MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: FI: 1938-1949: 1951 3rd Congress of the FI
Class Nature of Eastern Europe
Resolution Adopted by the
Third Congress of the Fourth International—Paris, April 1951
First Published: 1951
Source: Fourth International, Volume 12, No. 6, November-December 1951, pp. 198-199.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Daniel Gaido & David Walters, November, 2005
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2005. 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 url to this work, and note the transcribers & proofreaders above.
The evolution of the European countries in the Soviet buffer zone since 1949 has unfolded along the line of an accelerated integration of these countries into the economic and political orbit of the USSR.
On the economic level, this evolution has taken the fundamental line of a beginning of coordination and effective planning among their economies, and with that of the USSR on the one hand, which has on the other hand, considerably diminished their dependence upon the international capitalist economy and market.
Since 1949 we have observed the introduction of a series of long-range plans (five to six years) which, to the degree of their realization, detach these countries from a part of their ties with the external capitalist market, and progressively fuse their economy into a whole which is more and more organically bound to the planned economy of the USSR.
These plans follow upon the actual statification of almost all of heavy and light industry, foreign trade as well as important sector of domestic trade, transportation, and of a series of restrictive measures on property and on the private agricultural market, and following the generally successful execution of the first short-range plans (one to three years) which permitted the restoration of the economy to pre-war levels and the repairing of the destructions caused by the war.
From then on, the statified economy has been governed by the necessities of the plan as in the USSR.
These developments have already effected a reversal of the previous tendency, which marked the trade of these countries with the international capitalist market.
At present the trade of these countries amongst themselves and with the USSR accounts for more than half of their foreign commerce and this trend is becoming more pronounced.
New State Apparatus Created
On the social level, the state apparatus of these countries are coming to resemble that of the USSR more and more with the creation, especially since the end of 1949, of bureaucratic People’s Committees, and by the more marked installation in all spheres of “reliable” elements who enjoy the confidence of the Soviet bureaucracy and are steadily replacing the old bourgeois elements.
The recruitment of these elements is now being stepped up from among the new workers’ aristocracy which is favored by the regime by its methods of payment for labor and by the Stakhanovist movement, etc.
The state apparatus is thus “sovietized” both in its form as well as in its social composition by imitating the forms proper to the state apparatus of the USSR and by recruiting its functionaries among the new privileged sections. On the other hand, it is being “Russified” by placing in the most decisive posts of command in the civil, political and economic administration as well as in the police and in the army, elements directly manipulated by the Kremlin, and often actual Russian functionaries, assuming the appropriate nationality.
Outcome of Political Struggle
Finally, on the political level, if in a historical sense the fate of these countries has not yet been decided, the same cannot be said insofar as their immediate fate is concerned.
It is clear that the evolution of the international situation has not taken the line of a prolonged compromise between imperialism and the Soviet bureaucracy which could place the status of these countries in question, but rather on the contrary the line of accelerated preparation for war, wherein each seeks to consolidate its present sphere of influence.
The only possible exception is the case of the Soviet zone in Austria, which for the time being still remains an integral part of the Austrian state, and on which a compromise involving the withdrawal of the occupation troops is not yet excluded.
On the other hand, the entire recent evolution of Eastern Germany, its structure and the execution of its five-year plans, and the deep-going modifications introduced into the state apparatus rather constitute an indication that Moscow, having lost hope of a general compromise particularly in regard to Germany, is passing over to the decisive integration of this area into the rest of the buffer zone. However, it is no less true that the political and economic structure of this area still remains quite different from that of the rest of the buffer zone.
On the other hand, the whole economic, social and political overturns which have occurred in the buffer zone have now acquired such a scope that the reintegration of these countries into the capitalist orbit can no longer be envisaged as possible by “cold methods” but only through a veritable capitalist counter-revolution (with the possible exception of Eastern Germany).
The example of the civil war now going on in Albania, by far the weakest link in the entire buffer zone, between the forces in the pay of native reaction and imperialism and the forces bound up with the present regime is conclusive on this point.
End of Intermediate Status
Taking into account all the modifications effected since 1949 in the economy as well as in the state apparatus of the buffer zone countries, within the framework of a new trend in the international situation, the structural assimilation of these countries to the USSR must be considered as having now been essentially accomplished and these countries as having ceased to be basically capitalist countries.
The taking into tow of all these countries by the Soviet bureaucracy after life last war, the influence and decisive control it exercised over them contained the possibility and even the inevitability of their structural assimilation to the USSR because of a certain internal and external relationship of forces between the Soviet bureaucracy, the native bourgeoisie, imperialism and the masses.
For a long period—approximately between 1945 and 1948—the Soviet bureaucracy maintained these countries in an intermediate status of varying degrees because it was not yet ready to consider its break with imperialism as final and because of the necessity imposed on it by its own nature of eliminating the native bourgeoisie by cold methods, without genuine revolutionary action by the masses over which it tried at the same time to exercise a rigorous control.
This intermediate status corresponded sociologically to a regime of dual power, both on the economic and the political planes the economic structure remaining fundamentally capitalist. Beginning with 1949, this duality manifestly gave way to regimes which stabilized a structure essentially characterized by property and productive relations qualitatively assimilable to those of the USSR, that is to say, characteristic of an essentially statified and planned economy (except for the Soviet zone in Austria, where, because of the occupation, certain elements of dual power are noticeable).
Parallel with this process, the political power, which for a long time had been assumed by different combinations between the Stalinist leaderships and the representatives of the former bourgeois and petty-bourgeois parties, now passed exclusively into the hands of the Stalinists and was thus transformed in its form as well as in its social composition.
Deformed Workers’ States
The form of political power still remains marked by important differences from one country to another and in their entirety with that of the USSR, as is likewise the case so far as the form of political power in the capitalist system is concerned, but it is above all by virtue of their economic base, of the structure essentially common to all the countries of the buffer zone, characterized by new production and property relations proper to a statified and planned economy, essentially like those of the USSR, that as of now are deformed workers’ states. These states have arisen not through the revolutionary action of the masses but through the military-bureaucratic action of the Soviet bureaucracy. Thanks to exceptional circumstances created by the last war they are not administered directly by the proletariat but by a bureaucracy. The bureaucratic deformation of these states is of the same magnitude as that characterizing the USSR, the proletariat being totally deprived of political power.
Consequently, as in the USSR, there is likewise posed as the task of the revolutionary vanguard of these countries a political revolution to overthrow the bureaucracy and open the road for the free development of socialism.
The further evolution of these countries and their immediate future are now bound to the fate of the conflict being prepared between imperialism on the one side and the USSR, buffer zone countries, China, the other colonial revolutions, and the international working class movement on the other.
Taking into account the class character of these countries and the reactionary war aims of imperialism, the Fourth International is neither neutral nor indifferent so far as the defense of these countries against imperialism is concerned. Just as in regard to the USSR, the Fourth International is for the unconditional defense of these countries against imperialism. It considers their structure of statified and planned economy as a conquest which must be safeguarded against imperialism, regardless of the policy followed by the governments vassalized to Stalinism in these countries.
That does not in any case signify the abandonment of our political opposition to these governments or the subordination of our struggle for the world revolution to this defense. The contrary remains true. The Fourth international, within these countries, makes common cause which the proletarian and poor peasant masses who struggle against their exploitation and against the national oppression imposed by the domination of the Soviet bureaucracy. It stands for the total independence of each of the countries in the buffer zone and for their organization into a freely agreed-upon federation.
Examination of Past Position
In all the positions formerly taken on the question of the class nature of the countries of the Soviet buffer zone in Europe, the Fourth International pointed out the tendency of structural assimilation of these countries to the USSR and the transitional state in which these countries found themselves.
The Fourth International, on the other hand, indicated from the first that, under a certain correlation of forces between the Soviet bureaucracy, imperialism and the masses, the bureaucracy could even accomplish this assimilation.
During an entire period (1945-48) it was really impossible to conclude that such a relationship of forces favorable to the bureaucracy had been established and consequently to consider the fate of the countries in the buffer zone as decided for the entire immediate future.
Nevertheless it must be recognized that the International was kept from having a precise evaluation of the evolution in the buffer zone, of the speed and the scope of assimilation, because of a series of restrictive considerations like those set forth in the Second World Congress Theses on the USSR and Stalinism which asserted that “the genuine destruction of capitalism (in the buffer zone) is possible only through the revolutionary mobilization of the masses and the elimination of the special forms of exploitation introduced by the bureaucracy into these countries.” On the other hand, in the Resolution of the Seventh Plenum of the international Executive Committee (May 1949) on The Evolution of the Countries of the Buffer Zone, where there was more positively envisaged the possible perspective of a structural assimilation accomplished by the action of the Stalinist bureaucracy itself, it still insisted on “the abolition of frontiers which it could effect through the incorporation of certain or all of these countries into the USSR, or that it could accomplish through the constitution of a Balkan-Danubian federation formally independent of the USSR but a genuine unified framework for the planning of the economy.”
Process of Bureaucratic Change
It has turned out that the revolutionary action of the masses is not an indispensable condition needed by the bureaucracy to be able to destroy capitalism under exceptional and analogous conditions and in an international atmosphere like that of the “cold war.” That does not mean that the bureaucracy completely deprived itself of mass action in destroying the bourgeoisie. It mobilized the masses bureaucratically, varying in scope from country to country and according to the given conditions organizing them, for example, into “committees” of various kinds which played a certain role in disarming the bourgeoisie and in its economic and political expropriation. This bureaucratic mobilization of the masses, which is still proceeding in the struggle against the remnants of the possessing classes and especially against the well-to-do peasantry and the Catholic Church, is necessary because the bureaucracy is not an independent social form or a class, but supports itself partly upon the proletariat to struggle against the bourgeoisie even while lacing the masses at the same time into the straitjacket of its bureaucratic and police control.
It has turned out that in such conditions and on the basis of an actual statification of the means of production, it is possible to initiate the process of a planned economy without formal incorporation into the USSR, without formal abolition of the frontiers and despite the special forms of exploitation that the bureaucracy still maintains in these countries which remain an ever-present obstacle to the planning and free development of their economy.
Regarding the theoretical significance of the evolution of the buffer zone and the conclusions that can be drawn concerning the role of Stalinism, the Fourth International still firmly stands on what has been said on this subject in the above-mentioned resolution of the Seventh Plenum of the IEC which is incorporated in the present resolution.
(Extract from the Resolution of the Seventh Plenum of the International Executive Committee of the Fourth International, April 1949)
Theoretical Significance of the Development
The appearance of new transitional regimes, as in the case of the buffer countries, regimes of transition between capitalism and the USSR, is neither the result of chance nor the effect of negligible historical accidents. Only incurable doctrinaires can conceive of capitalism and socialism as fixed entities, established once and for all, to which a living historic process must conform, a process contradictory and rich in the crystallization of ever new combined forms. In reality, the appearance of mixed transitional regimes and their combined character is the clearest expression of our historic epoch, which is defined by:
- an ever more advanced disintegration of capitalism;
- the conditions of extended delay of the world revolution, essentially the result of the counter-revolutionary Stalinist leadership of the world labor movement;
- the existence of the USSR not only as a power continuing to polarize the revolutionary aspirations of an important part of the world proletariat, but also as a state power having a military-political weight of its own, and with a logic of expansion of its own.
Only in the light of these three factors can the appearance and the development of a new and combined phenomenon like that of the Soviet buffer zone be understood and the limits of its real historic import be defined.
Role of Stalinism
Ascertaining the existence of such transitional regimes does not at all upset our evaluation of the counter-revolutionary role of Stalinism or our evaluation of Stalinism as a disintegrating force in the USSR and as a force organizing defeats of the world proletariat:
- An evacuation of Stalinism cannot be made on the basis of localized results of its policy but must proceed from the entirety of its action on a world scale. When we consider the state of decay which capitalism presents even today, four years after the end of the war, and when we consider the concrete situation of 1943-45, there can be no doubt that Stalinism, on a world scale, appeared as the decisive factor in preventing a sudden and simultaneous collapse of the capitalist order as a whole in Europe and in Asia. In this sense, the “successes” achieved by the bureaucracy in the buffer zone constitute, at most, the price which imperialism paid for services rendered on the world arena—a price which is moreover constantly called into question at each new stage.
- From the world point of view, the reforms realized by the Soviet bureaucracy in the sense of an assimilation of the buffer zone to the USSR weigh incomparably less in the balance than the blows dealt by the Soviet bureaucracy, especially through its actions in the buffer zone, against the consciousness of the world proletariat, which it demoralizes, disorients and paralyzes by its whole policy and thus renders it susceptible to some extent to the imperialist campaign of war preparations. Even from the point of view of the USSR itself, the defeats and the demoralization of the world proletariat caused by Stalinism constitute an incomparably greater danger than the consolidation of the buffer zone constitutes a reinforcement.
- In the buffer zone itself, where objective as well as subjective conditions were ripe for an immediate overthrow of capitalism in 1943-44, Stalinist policy has led to a temporary strengthening of the anti-proletarian forces, created a thousand new obstacles in the way of the abolition of capitalism and thus caused the whole painful and jerky process of assimilation, dragging this process out over a number of years and rendering the proletariat in the main apathetic and even hostile, whereas the revolutionary movement of the proletariat could have achieved the liquidation of capitalism in these countries in a much shorter time and with a minimum of overhead charges.
- As a result of the very expansion of the Soviet bureaucracy under the concrete conditions noted above, the objective contradictions in the situation of the buffer zone tend to penetrate into the midst of the bureaucracy and of the economy itself, multiplying the already numerous tensions and antagonisms which exist within them, and preparing the ground for the development of various types of centrifugal tendencies (Tito tendency on the one hand, Gomulka-Akerman tendency on the other).
Role of Soviet Bureaucracy
Historically, the above-mentioned conditions not only indicate the reasons for the appearance of transitional regimes but also circumscribe the limits of the viability of the Soviet bureaucracy:
- On the social plane, the overthrow of the Soviet bureaucracy remains certain within the framework of a world decision in the class struggle, which is inevitable one way or another in the long run.
- On the military-political plane, this overthrow remains equally inevitable if the world proletariat does not succeed in crushing imperialism in time, with such an eventuality also entailing the downfall of the bureaucracy.
The appearance of transitional regimes of the buffer zone thus merely gives expression to the interlude character of the historic period from 1943 to the present; an interlude between the low point of the world-wide decline of the proletarian revolution and the new world revolutionary upsurge, which has thus far only appeared in its rough outlines; an interlude between the Second World War and the final clash between imperialism and the USSR. Only within the framework of this limited interlude, do the buffer zone and all the phenomena associated with it appear in their true light as provisional and temporary. And in this framework, the real nature of Stalinism appears more pronounced than ever in the sense indicated by the Fourth International.
Last updated on 13 April 2009