MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: FI: 1938-1949: World War II declarations, discussions, articles and documents
Theses on the Liquidation of World War II and the Revolutionary Upsurge
By the European Conference of the Fourth International
Adopted: Febuary 1944
First Published: March 1945
Source: Fourth International, New York, March 1945, Volume 6, No. 3 pages 78-86 and Fourth International, New York, May 1945, Volume 6, No. 5 pages 150-52
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Daniel Gaido and David Walters, February, 2006
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskism On-Line, 2006. You can freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the address of this work, and note the transcribers & proofreaders above.
EDITOR’S NOTE [March 1945]: The record of Trotskyism in Europe is an inspiring record of relentless, unyielding, heroic struggle in the face of overwhelming odds. For years our co-thinkers in Europe had to conduct their struggle under the Hitler dictatorship. This struggle for Socialism is exemplified by the French Trotskyists who published in illegality 73 issues—19 mimeographed and 54 printed—of their central organ La Vérité in a period of 4 years beginning with August 1940.
Bearing on its masthead the slogan “Neither Petain Nor Hitler—For a Workers and Peasants Government!” La Vérité took the lead in the fight against fascism and imperialist war at a time when l’Humanité, organ of the French Stalinists, served the Kremlin’s policy of maintaining the alliance with Hitler and was distributed in France with the tacit approval of the German authorities.
While l’Humanité kept appearing without a single word against the imperialist occupation, the French Trotskyists appealed to the German soldiers to turn their arms against their officers and to fraternize with the workers of Europe; and, on the other hand, summoned the French workers to fraternize with their brothers in uniform dragooned into the German army, calling upon them to join in a common struggle against fascism and capitalism.
From the first the French Trotskyists fought deportations, racism and anti-Semitism. The advanced the slogan of the right of all peoples, including those in the colonies, to self-determination. They gave material support to the Maquis against the Nazis and their collaborators. They called for the creation of workers’ militias and throughout sponsored working class unity of action. They remained in the forefront of the struggle for workers’ demands, organizing the resistance to the steadily declining living standards. They urged the organization of factory and housewives’ committees to assure the distribution of food supplies. When the French Confederation of Labor issued the call for a General Strike, in preparation for driving the Nazis out of Paris, our co-thinkers supported the action.
Mindful of their international obligations they aided the German comrades in issuing various, publications, among them Unser Wort, Der Arbeiter and Arbeiter und Soldat (addressed to the German soldiers).
The struggle exacted a heavy toll. Hundreds were arrested, deported and murdered. Among those caught in the Gestapo dragnet were eight members of the Central Committee; the entire leadership of the South zone (1941) ; almost the entire leadership in Brittany (1943), where 65 members were seized among whom were 30 German soldiers; regional leaders in Paris, Bordeaux, Marseilles, Lyons and Nantes.
Among those murdered by the Nazis were Meichler, manager of Unser Wort; Marc Bourhis, former secretary of Concarneau district; Guygen, former Communist mayor of Concarneau who joined the Trotskyists; Cruau, regional leader of Nantes and many young workers like Lebacher of Drancy and Van Hulst of Suresnes.
With the installation of the de Gaulle regime, the lot of these irreproachable anti-fascist fighters has scarcely been alleviated. The lid of censorship remains tightly clamped. All the publications of our French co-thinkers must still continue to appear illegally under de Gaulle as under the Nazis.
In February 1944, within the very tentacles of the Gestapo, a six day conference convened in France with delegates from France: Internationalist Workers Party (POI), Internationalist Communist Committee (CCI) and the “October Croup,” a small independent Trotskyist formation; Belgium: Revolutionary Communist Party; Greece: Internationalist Communist Party; Spain: Lenin and Trotsky Group; and the Internationalist Communist Group of German emigration in France. The Trotskyists in Belgium had maintained their organization, publishing Lenin’s Voice and Class Struggle (in Flemish). Among the victims of the Gestapo were two Belgian leaders including the secretary. The German group which took part in the conference issued Arbeiter und Soldat. Their leader Wintley was shot by the Nazis. The Greek comrades issued their organ The Proletarian and a theoretical magazine Fourth International. They suffered the loss of their secretary and two other leaders, executed by the Nazis.
One of the fruits of this European Conference was the consolidation of a unified French party through the fusion of the POI, CCI and the “October Group.” In the name of these three groups an appeal was issued to the French workers summoning them to build the revolutionary party as the task of tasks in the unfolding revolutionary crisis.
Out of the European Conference come the theses, sections of which are published below for the information of our readers. It will be apparent to the readers of Fourth International that in the main essentials there is a solidarity of ideas between the theses of the European Conference and the programmatic documents adopted by the Socialist Workers Party at the November 1943 Plenum and November 1944 Convention (see Fourth International, Dec. 1943 and Dec. 1944). Our European comrades are also aware of this ideological unanimity. In republishing the November 1943 Plenum Resolution of the SWP, the editors of QuatriŹme Internationale, September-November 1944, append the following appreciation:
“The members of the European sections of the Fourth International cannot help but note the striking coincidence of the general line of this text with the resolutions of the European Conference of February 1944. This is still another proof of the firmness of the program of the Fourth International and the organic ties which bind all its sections together in their thought and action.”
EDITOR’S NOTE [May 1945]: In our March issue we published sections II and III of the theses adopted by the European Conference of the Fourth International in February 1944. Several comrades objected to our having omitted the whole of section I, as well as the theses relating to the Soviet Union. The omitted material appears below. In reading the theses relating to the USSR, the date of their adoption—February 194t—should be borne in mind. In the intervening period various sections of the world Trotskyist movement, including the European sections, have been engaged in a discussion of the Russian question in the light of the new objective situation. The latest documents from Europe clearly indicate an agreement that a change in tactics is indispensable. The previous emphasis on the defense of the USSR and the subordination of the struggle for the overthrow of Stalinism to the needs of this military defense cedes place today to the needs of defending the European revolution against all its enemies, first and foremost, the main internal enemy—Stalinism.
* * *
I. The Decomposition of the Capitalist System and the Second Imperialist War
1. Like the war of 1914-1918, the second imperialist war is above all a striking manifestation of the revolt of the productive forces created by capitalism against the narrow confines of the national state which destroy the organic unity of the world market and against the anarchistic functioning of capitalist economy. The imperialist phase of capitalism has been engendered by the internal needs of the productive forces whose tendency is to destroy the frontiers of the national states and to create a unified European and world economic entity.
But to the degree to which the financial oligarchy of the big conquering imperialist states, by enclosing the world market in a network of trusts, cartels and consortiums, only aggravated the contradictions and accentuated the anarchy, clashing more violently than ever against the restricted purchasing power of the masses, it led with inexorable necessity to the monstrous explosions of war.
2. The immediate cause of the second imperialist war was the change in the relation of forces among the imperialist powers which no longer corresponded to the division of the spheres for capital export, markets and raw materials established by the Versailles Treaty.
In the interval of the twenty years that elapsed since the first world conflict, and despite the attempt of the great imperialist powers (United States, Britain, France, Japan) to create by means of the Versailles Treaty a permanent basis for their world domination, the economic potential of the various capitalist countries was considerably modified and a new relationship of forces appeared which found its most finished expression in an armed struggle.
While British and French imperialisms, weakened, shaken up and already undermined by the first imperialist war, slowly declined in power, US imperialism, because of the natural wealth of the country, the extent of its internal market, its superior technical equipment and the colossal hoard accumulated during the war of 1914-18, obtained a preponderant position within world imperialism as a whole. The center of gravity of the world economy was transferred from Europe to America.
On the other hand, the US made possible the rapid recovery of Germany, by contributing generously to the reconstruction of her industries on a broader scale. Thus the antagonisms of the European states were rekindled and aggravated all the more because the rations for which the European imperialisms combated each other became ever more meager, decreasing constantly precisely because of the pressure exerted by the US upon European economy.
In the Far East Japanese imperialism, profiting from the extremely low standard of living of its native labor and from the virgin Asiatic market nearby, underwent a new upswing and clashed ever more violently with the other imperialist powers which challenged it for domination of this same economic sphere.
Finally, the October Revolution withdrew from the confines of the world market one-sixth of the globe’s surface and one of the principal raw material producing countries.
Within the framework of this development of the main economic powers of the world, analogous processes, albeit of a secondary order, also took place: in Europe, a number of countries, among them Italy, the Balkans, Poland, became more and more industrialized. A similar development took shape in South America, Australia, Egypt, North Africa, Turkey, India and China.
As a general result, the situation of the capitalist countries as a whole was aggravated, and these countries strove desperately to harmonize the development of their productive forces with a world market divided up among opposing groups, each protected against the other by insurmountable tariff barriers.
3. Each imperialism is impelled by the internal logic of its development to undertake the struggle for world domination. Three great imperialist powers sought to revise the economic map of the world for their exclusive profit: the US, Germany and Japan. Two other imperialist powers fought to preserve the status quo, which was particularly beneficial to them: Britain and France. The other capitalist countries aligned themselves with the five principal masters of the world, in accordance with their economic interests or dependence.
The USSR, left without imperialist attachments with the rest of the capitalist world, vacillated between the two opposing camps and sought to prevent a general coalition against itself as well as to profit from their mutual enfeeblement in the course of the war in order to pursue its work of economic reconstruction.
4. The second imperialist war for a new redivision of the world broke out at a moment when, on the one hand, the whole of the capitalist world was once again menaced by an economic crisis and when increased military preparations constituted the only artificial market capable of replacing the non-existing real market and when on the other hand, the revolutionary upsurge in France and in Spain had already been crushed, thus removing the most powerful obstacle to the outbreak of the imperialist slaughter.
The second world war undertook, on the basis of a new relation of forces, the redivision of the world, including the isolated market of the USSR, for the benefit of finance capital. The existence of the USSR, despite the bureaucratic degeneration of its regime, superimposed upon the main design of the struggle occupied by the imperialist antagonisms, a background design of common opposition on the part of world imperialism against the workers’ state.
5. As in the first imperialist war, the bourgeoisie, aided by the mendacious propaganda of the degenerated workers parties of the Second and ex-Third Internationals, sought from the beginning of the present conflict to camouflage its imperialist character by means of abstract political principles, such as the irreconcilable opposition between the “democracies” and “Fascism.” In reality these two political forms correspond to the different economic levels of the privileged imperialist blocs (Britain, France, the US) and the less privileged imperialist blocs (Germany, Italy, Japan) and constitute merely two phases of the general political reaction which is inherent in capitalism as a whole during its imperialist stage.
6. The cohesion of the two imperialist gangs confronting each other in the war represents simply an unstable conjuncture of contradictory interests. The “Anglo-Saxon” facade conceals the contradiction between British and American imperialism, which will take on ever more violent forms as the war comes to a close. The Axis bloc, which has already broken down at its weakest link (Italy), is only a sum of imperialist powers which in reality have divergent policies and aims.
Respective War Aims
In the light of a critical examination of the development of the war, the aims pursued by each of the protagonists appear to be the following:
German imperialism plunged into the war hoping to get a decisive result in Europe quickly, before British imperialism could concentrate its forces and before the US could intervene actively. Having premeditated the attack against the USSR, the German imperialists believed a compromise could be reached on this basis, leaving them the preponderant place in Europe and a share of the colonies. Italian imperialism, lacking the necessary economic base for a self-confident, audacious and determined policy of its own, was at first forced to adopt a blackmailing attitude, and only intervened actively in the conflict when the collapse of French imperialism made a swift German victory appear probable. Caught in the terrible tentacles of the war, they had only one constant concern: to seek the first favorable opportunity to get out of the war with the minimum damage.
Japanese imperialism, threatened by the immense power of its principal enemy, the United States, adopted a policy of conciliation toward the USSR, in order to guard its flanks and to concentrate all its efforts against the growing strength of British and American imperialism.
Due to the prodigious productivity of its industry, even more concentrated and perfected in the course of the war, due to the colossal accumulation of inactive capital, itself due to the influx of gold and securities, and to the excessive debts heaped up by the other “Allied” countries, North American imperialism stood in danger of being asphyxiated unless it opportunely expanded all over the globe, an expansion that would surpass by far all the imperialist conquests of the past. That is why American imperialism plays the most intransigent role in the conduct of the war; that is why it is a “bitter-ender” par excellence, why it will prolong the conflict, if it can, until the total extermination of all its adversaries, including the USSR.
British imperialism, while collaborating as an auxiliary force in the game played by the United States, attempts to pursue a policy of its own which would preserve it from total submission to the plans of its formidable partner and permit it to continue in considerable measure to dominate international trade, in spite of the inferiority of its industrial and financial potential to that of the US. It seeks, moreover, to retard the rhythm of its decadence in the face of the alarming expansion of American imperialism through the acquisition of a share of the colonies and other economic vantage points of French, Italian, German and Japanese imperialisms. But the maritime and commercial superiority which it was able to maintain until after the war of 1914-18, is today definitely lost. In this domain, too, the United States has acquired in the course of the war an incontestable supremacy which restricts even more the economic base of British imperialism and accelerates its decline.
French imperialism, knocked out of the struggle in the very first round, in this way paid for the disproportion between its meager economic and military potential at home and the enormous dimensions of its colonial empire. Its defeat by German imperialism during the phase of the war in which the arena of the struggle was occupied almost exclusively by these two imperialist rivals simply served to establish the right of the stronger of the two.
The prolongation and extension of the conflict has enabled the defeated French imperialism to regain its feet to a certain degree and has thrown it once more into the cycle of the struggle, thanks to the interplay of imperialist antagonisms, and thanks to the current necessities of the war and the political exigencies of an eventual capitalist peace. But capitalist France has definitely lost her place among the great imperialist powers. She can survive only as a secondary imperialist power, fated to facilitate a new European equilibrium dictated by the conquering imperialism.
Finally, the USSR, dragged into the conflict, as was inevitable, and at the moment chosen by the imperialists (despite the maneuver of the Soviet bureaucracy in its pact with Hitler, which was designed to precipitate the war while leaving the USSR out of it), is being opposed, although with varying methods, by the capitalist world as a whole. Thus, while German imperialism deals the direct blow, Anglo-Saxon imperialism is letting her exhaust herself in the gigantic effort in order the better to exercise pressure on her, to wrest more easily political and economic concessions of increasing importance, and even to crush her completely.
7. The German imperialist attempt to unify Europe on the basis of capitalism, to smash the USSR and benefit thereby, and then to turn against American imperialism, is about to collapse under the weight of its own contradictions.
The most telling blows have been dealt German imperialism by the European proletariat (Italian revolution) and by the Red Army. The German imperialist attempt is one of the convulsive forms of the crisis of world imperialism, and proves the impossibility of unifying Europe on a capitalist basis. This attempt will be repeated tomorrow under the auspices of another imperialism unless the proletarian revolution establishes the victory of the workers and succeeds in creating the Soviet Socialist United States of Europe as the first stage in the socialist unification of the planet.
The imperialist conflict is being prolonged, not because of the effective resistance which German imperialism is capable of offering to the onset of the rival imperialists, but because the war has entered into its final stage, in which the problem of its liquidation is posed and in which considerations of a social character determine more than ever the military activity of British and American imperialism. It is being oriented in accord with their imperialist interests and in accord with the supreme interest of world imperialism.
Meanwhile, the profundity and the multiplicity of the imperialist contradictions, the absolute inability of the bourgeoisie to genuinely overcome them, the decomposition and the rotting away of ruling capitalist circles on the one hand, and the revolt which is rising irresistibly amid all layers of the toiling population on the other hand, constitute the prologue to the tremendous revolutionary crisis which will rock the entire system of world imperialism. At an accelerated pace the pre-revolutionary period of today is preparing the social explosions of tomorrow. With an inexorable necessity, the imperialist war is developing toward its inevitable transformation into civil war. Consciousness of these facts weighs heavily on the minds of the world bourgeoisie and inspires attempts at inter-imperialist compromises as well as efforts at a “cold” settlement of the war.
The agreement with Badoglio, following upon the agreement with Darlan, shows clearly the essential path which the “Allied” powers wish to take. To speed up by means of blackmail the disintegration of the opponent coalition, to bring its members one after another into the “Allied” camp, thus preserving the existing order while tightening the noose around Germany, Hungary, Rumania, Finland—these are at present the main objectives of the diplomatic offensive which is being backed up by powerful concentrations of troops. All the reactionary forces of the neutral countries, from the Church to the Social Democratic bureaucrats, from Franco and Salazar to Ismet Inonu are being mobilized in a systematic offensive directed by the bourgeois circles of the occupied countries, including Vichy. The fundamental objective is to avoid any break in the continuity of bourgeois rule, any disruption of the state apparatus, any fissure through which the proletarian revolution could break through and cut a path of itself.
But such a perspective can be realized definitively only on the basis of an accelerated process of internal decomposition in the various countries. It requires necessarily delays in the conclusive maturing of the internal crisis in each of them. For these two reasons, while desiring to prevent the revolution, they are only speeding up the revolutionary crisis, as the example of Italy has shown. The advance of the Red Army can only increase this danger. That is why it is necessary for the “Allies” to be prepared for a powerful, lightning-swift intervention capable at the same time of irresistibly crushing the enemy and of sweeping along in its wave of military enthusiasm the first revolutionary stirrings. Successive or simultaneous recourse to these two methods is the foremost, the essential characteristic of the present phase.
II. The Transformation of the Imperialist War into Civil War
1. Almost five years of war have completely shaken the foundations of the capitalist system. Everywhere insoluble economic, social and political contradictions are accumulating. Everywhere the revolt of the masses is growing. The Italian crisis was the first advance signal of the tremendous social explosion which will accompany the conclusion of the second imperialist world war.
While the first revolutionary crisis which unfolded over the world after the war of 1914-18 never swept beyond the frontiers of eastern and central Europe, at the present time all of the five continents will be thrown into social convulsions. In this sense the coming revolution can be characterized as a world revolution. 2. There are three central spheres of revolution which cannot, to be sure, be mechanically or absolutely separated one from another, but whose historic conditions are sufficiently differentiated to allow for the possibility of a difference in tempo and for a delay in the transference of explosions from one sphere to the other. These are: a) Decadent Europe; b) Japan; c) America.
Powerful economic and social convulsions will of necessity mark the conclusion of the war in the United States.
If the latter signifies in a way the apogee of the power of North American finance capital and realizes in great measure its domination over world economy, it contributes thereby to the storing up within its structure as a whole the contradictions of all of international capitalism.
“The world power of the United States and the irresistible expansion which flows from it forces it to embody in the foundation of its edifice the powder magazines of the entire earth: all the antagonisms of the West and the Orient, the class struggle of old Europe, the colonial insurrections, all the wars and all the revolutions. . . . That is why the basis is being laid for the immense revolutionary explosion of this world imperialist power, which already dominates and cannot cease growing.” (L. Trotsky).
Japan, overwhelmed under the weight of her conquests, incapable because of the structure of her industry and of her restricted capital of assimilating these rapidly, plunging into the most atrocious misery and demanding the bloodiest of sacrifices from a people of wretched peasants and over-exploited proletarians, choking within its backward feudal-capitalist social framework, is destined to collapse in the near future.
The inevitable defeat of Japan will mean, of necessity, the outbreak of a crisis which, sweeping the country, will embrace the entire Orient.
China, for thirty years wracked by the convulsions of a bourgeois revolution which the bourgeoisie cannot and will not bring to its conclusion, sold out by its capitalists and generals to the competing imperialists; India, whose masses languish under the burden of the war while its industry develops and its bourgeoisie becomes rich; Indo-China, the Netherlands Indies, the Philippines, Burma, which Japan, while attempting to install its own domination, has cut off from their imperialist contacts and in which she has aroused the nationalist movement; these are the fundamental elements of the enormous crisis which is making its appearance in the Far East.
But it is in Europe, above all, that the contradictions of capitalism, at the present stage, attain their most acute form. The signs of the decomposition of the German imperialist effort foreshadow at the same time the revolutionary crisis and characterize the present period in Europe as pre-revolutionary: the disintegration and the confusion of the possessing classes, the exasperation of the petty bourgeoisie and the renewed confidence of the working class are taking place amid the failure of imperialism to unite Europe on a capitalist basis, the outbreak of the Italian revolution and the offensive of the Red Army.
3. Two essential factors have sharply altered the world situation, particularly in Europe: the offensive of the Red Army and the Italian revolution. Not only have these two events upset all the military and diplomatic plans of the Axis, they have also forced American imperialism to radically change its whole strategy. Washington required, in fact, a long war in order to crush Germany, harass Japan, exhaust Britain and vanquish the USSR. But, first the Italian events, and now, even more, the Russian advance, have constrained American imperialism to bend every effort to destroy the revolution with the greatest speed, thus placing a question mark on all the military, political and social plans of the “Allies”.
The Italian Crisis and Its Lessons
4. Once again the chain of world imperialism has given way at its weakest link. The crisis which gripped Italian imperialism ever since Versailles broke out with full force the very moment the war was carried onto the soil of the peninsula. The pathetic crack-up of Fascism, swept off the political scene in two hours, passes sentence not only on the literature of its naive or cynical apologists, but even more so, on the fantastic theories of the pseudo-Marxists in search of new formulas. Fascism has revealed its real essence: it is nothing more than the knavish servant of the industrial and financial bourgeoisie whom the latter dismisses when its services are no longer required, without even giving the customary week’s notice.
The reappearance today of a Fascist pseudo-government resting on German bayonets, far from being a sign of the vitality of the regime, is the most irrefutable evidence that it is historically doomed. There is no longer place for a forceful Italian imperialist state because there is no longer room for an independent policy among secondary powers: Mussolini is thus reduced to the rank of a simple Quisling whom the Hitlerite regime will of necessity drag along into its defeat.
5. By breaking up the Fascist state, the bourgeoisie has also broken the chains which paralyzed the proletariat. The discontent and the hatred which have accumulated for twenty years have suddenly erupted into the open. July 25 was thus not only the last day of Italian Fascism. It was also the first day of the proletarian revolution in Italy, the first day of the coming European revolution. Precipitated into the revolutionary struggle without leadership, without an organization, without a program, the workers of the big centers in Italy spontaneously resurrected through the “internal committees” the organization form which marked the high point of the revolutionary postwar wave. They built, in the factories, the first elements of workers’ power to counterpoise to the bourgeois power. The first elements of dual power appeared in outline form. From that time on the fundamental question posed in Italy is which will conquer the other; the power of the workers and peasants, of which the “internal committees” in Milan and Turin were the beginning, or the power of the clerical and militarist reaction?
No intermediary road is possible. The contradictions of the bourgeoisie are too acute, the threat of revolution is too pressing to expect a rebirth of bourgeois democracy. Either the ferocious and senile, reactionary state, supported by the army, the police and the church—or the workers’ state. That is the alternative before the Italian masses. The reprisals being visited at present upon the workers’ vanguard in northern Italy may well force this movement temporarily underground. But it will only be reborn with all the greater power and vigor in the course of a new change in the imperialist and revolutionary relationship of forces of Europe; it will link its fate directly with the proletarian movement in the occupied countries, with the movement of the German workers and soldiers.
The Italian Revolution
6. The Italian bourgeoisie can only hope to save a few crumbs of its former power by placing itself entirely at the service of American imperialism. That is why the great masses of the Italian people find themselves drawn once more into the cycle of the war. But this is not at all the perspective of the masses. To the program of the bourgeoisie—war, famine, reaction—they continue to tirelessly counterpoise on both sides of the front their own formula: bread, peace, freedom.
In Italy, as in all Europe, the masses’ desire for peace is one of the most powerful levers of revolutionary propaganda.
7. The disappearance of Fascism on July 25 had as its consequence the disorganization of the state apparatus and the violent entry of the masses into the political arena.
By means of popular agitation, the anti-Fascist parties (Catholic, Republican, Socialist, Communist) forced the government to recognize them. Today their whole policy consists of promising to support the Italian bourgeoisie against German imperialism as well as against the threatening revolution, if the bourgeoisie will only place these parties in power; and to American imperialism, in exchange for a few concessions. But, in the course of the whole first period, while they voiced their opposition to Fascism and the Fascists, to the royal family, to the most reactionary measures, they were able to confuse the masses, who wanted peace, with their proposals to abandon the war on the side of Germany. Thus they assured themselves (at least insofar as the Socialist and Communist parties were concerned) of considerable influence among large layers of the working class.
They utilized this influence to destroy from within the powerful movement of the workers. By signing the agreement affecting the “internal committees” (signed by Buozzi for the S.P. and Roveda for the C.P.), they accepted the transformation of these embryonic organs of workers’ power into purely economic committees. The protests of numerous factories against this agreement as well as the strikes in Sicily and southern Italy which are under American occupation, are the first signs of the masses breaking with these parties.
8. Between July 26 and September 8, northern Italy was the arena on which the dress rehearsal of the coming European revolution took place: the working masses spontaneously created the first bridgeheads of their own power.
Our whole revolutionary propaganda has the task of popularizing this experience. All of our revolutionary action, in the next wave of struggle, will be directed towards extending the power of the “internal committees,” towards multiplying the contacts between the factories, towards seeking everywhere links to the soldiers and the poor peasants, towards organizing local assemblies which will substitute their power for that of the municipalities, the reactionary and Fascist prefects, towards beating back every attempt to incorporate them within the framework of the bourgeois state (as was the case in the September agreement), and thus to prepare the way for a National Congress of Workers, Soldiers and Peasants Committees. In illegality the Italian revolutionists will strive to increase the contact between the militants of the different workers’ parties, the different factories, the different cities, to lay the underground bases of a powerful movement of United Front Committees ready to openly intervene in the new phase of the upsurge which will inevitably come.
How to Win the Masses
9. In the first stage, the Italian revolution was characterized, on the one hand, by the isolation of the most advanced layers of the population, the proletariat of the great industrial centers in the North, from the rest of the population. The mass of the small peasants only followed its struggle from afar. In northern Italy itself, the absence of any party, of any organization, of any contact beyond the framework of the factory, considerably paralyzed the offensive capacity of the workers. By straining to channel all attempts at working class organization into trade union forms, the reformist and Stalinist bureaucrats hoped to prevent the further development of the Italian revolution. In the new wave of struggle, the Italian proletariat will have to break down all the barriers which these bureaucrats will seek to erect in its path.
Undoubtedly, the new wave of the Italian revolution will spontaneously take on an infinitely more thorough-going character. This time the example of Milan and Turin will be emulated by infinitely broader layers of the proletariat. In proportion to the reaction which followed the September armistice, the radicalization of the masses will grow anew. But the proletariat will be able to draw behind it the broadest masses only by becoming the tireless champion of the most immediate and urgent political and economic demands of the middle layers of the population. Only thus will it be able to unify the ‘revolutionary movement in the whole country. Only thus will it be able to meet all attempts at a counter-offensive on the part of reaction with an impenetrable barrier.
To a degree in which the advanced proletariat succeeds in welding the struggle for its own immediate demands with the struggle for the demands of the backward proletarian layers and those of the city and country middle class, to the degree in which it strengthens in the course of these battles its own class organization, can this struggle become a link in the Soviet power.
The creation of Soviets itself depends upon the struggle for economic aims and elementary political aspirations common to the broadest layers of workers and toiling masses.
It is the task of the advanced proletariat to make its own the vital economic and political needs of the masses, and to place themselves at their head in the most impassioned struggle for their demands.
In the high cost of living, in unemployment, inflation, the restrictions and difficulties of food rationing lie the source of the immediate economic demands.
Extreme political oppression under the war regime, on the other hand, places at the very top the elementary democratic slogans: freedom of organization, of press, of assembly, the right to strike, etc.
But it must not be forgotten for an instant that the aim of democratic slogans is to advance the struggle for Soviets and for power; that in the present period the economic and democratic “minimum” program is very rapidly outdistanced by the very logic of the mask struggle itself. When the masses actually take the offensive it is necessary to project the struggle around transitional demands (workers’ control of production, factory committees, Soviets, workers’ militia, arming of the workers, etc.) in order to immerse them in the systematic preparation for the proletarian revolution.
“. . . Democratic slogans as a means of mobilizing the masses against Fascism ... at certain moments can play a serious role. But the formulas of democracy (freedom of press, the right to unionize, etc.) mean for us only incidental or episodic slogans in the independent movement of the proletariat and not a democratic noose fastened to the neck of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie’s agents (Spain!). As soon as the movement assumes something of a mass character, the democratic slogans will be intertwined with the transitional ones; factory committees, it may be supposed, will appear before the old routinists rush from their chancelleries to organize trade unions; soviets will cover Germany before a new Constitutional Assembly will gather in Weimar. The same will be true of Italy and the rest of the totalitarian and semi-totalitarian countries.
“Fascism plunged these countries into political barbarism. But it did not change their social structure. Fascism is a tool in the hands of finance capital and not of feudal landowners. A revolutionary program should base itself on the dialectics of the class struggle, obligatory also to Fascist countries, and not on the psychology of terrified bankrupts.” ( Transitional Program.)
10. Only a genuine revolutionary party can establish a constant link between the daily struggle of the masses for their immediate demands and the battle of the proletariat for its historic objectives. Such a party does not yet exist in Italy. Moreover, twenty years of Fascism have dispersed the Marxist cadres of the Italian proletariat—they have also been extremely reduced—from the great masses of the young generation.
During the first phase of the revolution, the old worker cadres and the traditional leaderships could still continue to occupy the forefront of the political scene. But in the course of the hard lessons taught by the defeats and the setbacks, the new generation of the Italian proletariat will take the path of struggle for workers’ and peasants’ power. The task of the Bolshevik militants in Italy consists above all in finding a way to the youth; to appeal beyond their ignorance and ideological confusion to their revolutionary ardor, to their enthusiasm; to provide them with a revolutionary Marxist education in the course of the struggle.
Thus there will spring from the new generation the basic cadres of the party of the Fourth International . . .
18. The war has converted Europe into the main powder-magazine which threatens to blow up the whole structure of capitalism. The war has overturned its whole economy. It has marked the liquidation of the French, Dutch, Belgian and Italian national empires and has thereby upset the entire economy and the entire social equilibrium of these countries. Even if these countries recover fragments of their empires at the end of hostilities, their possibilities of exploitation will be considerably curbed by the important Anglo-American investments made in the course of the war.
On the other hand, the war has marked a new phase in the industrialization of Europe. It has modified the specific weight of the various countries and provinces. It has aroused new albeit secondary antagonisms. The peasant masses of all countries face the greatest difficulties since 1928, which have only become aggravated by the war-time protectionism that has postponed a solution. This war has heaped up ruins and destruction in far more terrifying measure than the last. Industrial equipment and rolling stock have undergone frightful wear and tear. The methods of production and the technical equipment have been lagging far behind the United States and thus facilitate immeasurably the immediate conquest of the European market by the latter.
The Revolutionary Upsurge in Europe
Europe has been deprived of all means of making payments abroad (gold or collateral). The populations lack the most indispensable consumers’ goods. The cleavage between town and country is constantly widening. Prices are rising dizzily. Inflation proceeds without a halt. The entire economy is badly polluted with the gangrene of speculation and the black market.
Everywhere reaction is triumphant, loading the masses with the burden of exhausting labor, famine, deportations, shootings, imprisonment, abject anti-Semitism. Culture has become a spectacle of ignoble decadence and decomposition. This is the true picture of a Europe wallowing in the contradictions of putrefying capitalism.
19. The revolt of the masses in Europe against the capitalist order is also reaching the stage of paroxysm. Reaction has felled the best militants, disorganized the workers’ organizations, disrupted the political and organizational cohesion of the proletariat. The war, raising exploitation and oppression, murder and reaction to an intolerable degree, has disclosed enormous crevices in the facade of the authoritarian structure and has once again thrown the masses into the struggle.
The European masses very quickly took the measure of the bloody dictatorship which was pictured to them as leading to the “triumph of socialism.” The powerful technical means at the disposal of Hitlerite demagogy never succeeded in covering up the tremendous profits accorded to the trusts and banks, the rapid concentration of capitalist enterprises, the crushing of the middle class, the ferocious exploitation of the working class. Never did a dictatorial regime possess means of repression approaching those in the hands of German imperialism; but never was a dictatorial regime so incapable of subduing the revolt of the masses in the occupied countries. For precisely the monstrous character of Hitlerism is only a consequence of the abysmal contradictions in which agonized capitalism is thrashing about.
Anarchy grows even more rapidly than the pile of decrees issued hastily one after the other, for the maintenance of order. The effectiveness of repressive laws decreases in inverse proportion to their increasingly bloody character. Fascist bands are hurriedly formed to curb the hostility of the masses. But the latter disintegrates these bands at an equally fast pace.
The corruption of the functionaries, the demoralization of the coercive forces, the disarray of the possessing class goes on apace. The revolutionary flood-tide rises uninterruptedly, while the strength of the barriers erected against it diminishes constantly. The hour of the proletarian revolution in Europe is approaching with full speed.
20. The awakening and the combativeness of the masses manifests itself first of all in resistance to the oppression and exploitation of the imperialist occupation. The chauvinism cultivated by the émigré governments and the London radio was merely a vile and repulsive smokescreen designed to conceal the rapacious appetite of the imperialist masters of Europe, the dreams of conquest of the big American and British banks; the national sentiment of the masses, on the other hand, while extremely confused, expressed in a reactionary form, above all their hostility to the super-exploitation of German imperialism, their opposition to the reactionary state installed under the protection of German bayonets; their refusal to submit, to Fascist dictatorship.
This revolt contained, underneath its reactionary national form, a revolutionary content at bottom—despite the attempts of the various national bourgeoisie and of world imperialism, to channel it for their own benefit. The continuation of the war, however, and the constant sharpening of the social contradictions in the occupied countries, have endowed the resistance of the masses with an ever more notable class character, placing in the enemy camp not only the “enemy” imperialists but also their own bourgeoisie and “Allied” imperialism.
21. The entry of the USSR into the war made for a new step forward on the part of the resistance of the masses. It decisively pushed the proletariat to the forefront of the struggle and reinforced the unity of the workers’ ranks. With a sure instinct the working class of all the countries of Europe sensed that the cause of the first workers’ state was also its own cause. It joined forces with the Soviet State and rose in a body to defend it. Thereafter the conditions were established for a powerful reawakening of the masses. But, on the one hand, the defeats of the Red Army in the first phase of the war arrested this spurt. On the other, the Stalinist bureaucracy bent every effort, especially in Europe, in orienting its best militants along the lines of terrorist action and sabotage carried out outside the mass movement.
The foremost task was the mobilization of the masses by linking the struggle for the defense of the USSR to the struggle for their daily needs and demands, the integration of military actions of service to the USSR within the framework of a general working class offensive, the organization of mass sabotage, of fraternization with the German soldiers, of demoralizing their army by means of revolutionary propaganda; but the various communist parties sacrificed the best militants of the working class—precisely those who could have become its organizers and leaders—in a struggle without results.
Nevertheless, the irresistible tide of the workers’ upsurge, the great spontaneous strike movements which arose from the very depths of the masses and swept Europe and, finally, the improvement of the military situation in the USSR, made possible the avoidance of the threatening catastrophe.
22. The German revolution remains the backbone of the European revolution. Imperialist Germany is today marching head on towards its inevitable collapse.
The monstrous dimensions of the tax in blood drained from the German population, the superhuman efforts extorted from the workers and peasants ever since 1933, added to the years of misery, ruination, unemployment and despair, the miserable conditions of the German proletariat in contrast to the accumulation of dividends by the war industries, the latter’s swallowing up the thoroughly ruined middle class, whom the rulers had promised salvation, the wear and tear of the economic apparatus, the burden of public debt and inflation, the constant reinforcement of discipline and terror, the daily contact between the new layers of the German proletariat and the proletarian masses of occupied Europe transplanted into Germany—these are the factors which are organizing the toiling masses against the domination of capitalism and its Hitlerite agents. At the same time, the perspective of the inescapable military defeat, inevitably foreshadows the doom of the whole national-socialist edifice.
23. While Allied strategy is dominated in the last analysis by constant concern to prevent the outburst of the revolutionary crisis, to weakening and overpowering the USSR, to safeguard everywhere the capitalist system, it is simultaneously occupied with the realization of its immediate plans, that is, the unconditional subjugation of the opponent imperialisms to the interest of the Anglo-American.
Thus a compromise between the latter and German imperialism in Europe, or Japanese imperialism in Asia, which would leave intact their economic and military strength, remains impossible so long as the changing relation of forces on the world arena does not become manifestly favorable to the revolution.
24. Fundamentally therefore there can be only one solution of the German question for the Allies: unconditional surrender and the liquidation of national-socialism as a tendency favorable to a policy of territorial and economic expansion. That implies, in the last analysis, the seizure by Anglo-American imperialism of Germany’s industrial and banking structure, the Liquidation of a number of competing industries and, eventually, the more or less extensive dismemberment of Germany.
The plans of the London super-Bainvilles and the Washington super-Poincares are not merely the results of delirious chauvinism. They express the innermost logic of the whole Allied policy to the degree to which they will be able to subdue the revolutionary crisis, as well as a desire to establish a military, economic, political, intellectual and moral receivership over a country of eighty million inhabitants.
The Fourth International conducts a pitiless struggle against all the chauvinist outcries of revenge which attempt to justify such a policy, against all the “anti-Fascist” sophistry which only throws the German people back into the arms of Hitler and which, of necessity, will tomorrow push them behind the banners of a new Fascism. It tirelessly struggles for the fraternization of the proletarians of the occupied countries with the German workers in uniform. It constantly emphasizes that the German revolution constitutes the essential base of the European revolution; that it alone can provide the indispensable, genuinely harmonious political and economic organization for the Socialist United States of Europe.
25. In the coming period the fate which Fascism encountered in Italy awaits Hitlerism as well. In its rise to power, national-socialism widely utilized and compromised the ruling bourgeois circles, including those of the army. Thereby it sought to limit the political possibility of providing itself with a successor. But it has thus opened wide the gates to the most violent and contradictory reaction of the masses in the very moment of its liquidation.
The Italian events can only lead the German bourgeoisie to act with the greatest circumspection. Nevertheless, the German capitalists know that they cannot hope to save their social regime and a share of their profits, that they cannot make their last attempt at a compromise which would leave them a few crumbs from the Hitlerite conquests except, precisely, by throwing Hitler himself overboard.
26. The German working masses up to 1933, despite all the hesitations and betrayals of leaders protecting the interests of big business or of the Russian bureaucracy, hurled the capitalist regime into complete disarray time and again, with ever renewed enthusiasm, with unequaled self-sacrifice and the most admirable discipline. These masses will not stop with a few fake conquests. They have gone through the experiences of aborted revolutions, of bourgeois democracy with its accompaniment of misery and unemployment, of the regime of “exceptional legislations,” and finally of the capitulation to Hitler. The German proletariat, stronger than ever in numbers, more concentrated than ever, will from the first play a decisive role. Soldiers’ committees in the army and workers’ and peasants’ councils in the rear will rise to oppose to the bourgeois power the power of the proletariat. The revolutionary crisis, more profound than that of 1919, posing before the more disoriented, more impotent, more worn-out bourgeoisie, far more difficult and delicate problems than those it had to solve at the end of the last war, will inevitably open up a long period of turmoil. The most favorable conditions will exist for a victorious revolutionary movement.
Lacking cadres and leadership as a result of the ferocious repression, inevitably leaning in the first period on all the émigré gangs whose political programs remain just as inept and reactionary as in the past, the proletariat will nevertheless, in the course of this crisis, draw the lessons from its own experience, clear the road, rally to the Fourth International and march with it toward the seizure of power.
The Revolutionary Crisis
27. The outbreak of the revolutionary crisis in Europe will be accompanied by the crack-up of German imperialism and of the vise in which it has held the European continent. The forms of this crisis can nevertheless take on varying forms in the different European countries. The intensity and the internal pace of the revolution can, for a time, proceed along different levels on a world scale. A disparity in tempo between the revolutionary upsurge and the victory of the revolution in Europe, on the one hand, and its repercussions in America, in Japan and in the colonial world on the other hand, leaves open the possibility of a struggle between a workers’ and peasants’ Europe and an imperialist America (perspective of Socialist Europe against Imperialist America).
III. The Proletarian Revolution and Tasks of the Fourth International
1. Inexorably, the second imperialist war is evolving every day more rapidly towards its transformation into civil war.
The awakening and the struggle of the masses will go through different phases, depending on the individual characteristics of each country and on the time element. Sometimes it will take on confused, even reactionary forms, borrowing for a given time the insignia and the formulas of previous periods.
But the movement as a whole will retain its profoundly revolutionary character, growing in extent, in firmness, in clarity and rejecting because of its internal logic and internal dynamics all that has become outlived. It will not be brought to a halt before the accomplishment of its historic mission which is: the socialist revolution.
Under these conditions, the political and organizational preparation of the sections of the Fourth International consists in the first place, of acquiring at once a clear appreciation of the scope and stakes of the unfolding struggle; and bending all efforts toward the unification and the organization of the mass struggles under the banner of the seizure of power and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
2. In Germany as well as in the other European countries, the laboring masses have had enough of famine, bombardments, the yoke of dictatorship and the militarist atmosphere. The workers of all countries long today for a swift end of the conflict more than for anything else. They ardently want peace, bread and freedom.
Every day that the war is prolonged appears to the masses as a demonstration of the light-mindedness with which their intolerable suffering is viewed. The struggle for immediate peace thus becomes one of the most powerful levers for the mobilization of the masses along the revolutionary path. In Germany in particular the slogan of immediate peace must be linked to the international fraternization of the workers, to the struggle against a new Versailles treaty, to the Socialist United States of Europe. Likewise, in the occupied countries, particularly those of Western Europe, this slogan is an especially effective means of opposing the complete reestablishment of the bourgeois armies, of opposing all attempts to mobilize the masses under the banners of imperialism and counter-revolution.
The Fourth International firmly bases itself on the desire of the masses for an immediate and unconditional peace. But at the same time it conducts tireless propaganda to show the masses that only the proletarian revolution, arising in the course of international civil war, can bring peace and that only the Socialist United States of the world can organize a stable peace.
It denounces pitilessly all the machinations of international diplomacy, demands the publication of all the diplomatic archives and open negotiations. It combats with all its energy the idea of a new “League of Nations” as a cauldron of international intrigues and of the counter-revolution at the service of victorious imperialism. It fights particularly against all attempts to constitute an international police force by capitalist reaction. It denounces with all its means all those charlatans who promise by means of treaties, pacts and arbitration to suppress the conflicts which result from the system itself. It unmasks all the hypocrites who preach an equal distribution of raw materials, division of markets, and control of exchanges as though competition and anarchy were not the very earmarks of this economic system.
3. In the course of the imperialist conflicts, world economy is divided up among a constantly restricted number of great powers. The small capitalist states and the secondary imperialist states progressively lose every vestige of real power. In Europe, German imperialism has reduced to impotence practically all the other capitalist countries.
The bourgeoisie of these countries is striving with might and main (by means of bargaining, mercenary services, sabotage, armed struggle) to maintain part of their influence. It is self-evident that the proletariat of these capitalist countries, which have been conquered or reduced to an insignificant role, is defeatist with regard to the national struggle of its bourgeoisie, a struggle whose specific and transitory form does not in any way change its imperialist and reactionary content. The proletariat firmly rejects unity with the bourgeoisie, a unity which can only lead to the crushing of the working class. This attitude does not prevent it, of course, from utilizing the antagonism between the bourgeoisie of the defeated countries and the victorious imperialism for its own class aims. It will exhaust every possibility offered by the chaotic situation of the defeated capitalist countries, a situation characterized by the complete putrefaction of the national state apparatus and the inability of the victorious imperialism to replace it.
The slogan of “national insurrection” must be condemned as vulgar and deceptive, designed in reality to cover up the transmission of control of the military and police apparatus to another “leadership” of the same bourgeois stripe.
The task of the Fourth International lies, not in “maneuvering” with the slogans of the bourgeoisie, but in projecting its own policy, to transform the imperialist war into civil war.
4. While the proletariat must reject any alliance with its own bourgeoisie, it cannot remain disinterested in the struggle of the masses against the oppression of German imperialism. The proletariat supports this struggle in order to facilitate and hasten its transformation into a general struggle against capitalism. This position implies the most energetic fight against attempts of the agents of the national bourgeoisie to win the masses and use their support to rebuild the capitalist state and army. Everything possible must be done, on the contrary, to develop the embryonic workers’ power (militias, committees, etc.) at the same time as the most vigorous struggle is pursued against all forms of nationalism.
5. In the case of a mass uprising within the framework of a limited invasion or in preparation for it, the proletariat will strive to give the uprising a firm class orientation. To the reconstitution of the bourgeois armies it will counterpoise the struggle for the arming of the workers, for the workers’ militia. The struggle against the national bourgeoisie must be conducted just as energetically as the struggle against foreign imperialism. This struggle must be indissolubly linked to fraternization with the German workers in uniform. The proletariat will fight against the raising of armed bands in the service of the bourgeoisie as well as against every derailment of the mass movement towards reactionary ends.
6. In view of the partly spontaneous character of the partisan movement, an expression of the open and inevitable revolt of huge layers of the population against German imperialism and against the rule of the native bourgeoisie, which bears responsibility in their eyes for all their present misery and suffering, the Bolshevik-Leninists must take into consideration this fighting will of the masses and seek to orient it toward class aims, despite the many dangers flowing from the nationalist form which this struggle assumes. 7. Concerning the assault groups organized by the nationalist and Stalino-patriotic organizations, the attitude of the Bolshevik-Leninists derives from the objectives and actions of these groups: military, nationalist, essentially reactionary action in the service of national capitalism and Anglo-American imperialism. This attitude remains valid even if such partisan action claims to have as an objective the defense of the USSR by the exclusive organization of sabotage, guerilla warfare, disorganization of the transport system leading in an eastern direction, etc.
Naturally, the Bolshevik-Leninists are not against military aid to the USSR, including sabotage. But the military aid furnished to the Soviet Union by such groups remains insignificant. On the other hand, by destroying the class spirit of the workers, by developing and arousing chauvinism, by turning the workers away from their own struggle in the factory, by sowing division among them, by tying them hand and foot to national unity, by setting them against the German soldiers, these groups disarm the working class, tie the German proletariat to its bourgeoisie and Hitler and prepare the destruction of the German revolution and the strangling of the world revolution. That is to say, in exchange for insignificant military aid, they undermine the real base of support of the USSR and reinforce its dependence on imperialism.
Such has been the exclusive character of the Franc-Tireur movements, notably in the occupied countries in the West (Belgium, France, etc.) up to 1942. The Bolshevik-Leninists could only combat these movements, while saluting the individual heroism of the fighters in the groups who thought they were fighting for the defense of the USSR and for freedom.
The Partisan Movement
8. But this position proved to be entirely inadequate once the partisan movement began to take on mass scope.
This has been the case:
a) IN THE BALKAN COUNTRIES where, due to geographic, economic and historical conditions, broad layers of poor peasants and in part, workers, took to the mountains to wage the struggle against the occupation authorities.
b) IN WESTERN EUROPE, beginning with the mass deportation of factory workers to Germany: the partisan groups thereafter were reinforced by important layers of workers and petty bourgeois, particularly the youth, determined to fight against the slavery of forced labor, for their freedom, against imperialist oppression and for the defense of the Soviet Union.
The participation of the masses does not, of course, change the objective role of the military organizations kowtowing to Anglo-American imperialism, in which most of the partisan movements were channeled. But it modifies several characteristics of the struggle:
It establishes the entry into the political arena of armed masses who tend to act in accord with their own objective class interests.
In mobilizing an important section of the active forces of the working class and petty bourgeois youth, it poses the burning question: will this youth further the revolution or the most reactionary forces of imperialism?
In the coming revolutionary developments, in the developing chaos, these small armies, directed at strategic points, can play an important role for or against the working class and the revolution.
9. Thus the Bolshevik-Leninists today cannot remain content with denouncing these organizations as working in the interests of imperialism. They cannot confine themselves to stressing to the workers the priority of factory work. They must, at the same time, penetrate the ranks of the partisans with their own policy in order to organize the latent revolutionary forces in them on a class political and organizational basis.
With this aim in mind, they develop the following program:
a) They must understand that it is their task to play the role of armed detachments in the service of the proletarian revolution, forerunners of the workers’ militias, and not that of successors to the imperialist army.
b) They organize themselves wherever possible independently on a democratic basis, excluding all bourgeois or reactionary elements.
c) They organize themselves within the ranks of the military organizations controlled by the National Unity of the anti-German bourgeoisie and the Stalinists as secret fractions, with their own discipline, and firmly oriented toward breaking with these organizations at the most advantageous or the most necessary moment.
d) They reject outright the policy of assassinating German soldiers (at random), every act of sabotage, even of a military character, which creates a breach between the native workers and the (rank and file) German soldiers.
e) To submit to the control and political leadership of the proletarian movement. They support workers’ struggles with means appropriate to the general and local situation. They link partisan activity to that in the factories. They promote military cadres of workers and the large scale arming of workers and peasants.
f) They participate in the class struggle of the countryside while employed at agricultural labor, by supporting the working peasantry against state exploitation and against the wealthy peasants, landlords and middle-men, etc. All brigandage against the working peasantry must be pitilessly castigated.
g) They organize fraternization propaganda among the occupation troops and open their ranks to German deserters.
h) They develop proletarian militants by Marxist study and political discussion, in contrast to the bourgeois theory: “No politics in the army.”
10. The sections of the Fourth International must pursue this policy both outside as well as inside the partisan organizations, with the aim of eventually reorganizing all the revolutionary elements of the partisan movement on an independent class base, ideologically as well as organizationally. Without a correct policy these forces will inevitably fall prey to reactionary currents.
11. In running a race with world imperialism in the arena of military conquest and territorial aggrandizement, the Stalinist bureaucracy is hastening the showdown between the international bourgeoisie and the, workers’ state. At the same time, it curbs and brakes the fighting spirit of the revolutionary proletariat, which constitutes the best defense of the USSR. That is why its policy must be mercilessly combated by the revolutionary vanguard. But the latter must not for a moment forget that the struggle of world imperialism aims at the destruction, not of the social inequalities in the USSR, but of the economic system created by the October revolution, the liquidation of nationalized property and planned economy.
The international proletariat will continue the unconditional defense of the USSR against all attacks of world imperialism, because this struggle is an integral part of the international struggle to overthrow imperialism. It will also fight against every attempt of world imperialism to wrest from the USSR, by armed struggle or political intrigue, the conquered or annexed territories.
It will meet with the most vigorous class action, up to and including sabotage, every attempt at Allied intervention.
12. Such a policy does not exclude, but on the contrary implies, the most ruthless struggle in the USSR itself, as well as on an international scale, against both the foreign and domestic policy of Stalin. In the USSR itself and in the countries occupied by the Red Army, the struggle for the unconditional defense of the workers’ state against the plans of world imperialism, does not mean, furthermore, that we renounce a policy of revolutionary opposition, or that the common front with the communist parties for the defense of the Soviet Union in any way signifies a renunciation of the struggle for world revolution.
The Russian and the international proletariat can and must fight side by side with the Soviet bureaucracy in defense of the workers’ state under attack. But while striking together with the bureaucracy in the military struggle, the class conscious workers in the USSR must at the same time fight for the reestablishment of proletarian democracy and the overthrow of the bureaucracy.
In the army they must combat the omnipotence of the officer corps and fight for the reestablishment of control by delegates elected by the workers. By means of this demand they fight for the restoration of workers’ and peasants’ power which will once again make the USSR the advance fortress of the world revolution.
They demand the suppression of the privileges of the bureaucracy, for the freedom of the workers’ press, for the legalization of Soviet parties, for the independence of the trade unions from the state, for their democratization, the pitiless suppression of hoarding, speculation and usury, aligning economy with the needs of the laboring masses.
This struggle is conducted not only in words but in the course of systematic class action including the political revolution for the overthrow of the power of the bureaucracy.
The requirements of Soviet defense, in contrast to our policy in a capitalist state, must be taken into account with regard to the development of the political revolution and today indicate the need for a “united front” with the Thermidorian party of the bureaucracy against the imperialist offensive. This does not signify, however, that we renounce the political revolution, for in the last analysis only the proletariat in power can effectively defend the USSR, reestablish its economy and compensate the masses for the sacrifices they have made.
The Struggle for Transitional Demands
13. In all of Europe the bloody experience of the dictatorship arouses among broad working class and petty bourgeois masses profound aspirations for democracy. The Fourth International cannot remain content with explaining to the masses that only the dictatorship of the proletariat in its Soviet form can achieve genuine democracy. Precisely because it knows that in the epoch of imperialism there is no room left for bourgeois democracy, the revolutionary vanguard transforms the struggle for democratic demands on the part of the masses into a powerful instrument against the bourgeois state.
It turns against the pseudo-democratic phrase-mongers of London and Algiers their own spouting about freedom and popular sovereignty. It fights for the complete restoration of freedom of organization, particularly for the trade unions; it defends the right to strike and demands the abolition of all compulsory arbitration laws. It calls upon the masses to install everywhere, in all towns and villages, their own elected administrations. It calls upon the masses to elect their own delegates in the factories. In the course of the struggle it will foster everywhere the embryos of proletarian power. Linked to the struggle for economic demands, to the struggle for peace, the struggle for democratic demands thus becomes the most effective instrument for the mobilization of broad masses of the people against the bourgeoisie, and opens the road to power for the workers and peasants.
In certain countries and under certain circumstances, for example, if the masses have not yet been able to weld themselves into a solid bloc capable of making a direct bid for power, or if they are temporarily thrown into a defensive position, extreme democratic demands, such as the demand for immediate elections or for the convocation of a constituent assembly, can become powerful means of mobilizing great masses of people around the proletariat. On the other hand, to launch such demands in the midst of a revolutionary crisis, when there are actually in existence elements of dual power, would be the most unpardonable of errors. At no time can the revolutionary vanguard forget that the objective of the struggle which is opening up is the seizure of power by the proletariat, the establishment of the Soviet dictatorship.
14. For the broad masses of the population the years of famine and misery have placed in the forefront demands of an economic character.The Fourth International places at the center of its program of action the two basic demands which are intimately linked with one another: the sliding scale of wages and the sta bilization of prices. It does not entrust this task to any government institution. It demands frequent revision of wage rates by workers’ delegates and of prices by housewives’ committees.
15. The problem of food rationing and of the black market acquires, in the present period, particular importance. Measures like the suppression of the middle men, control of distribution by housewives’ delegates can partially abolish these inequalities. But the fundamental difficulty which prevents a genuine solution of the problem of food distribution is the profound economic rupture between town and country, between industry and agriculture.
The solution is linked, not only to the reconstruction of a stable and harmonious peace industry, but even more so to a deep-going reform in the social structure of the countryside. Real and lasting solution of the food problem can be achieved only by moratoria, by the abolition of mortgages, by cheap credits and above all, by distributing the land among the working peasants, under the control of councils of working peasants, within the framework of a general plan of land reform.
The reconstruction of industry and agriculture, the organization of food distribution, all this is linked to the establishment of a general plan of economic reconstruction.
The Fourth International puts forward the slogan of a great plan of public works and of peace-time reequipment of industry. It fights for nationalization, without compensation or indemnities, of all war plants and their reconversion; for nationalization of all monopolies; for reopening of all shut-down plants under the management of workers’ delegates. It fights for the displacement of management committees of the trusts by committees of workers’, technicians’ and small owners’ delegates. It fights for the nationalization of banks and credit institutions, for the abolition of the state debt owed the banks and trust.
In the struggle over wages and against the high cost of living, in the struggle for the improvement of food distribution and the reorganization of the economy, as well as in the struggle against all the maneuvers and counter-offensives of the bosses (lock-outs, discharges, etc.), the central slogan of the period remains: workers’ control.
16. Under all circumstances, it is necessary to call upon the workers to elect their delegates, to exercise their control in the shops over working conditions, over working hours, wages; to demand in each factory access to the book-keeping system and business accounts; control of the market price and of profits, of social institutions; control over hiring and firing.
In the country, delegates of the working peasants must impose their control over levies and planting, watch over the distribution of seed, fertilizer and credits.
In the towns, it is necessary to fight for control of food distribution by the housewives. In a word, it is necessary everywhere to mobilize the masses under the slogan of workers’ control in the struggle against profits and the capitalist system, to educate them in the economic administration of society, and to create the first organs of the economic leadership of the proletariat in power.
17. The sharpening of the class struggle which characterizes the wind-up of the war unfailingly provokes sharper countermeasures on the part of the bourgeoisie. We are entering the phase of open civil war where every, even partial, struggle begun in a factory or elsewhere will become transformed into an armed struggle in the streets.
It is necessary to begin to realize the slogan of workers militia and the arming of the workers, by utilizing every means and every opportunity. We must particularly utilize the revolutionary elements of the partisan movement in order to train detachments of proletarian fighters linked to the movement of the working class, recruit cadres for the workers’ militia, and obtain arms.
Socialism or Barbarism
18. Thus the struggle for immediate demands, economic reforms and the struggle for peace, demands, in order to be successfully carried through to the end, that the working class build up its own power. It demands that the proletariat create everywhere, in the course of struggle, organs which will unify and lead the forces of the proletariat, in the army, in the factories, in the villages, in opposition to the forces of the bourgeoisie.
At every stage of the struggle the Fourth International puts forward the idea of workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ committees. In every specific struggle it calls on the masses to organize themselves into their own network of democratic organizations, to elect their own shop, neighborhood and village delegates, to unify them into local, regional or national congresses, to wrest from the bourgeoisie an ever greater share of its power, up to the moment of its final overthrow and liquidation . . .
20. . . In the great crisis opening up the victory of the proletariat is certain: if it can cold-bloodedly weigh the forces of its adversary and organize its own; if it develops a sharp class consciousness, a solid combat organization and a bold policy capable of utilizing every secondary crisis in every country as the point of departure for the offensive of the international proletariat.
21. However, if in spite of the profound crisis of the regime, in spite of the revolt of ever greater layers of the population seeping into the ranks of the bourgeoisie itself, the proletariat should prove incapable of taking into its own hands the fate of humanity, and by means of its dictatorship to lead it toward socialism and progress, the world will continue to plunge ever more deeply into the barbarism to which imperialism has condemned it for the past thirty years. The infernal cycle of wars, crises and unemployment will again rage all over the world. Reaction and fascism will triumph anew.
Socialism or barbarism, that is the choice which humanity faces. In the coming months and years the solution will depend entirely on the self-confidence, the audacity and the combativity of the advanced proletariat. Such are the stakes of the revolutionary struggle. Nothing less than the fate of all humanity is involved. Only the triumph of the world revolution can open the way to progress. Its defeat, on the contrary, no matter what the actual conclusion of the conflict may be, will signify the victory of the worst reaction with all the horrors and all the decadence that this entails.
22. The victory of the proletariat cannot be assured unless the latter opposes to the formations of the bourgeoisie its own formations, to the plans of imperialism its own plans, to the general staff of international reaction its own general staff. In order to conquer, the world proletariat needs a world party unshakably loyal to its class interest and program, a party which has never compromised and will never compromise with the class enemy.
In the course of twenty years of struggles and tests, overcoming all the difficulties accumulated in its path by the incapable and treacherous leaders of the workers, the international movement of the Bolshevik-Leninists has hammered out cadres in all countries, educated militants in the genuine spirit of revolutionary internationalist Marxism. In the face of the rising threat of imperialist war, it proclaimed in 1938, through the creation of the Fourth International, its determination to take the leadership of the masses in their struggle for the revolution. The defeats which the working class has since then suffered, and in the first place the unleashing of the imperialist war, have struck it a heavy blow. But the events have nevertheless demonstrated the correctness of its position in its entirety as well as the firmness of its cadres, their unshakable devotion to the cause of the proletariat.
Today as the new and tremendous wave of the revolution rises, the Fourth International will rally to its banner the best fighting forces of the proletariat and lead them to victory, to the victory of the Socialist United States of Europe and of the world. Our hour will soon strike. The future belongs to us.
Last updated on 02.01.2006