popular Front, the unity of all democratic forces, necessary to fight reaction and fascism after Hitler came to power?

5. Didn't the purge trials show that nothing remained of the gains of the revolution?

6. What are the tasks of a new revolution in Russia today?


Further Reading: Introductory

Ideals of October (p9-10)

Rise and Fall of the Communist International Covers the issues fully

Bureaucratism or Workers' Power (p46-50)

Stalinism or Bolshevism by Trotsky


Further Study

The Third International After Lenin Deals fully with the Chinese Revolution

The Spanish Revolution 1931-37 by Grand and Taaffe

The Stalin School of Falsification by Trotsky

Lenin and Trotsky: What They Really Stood For (Chapter 8 p115-145 and chapter 9)