Correspondence, New International, Vol. 6 No.1, February 1940, pages 17-24.
Transcribed & marked up by David Walters for Encyclopedia of the Trotskyism On-Line, 2006.
1. The Second World War, now in its opening stages, is an imperialist war for the re-division of the earth.This estimate of the character of the war has been elaborated in the greatest detail by our international movement over a period of ten years, and has been verified by all the events since the actual outbreak of the war. Among the territories the imperialist powers covet is the territory of the U.S.S.R., the one-sixth of the world from which capitalist enterprise has been excluded since November, 1917. They would like to smash the Soviet state’s monopoly of foreign trade, which for twenty-two years has prevented imperialist finance, industry and trade from competing against Soviet enterprise within the Soviet Union; to make available to the capitalist world this field for capital investment and its rich granaries and raw materials on terms dictated by the capitalists; in short, to reduce the Soviet Union to a colonial or semi-colonial status.
“ Every big war, irrespective of its initial motives, must pose squarely the question of military intervention against the U.S.S.R. in order to transfuse fresh blood into the sclerotic veins of capitalism.” In these words, our international theses, “War and the Fourth International” (1934), sounded a warning to the revolutionary workers to foresee this inescapable result of the contradiction between the U.S.S.R. and the imperialist states and to be on guard. These words are more than ever true today.
2. The imperialists’ response to the Finnish events strikingly confirms the prediction and warning of our thesis.The Second World War included among its fronts from the first a rabid ideological campaign against the Soviet Union. Under the pretext provided by the Finnish events, this ideological war against the U.S.S.R. immediately reached a scope and intensity surpassing anything since the actual imperialist intervention in the first years of the revolution. In actual fact the war against the Soviet Union at that point already passed the ideological stage (Roosevelt’s credits to Finland, Hoover’s fund-raising committee, revival of the League of Nations as center of the anti-Soviet drive, American, British and Italian aims and planes to Mannerheim, etc.). Powerful sections of the ruling class in all imperialist countries endeavor to compromise the differences between Britain and Germany in order to unite them against the Soviet Union. Even without this, however, as indicated by their reaction to the Finnish events, the “democratic” imperialists may shortly go over to a direct and full-fledged war against the Soviet Union.
3. That the Second World War took the form it did in its initial stages—the imperialists turning upon each other before going on to seek the destruction of the Soviet Union—was envisaged by our theses, “War and the Fourth International.” As a result of Stalin’s reactionary foreign policy and the defeats imposed upon the workers by the Comintern, imperialist fears of revolution temporarily abated; under Stalin the Soviet Union appeared in the world arena as an auxiliary to one imperialist camp or the other. Nevertheless the fundamental antagonism between the imperialist world and the Soviet Union remained, basically far deeper than the antagonisms among the imperialist powers. Stalin’s attempt to take advantage of the war to strengthen his military-strategical position in the Ukraine and the Baltic galvanized the imperialists into a new high stage of war-preparations and belligerent acts against the Soviet Union. Stalin’s continued “neutrality” was desired by the democratic imperialists only on condition that he make no attempts to strengthen himself against the eventual imperialist assault on the Soviet Union.
4. A direct falsehood, and a direct service to the democratic imperialists, is the attempt to characterize the Soviet Union and Fascist Germany w identical kinds of states ("red and brown fascism,” “red and brown imperialisms” etc.). These amalgams are employed by the imperialists and their lackeys in attempting to render more plausible their chauvinist justification of the war as a “war of democracy against fascism.” To characterize the Soviet Union in such terms represents a yielding to the pressure of the democratic imperialists. This is demonstrated by the fact that the centrists in the labor movement (Socialist Party of Norman Thomas, Lovestoneites, etc.) found it but a step from the employment of these characterizations to outright democratic patriotism in support of the Finnish bourgeoisie and its imperialist backers.
5. The war of the imperialists against the Soviet Union is enormously facilitated by the Soviet bureaucracy and its outer apparatus, the Comintern.In direct contrast to the revolutionary public diplomacy of Lenin and Trotsky, the Kremlin clique wages its secret diplomacy without explanation to either the Soviet or the world proletariat; thus each new move of the Kremlin in the world arena arouses the darkest suspicions and weakens the loyalty to the Soviet Union of even the most advanced workers. The repulsive character of Stalinist propaganda for the defense of the Soviet Union—identifying the defense of the U.S.S.R. with acceptance of Stalinist policy in all spheres—engenders in many workers the rejection of both, Stalinist propaganda on behalf of the Nazi-Soviet alliance undoubtedly drives sections of the proletarian vanguard, outraged by Stalin’s cynical betrayal, into a subjective attitude of antagonism to the Soviet Union in order to safeguard their defeatist attitude toward Nazi Germany. This subjective attitude is today one of the most powerful levers in the hands of the social-patriots. In these various ways the Kremlin adds its weight to that of the democratic imperialists in creating enormous pressure upon the revolutionary vanguard to abandon the concept of the defense of the Soviet Union against the capitalist world.
6. It is under the foregoing conditions that the Socialist Workers Party is confronted with the task of restating its attitude toward the Soviet Union today. The conditions under which we undertake our task may be summed up succinctly:OVERWHELMING PRESSURE TO ABANDON THE SOVIET UNION. All tendencies to regard the Soviet Union as a lost cause, to cross it off and say there is nothing left of the conquests of the great revolution worthy of defense, signify a capitulation to this pressure. The revolutionary quality of our party, and its capacity to stand up in the war crisis, is tested at this point, above all, by its ability to withstand this pressure of the capitalist world and remain faithful to the defense of the Soviet Union.
An analysis of the Soviet Union constitutes inevitably more than an academic task; a Marxist analysis is at the same time a programmatic declaration on the basic questions of the proletarian revolution. The interpretation of the history of the classical bourgeois revolution, the French Revolution, has been for 150 years the battleground of contending bourgeois and petty-bourgeois (and later also the proletarian) camps. It is likewise with the unfolding of the first successful proletarian revolution.
Who made the Russian Revolution? Why was it successful? Why did the working class surrender its power to a privileged bureaucracy, and under what conditions will it retrieve its power? Should the Soviet Union be defended? What is the relation between Bolshevism and Stalinism? Is the U.S.S.R. a workers’ state even though degenerated? Is it an asset or a liability to the international working class? The answer to these and related questions is also the answerer’s program for the working class in his own country. It is especially important to point out this fact today in the democratic countries, where under pressure of the imperialist war-mongers, erstwhile “friends” of the Soviet Union have revised their views in conformity with those held by bourgeois democracy, yet attempt to palm off their views as “revolutionary” (Lovestoneites, Socialist Party, Independent Labor Party of England, etc.). Abandonment of the revolutionary Marxist estimate of the Soviet Union and its course is merely a preliminary to—where it is not simultaneous with—abandonment of a revolutionary attitude against the bourgeoisie of one’s “own” country.
The Nature of the Soviet State
2. The Soviet state was founded in November, 1917 upon the theory of Marxism and by means of the strategy and tactics of proletarian revolution flowing from that theory. Marxist theory was conclusively vindicated by the October Revolution. The revolution transformed private property into state property, the necessary form of economy for the transition from capitalism to socialism. Control of this property was exercised by the working class through the Soviets (workers’ councils elected on the basis of occupational representation), the factory committees, the army committees, the trade unions and the revolutionary party. This Soviet democracy constituted the dictatorship of the proletariat sketched by Marx, exercised uncompromisingly against the bourgeoisie, both national and international, and against all irreconcilable enemies of the workers’ state. It was the broadest and most genuine democracy which has ever existed.
Nevertheless, it was denounced from the first by currents in the labor movement (Second International, International Federation of Trade Unions, anarchists, “pure and simple” trade unionists, etc.) who were partisans of other methods—at bottom, bourgeois-democratic methods—of solving humanity’s problems. In their material and ideological war against the Soviet Union; they pointed to contradictions between the model of the workers’ state as sketched by Marx and Lenin, and the reality. No one, however, was more critical than Lenin, and more observant than he, in pointing out the gaps between ideal and reality. Since Lenin’s death, those who carried on the Leninist tradition, the Bolshevik-Leninists—now the Fourth International—continued to subject the Soviet Union to the most thoroughgoing critical analysis. All valid criticism of the Soviet Union—the scientific explanation, of the developing gap between the Leninist ideal and the harsh reality—is the achievement of the Bolshevik-Leninists.
Among the immediate factors which intervened between ideal and reality were the vast destruction and expending of the resources of the country brought by the imperialist war from 1914-1917, the destruction accompanying the civil war and the imperialist intervention of the whole capitalist world in the ensuing years, and the necessary emergency measures to combat these conditions which the Soviet state had to take. These were not, however, the decisive factors which intervened between ideal and reality and which transformed the Soviet democracy of 1917 into Stalin’s totalitarian regime of 1939.
8. The ideal of the Soviet state sketched by Marx and elaborated by Lenin was an ideal for an international workers’ regime. Only on a world scale, on the basis of the material and technological resources of at least the advanced countries could the Soviet state be built and endure along the lines of the model outlined by Marx and Lenin.
The Soviet Union will perish unless the revolution is successfully extended to one or more advanced countries said Lenin. True enough, he expected the wrecking of the Soviet state, rather than its degeneration; to put it more correctly, he did not sharply differentiate between these two possibilities. The two are not, however, contradictory. Degeneration must inescapably end at a certain stage in downfall.
The Degeneration of the Soviet State
9. The degeneration of the Soviet state is part of the price paid by the soviet and world proletariat for the failure to spread the revolution into Western Europe. The responsibility for this process of degeneration rests first of all upon the social-democracy which collaborated with the capitalist world in crushing the post-war revolutions in Western Europe. The claim elaborated by the social democracy and its bourgeois allies, that the degenerate bureaucracy of the Soviet Union is the logical outgrowth of the Bolshevik doctrines of Lenin and Trotsky, is a contemptible attempt to justify the counter-revolutionary role of social democracy. The Bolshevik-Leninists, the Left Opposition, fought the degeneration at every step. If Stalinism triumphed over the proletarian core of the party it was only because Stalinism adapted itself to, and literally became the tool of, the imperialist world.
10. The pressure of capitalist encirclement upon an isolated workers’ state was particularly indignant in backward Russia.The backward economy which the Soviet Union inherited from the Czarist Empire has been deprived of free access to the advanced technology of the Western world by the hostility of the capitalist world. That, in spite of this, Soviet economy was able to multiply its output by ratios of acceleration unprecedented in history, testifies to the superiority of state property over the anarchy of private property. But it could not, out of nothing as it were, outstrip the rate of productivity of advanced technology elsewhere. It remains behind the capitalist world by the decisive criterion of productivity per man hour. And in this fact lie the roots of the Soviet bureaucracy.
11. Where goods are scarce and their control and consumption constitutes a privilege, it is inevitable that a distinction will arise between privileged and unprivileged.In the Soviet Union this took place when the scarcity of consumers’ goods and the universal struggle to obtain them generated within the state a policeman (the bureaucracy) who arrogated to himself the function of distribution. Hostile pressure from without imposed on the policeman the role of “defender” of the country, endowing him with national authority under cover of which he was doubly able to plunder the country. This policeman, the Stalinist bureaucracy, differs from other labor bureaucracies—such as the Second International, which are generated by a similar process of economic scarcity, but one artificially imposed by capitalist property relations upon the advanced countries in the greater power it wields; for while the labor bureaucracies in capitalist countries rule the workers with brutal disdain, they are themselves servitors of the ruling class and its state, whereas the Stalinist bureaucracy itself possesses the state apparatus in the Soviet Union. The Stalinist bureaucracy, in short, differs from the ordinary labor bureaucracy in that it is the bureaucracy which rules over a labor movement which destroyed its capitalist class in 1917. But the destruction of the Russian capitalist class did not free the Soviet Union from the pressure of world imperialism. As the conservative urge to maintain privileges gained under an economy of scarcity in a capitalist country motivates a labor bureaucracy to serve its “own” ruling class, so the anxiety to conserve privileges under the economy of scarcity imposed upon the Soviet Union by capitalist encirclement has led the Stalinist bureaucracy into the service of the dominant ruling class internationally—world imperialism. Where the labor bureaucracy in a capitalist country serves its “own” rulers as long as the latter allow it to retain its status quo (and the “enemy” imperialist rulers when its “own” ruling class dispenses with its services in favor of the Fascist bureaucracy—as the German social democracy, for instance, now serves Germany’s enemies), the Kremlin serves now one, now another group of imperialist powers, depending upon which bloc can better assure it of retaining its status quo in the Soviet Union.
12. Despite the depredation of the Stalinist bureaucracy, the Soviet Union remains a workers’ state. More accurately, it is a degenerated workers’ state, having been stripped of many of the characteristics it possessed under Lenin’s government: above all stripped of Soviet and party democracy and of Leninist internationalist policy. The Soviet Union retains, however, its class character —like the trade unions plundered by the labor bureaucrats, reduced to servitors of the bosses but still remaining in fundamental antagonism to capitalism. Despite all the inroads of the Stalinist bureaucracy, the chief conquest of the overturn achieved by the October Revolution in the realm of economy remains: state property. So long as the nationalized property is not overturned or seized by the imperialist powers, the Soviet Union remains a workers’ state, degenerated though it is.
13. The Stalinist bureaucracy represents merely a temporary malignant growth.The conditions for its triumph—the backwardness of the country and the imperialist environment—bear a temporary and transitional character, and will disappear with the victory of the world revolution.
Only postponement of the world revolution nourishes the bureaucracy. It feeds on the defeats of the world working class. It maintains its arbitrary rule only because the Soviet masses have not been awakened by revolution without. It plays no independent role in production. It serves no need of production. On the contrary, bureaucratism has become the worst brake on the technical and cultural development of the Soviet Union. This was veiled for a certain time by the fact that Soviet economy was occupied for two decades with transplanting and assimilating the technology and organization of production in advanced capitalist countries. But the higher the economy rose, the more complex its requirements became, all the more unbearable became the obstacle of the bureaucracy. The constantly sharpening contradiction between them leads to uninterrupted political convulsions. The explanation for this is to be found precisely in the fact that the bureaucracy is not the bearer of a new system of economy peculiar to itself and impossible without itself, but is a parasitic growth on a workers’ state. The monstrous purges in the U.S.S.R. testify to the fact that Soviet society tends organically toward ejection of the bureaucracy. The Stalin regime is a regime of permanent crisis. By the sweep and monstrous fraudulence of his purge, Stalin testifies to nothing else but the incapacity of the bureaucracy to transform itself into a stable ruling class.
14. The primary danger of the end of the Soviet Union as a workers’ state and its transformation into a capitalist state comes from imperialist intervention.The imperialist invaders will find allies within—there is growing within the bureaucracy a wing which realizes that the bureaucratic caste can insure its positions of privilege only through rejection of nationalization, collectivization and the monopoly of foreign trade, replacing them with “Western civilization", i.e.—capitalism. This section of the bureaucracy seeks, as its way out of the conflict which rages between the needs of the nationalized economy and the bureaucracy’s organic incapacity to manage it, a place as a comprador bourgeoisie in the service of the imperialist powers.
The Foreign Policy of the Stalinist Bureaucracy in the War
15. Like the foreign policy of all regimes, the foreign policy of the Stalinist bureaucracy is a continuation of its internal policy. The bureaucracy has lost all faith in the creative capacity of the masses whom it plunders. It has established a system of ruling without any control from below. Thus it has crystallized beyond reform a political regime which would be fatally disrupted by an awakening of the masses. These internal characteristics of the bureaucracy enter into its foreign policy. The interests of the U.S.S.R. demand, above all, successful proletarian revolutions, especially in the advanced countries, and a common plan of economy with such workers’ states. The bureaucracy, however, began its reign without any faith in the possibility of successful revolutions elsewhere, formulating this lack of faith in its theory of “socialism in one country"—that is, from the outset the bureaucracy adopted a perspective which ruled out revolutions elsewhere. Its further development (degeneration) soon brought the bureaucracy to the realization that revolutions in the advanced countries would destroy the basis of its political regime, which rests on the passivity of the masses. Hence, the foreign policy of the bureaucracy is directed, first of all, toward the bourgeois governments and not toward the international working class. The good-will of bourgeois governments is the primary objective of the Soviet bureaucracy.
16. The Communist International serves the Kremlin in its foreign policy solely as a means of winning the goodwill of the “friendly” bourgeois governments and of hindering the foreign policy of the “enemy” governments.Thus that section of the proletariat influenced by the Comintern is transformed into an auxiliary force of one imperialist camp or another. The Kremlin, through its foreign agency and also in its own name, proceeds to embellish and idealize the “friendly” imperialism, calling upon the proletariat to subordinate itself to the “friend.” After five years of duping the workers with slogans for the “defense of the democracies,” Moscow is now engaged in whitewashing Hitler’s marauding policy as one of “peace.” The Kremlin has become the most valuable agency of imperialism, for the power and prestige of the Kremlin enable it to serve a “friendly” imperialism to a far greater degree than the Second Intentional was ever able to serve. These services of the Comintern have become an extremely attractive bargaining point in the Kremlin’s overtures to the imperialist powers.
17. The leaders of the Comintern justify this policy by the general proposition that an isolated workers’ state must utilize the contradictions in the camp of imperialism. The general Proposition is indisputable. An isolated workers’ state cannot fail to maneuver between the hostile imperialist camps; and maneuvering means temporarily supporting one of them against the other. However, this constrained support for one bourgeois state against another is justified only when it is demonstrated in the full view of the world proletariat that the isolated workers’ state is thus saved from destruction and that the support is not purchased by suspension of the working class’ struggle to overthrow that bourgeois state. By these criteria, the alliance with Hitler must be condemned.
18. The Brest-Litovsk peace reinforced German imperialism against France and England and sacrificed the national independence of the Ukraine.The class-conscious workers, however, could understand without difficulty that signing of the treaty was necessary for salvaging the workers’ state. Having saved itself by that peace, the Soviet Union could later destroy the peace. Here is the classical example, under the internationalist regime of Lenin and Trotsky, of maneuvering between the imperialist camps.
In the alliance with Hitler, however, the Kremlin does not claim that it is constrained to accept the alliance in order to continue to exist; nor does it represent the sacrifice of Poland as a bitter necessity imposed upon the Soviet Union by the imperialist powers. On the contrary, the Kremlin boasts of its alliance and does not trouble to explain how it can possibly justify having aided Hitler in enslaving some twenty-three million Poles. The economic transformations in the provinces occupied by the Red Army, covering eleven million people, can scarcely be said to compensate for delivering more than twice that number to Hitler. Under these conditions, the oppressed classes and peoples throughout the world have been affronted by the alliance with Hitler, thus weakening extremely the international position of the Soviet Union.
19. As in the occupation of the Polish Ukraine, so in the invasion of Finland, the Kremlin poses and resolves the question, like all other questions of its policy, absolutely independently of the idea and sentiments of the international working class. That its “successes” monstrously compromise the Soviet Union and wreak havoc in the international working class, does not concern it at all.
20. The Stalinist bureaucracy cannot provide the international working class with a satisfactory explanation of its invasion of the Polish Ukraine and Finland, because a full explanation would constitute a damning indictment of Stalinism.Stalinism is directly responsible for the fact that Finland has remained up to now an outpost of imperialism on the Soviet border. By its internal and external policies—the plight of the Finnish population of Soviet Karelia and the fate of the German proletariat under Stalinist leadership were the two facets of Stalinist policy which struck home most directly to the Finnish masses—the Stalinist bureaucracy drove into passivity a proletariat and peasantry which had always been foremost in the vanguard of revolutionary fighters in the Czarist Empire, which had conducted a heroic civil war (1918) and which had illegally maintained a powerful Communist party up until the rise of Hitler. The Soviet Union could not aid the Finnish revolution of 1918; it could certainly have aided a revolution any time in the last decade. That no revolution eventuated is the responsibility of Stalinism. Instead of Leningrad being protected by a successful Finnish proletarian revolution, it is “safeguarded” by an invasion of Finland. Essentially the same story can be told of the Polish Ukraine. Stalin cannot explain this without exposing himself.
21. Our condemnation of the military intervention of the Stalinist bureaucracy is motivated by our defense of the Soviet Union.The military-strategic advantages gained in the Polish Ukraine and Finland are far outweighed by the negative results—that the Kremlin purchases its alliance with Hitler by putting the Comintern to work whitewashing him; that the Ukrainian provinces were purchased at the price of aiding Hitler to enslave 23 million Poles; that the invasions are carried out without consideration of the will of the workers of the Soviet Union, or the occupied territories, or the international proletariat and, indeed, in direct violation of the ideas and feelings of the masses, and consequently compromise the Soviet Union and disorient the world working class.
22. Our condemnation of the military intervention of the Stalinist bureaucracy has nothing in common with the attacks upon the Soviet Union by the social-democrats, petty-bourgeois democrats, anarchists, etc. These non-Bolshevik critics of the Kremlin hypocritically denounce the Soviet Union as imperialist for using military force and for violating existing borders. For us, however, the borders of the capitalist world are not at all inviolate, and military force may very well serve revolution, as in the aid given by the Red Army to the revolution in Georgia in 1920. We argue as defenders of the Soviet Union, the non-Bolshevik critics as its enemies. It is impossible, therefore, for revolutionists to find any common ground with non-revolutionists in condemning the foreign policy of the Soviet bureaucracy.
23. The Kremlin’s crimes in foreign policy are simply a continuation of its crimes against the national economy of the Soviet Union. Its foreign policy flows from its internal policy: they constitute the mode of existence of the Bonapartist bureaucracy of a degenerated workers’ state in capitalist encirclement—nothing more or less than that. The disease necessitates surgical treatment; but that can be done only on the basis of the scientific diagnosis elaborated above. Those who, overcome by the spectacle of Stalinist degeneration, seek to exorcise it by all sorts of epithets ("imperialism,” “red fascism,” “the bureaucracy is a new class,” “no longer a workers’ state but a bureaucratic state,” etc.) do not help the cure of the disease. On the contrary, by abandoning the precise, Marxian definitions painstakingly elaborated and developed with the years by our international movement, and replacing our Marxian definitions by epithets from the arsenal of the democratic-imperialists, they only sow confusion and play into the hands of the enemies of the Soviet Union.
Regeneration of the Soviet State
24. The armed overthrow of the Soviet bureaucracy by the working clam is the necessary condition for the degeneration of the Soviet state. This political revolution is the chief task of the revolutionists in the U.S.S.R. Each day added to the domination of the bureaucracy helps rot the foundations of the socialist economy and increases the chances for capitalist restoration. The bureaucracy has, by its destruction of Soviet democracy, left open to the Soviet workers only the road of armed overthrow of the bureaucracy as the means for reviving Soviet democracy.
Within the Soviet Union today only preparatory propagandistic work is possible. The impetus to the Soviet workers’ revolutionary upsurge will probably be given by revolutionary events outside the country. The Soviet workers’ fear of the hostile surrounding capitalist world is Stalin’s guarantee for his continued domination. Were the horizons of the U.S.S.R. ringed with red instead of brown, the Soviet masses could be depended upon to settle all scores immediately against the bureaucracy. The chief strength of the bureaucracy lies not in itself but in the disillusionment and passivity of the masses, in their lack of new perspective. A wave of revolutionary struggle of the masses in the imperialist countries, certain to come in the course of the war, will open a new perspective of struggle for the Soviet masses. The struggle against social inequality and political oppression, for the freedom of the trade unions and the factory committees, for the right of assembly and freedom of the press, legalization of soviet parties, revival of the Soviets as representative bodies democratically elected on the basis of occupational representation, revision of planned economy from top to bottom in the interests of producers and consumers, the fight against the international policy of the bureaucracy and its secret diplomacy—these will be the slogans that will mobilize the masses, and the aims of their uprising against the bureaucracy. The mobilization of the masses of the Soviet Union for these aims the task of the Fourth International. The social hatred stored up by the workers against the bureaucracy—this is precisely what, from the viewpoint of the Kremlin clique, constitutes Trotskyism. The Kremlin fears with a thoroughly well-grounded fear the bond between the deep but inarticulate indignation of the workers and the organization of the Fourth International. For there is but one party capable of leading the Soviet masses to insurrection—the party of the Fourth International.
25. The growth of the productive forces in the Soviet Union as a result of the nationalization of the means of production in 1917 and in spite of the depredations of the bureaucracy signifies that the regeneration of the Soviet state will take place on a far higher economic and cultural basis than in 1918. Nevertheless, the solution of the economic contradictions of the U.S.S.R. will remain, as in 1917, solvable only in the international arena, by the world revolution. Only by linking Soviet economy to the advanced economy of the great states, once these come under the rule of the proletariat, will the danger of another degeneration be averted. But in that way it will be averted. The international revolution will put an end to all bureaucracies by putting an end to all special privilege. Control and consumption of goods will no longer constitute a privilege. Science and technology on a world scale have provided the foundations for an economy of plenty, and only the old, obsolete property forms stand in the way.
26. For an independent Soviet Ukraine, is one of the fundamental slogans of the coming revolution in the U.S.S.R. The right of self-determination, brutally violated by Stalin, must be reinstated. The indubitably widespread movement for Ukrainian independence will become the property of the capitalist restorationist movement unless it is channeled in the revolutionary movement; a channel it will find in any event. A regenerated Soviet state would easily find the way to mutually satisfactory collaboration with an independent Soviet Ukraine in a genuine Union of Soviet Republics. The same considerations hold for a national-freedom movement which may develop among the Byelorussian and other nationalities in the Soviet Union.
Defense of the Soviet Union
27. We have always stood for the unconditional defense of the Soviet Union against the capitalist world or internal attempts at capitalist restoration. Never was it more necessary to reiterate this principle than today, when the unfolding of the Second World War demonstrates that inherent in it is an attempt by the imperialists to restore capitalism in the U.S.S.R. Defense of the Soviet Union is a class duty, as it is a class duty to defend any section of the labor movement against the capitalist world. We defend the Soviet Union against capitalist blows, irrespective of the circumstances and immediate causes of the conflict.
28. Defense of the U.S.S.R. is the logical corollary of our analysis of the first workers’ state. All kinds of democratic, idealistic, ultra-left, anarchistic theories, ignoring the character of Soviet property relations or the class contradiction between the Soviet state and the bourgeois states, lead logically, especially in case of war, to counterrevolutionary conclusions.
29. Our conception of the defense of the U.S.S.R. remains in its basic fundamentals the conception which the revolutionary movement held at the very birth of the Soviet State.The defense of the Soviet Union was always conceived of as an integral part of the international revolution. The defense of the Soviet Union was conceived of as subordinated to the world revolution, in the specific sense that a part is subordinated to the whole. The Bolsheviks in 1918 were prepared to risk the existence of proletarian power in the Soviet Union for the sake of the German revolution, by virtue of the criterion that the success of the German revolution—one of the major advanced countries—was more important than the Russian revolution. Likewise today, if the U.S.S.R. were allied with Germany in the war, the German revolution would unquestionably menace the immediate interests of the defense of the U.S.S.R.; nevertheless we, like the Bolsheviks in 1918, would be for the most decisive measures to assure the success of the German revolution. This in no wise signifies the negation of the defense of the Soviet Union or a conflict between it and world revolution; for the world revolution, or any part of it more significant than the Soviet Union, such as the German revolution, would constitute in the end the most decisive defense of the Soviet Union.
30. Since the triumph of the Soviet bureaucracy (1923), the defense of the Soviet Union has involved a clear distinction between the needs of the Soviet Union and the needs of the bureaucracy.Since 1923 defense of the Soviet Union, for revolutionists, has in no way signified political support of the rulers of the Soviet state. In 1920 we supported the Red Army march into Poland as motivated by the interests of the revolution, likewise the aid given by the Red Army to the revolutionists in Georgia in wresting it from a puppet-government of the imperialists. Those were acts dictated by revolutionary considerations to the revolutionary-internationalist government of the Soviet Union. The Stalinist bureaucracy, however, represents interests and ideas almost the opposite of the interests and ideas of the October Revolution and we can therefore give no support to its politics, including its military politics (invasion of Poland, Finland, etc.).
31. Since 1927 our movement has proclaimed that the needs of the defense of the Soviet Union as a workers’ state is fundamentally separated from the bureaucracy’s defense of the U.S.S.R.It was then stated that, in the interests of the genuine defense of the Soviet Union, the proletarian vanguard can be obliged to eliminate the Stalin government and replace it with a revolutionary-internationalist government which would coordinate the defense of the U.S.S.R. with the furthering of the world revolution. The change of government was then conceived to be possible by the reform of the Communist party. In 1933 the bankruptcy of the Communist International became evident when the great German party was ordered to go down before Hitler without striking a blow. We abandoned the perspective of reform of the Communist parties, including the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The necessary change of government could, consequently, take place only by building a new revolutionary party capable of taking over the government (the new party was of course illegal by fiat of the Stalin government). By 1936 the complete extirpation of the former power of the Soviets made clear that the political revolution could take place only in the form of armed overthrow of the Soviet bureaucracy. The development of our program for the regeneration of the Soviet state, as thus outlined, was always, however, and remains so today, predicated on the conception that the task of regeneration was the best and most decisive way of defending the first workers’ state.
32. The abandonment (1933) of the perspective of regenerating the Communist International and its parties did not fundamentally affect the perspective of regenerating the Soviet state.A party and a state are not objects of the same order. A party is a selection of people on the basis of certain ideas and methods. This selection, in the Third International, became so fundamentally opposed to Marxism that we were obliged to abandon all hope of regenerating it. But the Soviet state differs from a party in that it is a complex of social institutions which continues to persist in spite of the fact that the ideas of the bureaucracy are now almost the opposite of the ideas of the October Revolution. Above all, the nationalized property in the means of production persists and determines the class character of the Soviet Union. That is why we do not renounce the possibility of regenerating the Soviet state. That dictates to us its defense against the capitalist world.
33. Defense of the Soviet Union against imperialism includes, of course, the newly occupied territories which, with the nationalization of their means of production, have become identical in class character with other parts of the U.S.S.R.
34. Our slogan for an independent Soviet Ukraine is the application to the field of the national question of our general slogan for the revolutionary overthrow of the bureaucracy. In the same sense that the revolutionary overthrow of the bureaucracy does not conflict with the defense of the Soviet Union, but on the contrary, best serves that defense, so the independence of the Soviet Ukraine will facilitate the defense of the Soviet Union. The same considerations motivate our slogan for an independent Soviet Finland.
35. Our defense of the Soviet Union is an unconditional duty. It is unconditional in two senses:
(a) We do not demand that the Soviet bureaucracy, prior to our participation in the defense of the U.S.S.R., make any agreement or concessions. Indeed, “defense” can have meaning only in this sense. For if we demanded that the bureaucracy first comply with certain conditions, or that the circumstances under which we would defend a workers’ state against imperialism be of a certain character, that would not be defense at all but, rather, defeatism. For is it not a fact that we are ready to defend the United States, for example, under certain conditions—e.g., control of the country by the working class. “Conditional defense” is a misuse of terms. One is either a defensist or a defeatist. To require nothing of the bureaucracy as a condition for our defense of the Soviet Union—that signifies also that our defense has nothing in common with that of the bureaucracy. (b) We do not shelve our aim of a political revolution in the U.S.S.R. during the war. Recognizing that the overthrow of the bureaucracy would immensely strengthen the U.S.S.R. in conducting the war, our objective of a political revolution remains in the period of the war and, indeed, becomes absolutely imperative. A number of considerations should make this obvious. If the course of the war should push Stalin into a complete military alliance with Hitler, pressure for capitalist restoration would in all likelihood come most immediately from “ally” Hitler and the “comprador” wing of the bureaucracy. Hitler would demand entry into the country for German technology to facilitate war production—but in the form of capitalist concessions, and he would be supported in his demands by the “comprador” wing of the bureaucracy. Enmeshed in the alliance, the bureaucracy would resist ineffectively, if at all. Under such conditions the resistance to capitalist restoration would require mobilization of the Soviet masses in revolutionary struggle against capitalist restoration and its agents within the Soviet Union. Such a mobilization could have as its object only a political revolution for the regeneration of the Soviet state.
The difference between this political revolution and a social revolution in an imperialist country, apart from the obvious fact that the former would not have as its task the overturn of private property, is that, whereas in the imperialist country we continue the class struggle without considering the effect on the military front, in the Soviet Union the political revolution would have to be carried on with one of its objects being to safeguard the borders at all times against imperialist invasion. In this sense, and only in this sense, our aim of political revolution is subordinated to the task of defending the state property against imperialist attack.
36. The attempt of the democratic-patriots (Norman Thomas, Lovestone, etc.) to characterize our policy as a capitulation to Stalinism is a conscious and deliberate falsification. They had to go over bodily to the camp of the “democratic” imperialists (American Labor Party resolutions) before they had the effrontery to so characterize the same policy which in former years (when they were tail-ending the Stalinists) they slandered as “anti-Soviet.” No less contemptible is the attempt to draw from our position the implication that we will join Stalin in crushing proletarian movements in the Soviet Union or elsewhere. Our struggle against Stalin’s armed forces in Loyalist Spain should be sufficient refutation of the charge. We defend the nationalized property of the Soviet Union against the imperialists. Successful proletarian revolutions, in the Soviet Union or elsewhere, would constitute the best possible defense of the Soviet Union. Hence we would defend those revolutions, arms in hand, if necessary against Stalin’s armed forces. That is the obvious meaning of our specific slogans for an independent Soviet Ukraine, an independent Soviet Finland, and a political revolution for the regeneration of the Soviet state.
37. The fundamental difference between our conception of defense of the U.S.S.R. and that of the Stalinists is today especially sharply posed.On the question of the German revolution Stalin is whitewashing Hitler, presenting his “peace” policy as good coin, calling the masses to struggle only against those opposed to Hitler’s policy. The Comintern press indignantly repeats Goebbels’ charges against the British as responsible for the attempted bombing of Hitler, and utilizes the occasion to warn the workers that Hitler’s replacement would most likely take the form of a monarchist restoration aimed against the U.S.S.R.—ergo, Hitler should remain. We, on the contrary, insist that the hostility of the German working class against the Nazi regime must in the course of the war find the way to destroying the Nazi regime. Not merely because the Nazi regime is an unstable, treacherous ally of the U.S.S.R. but above all because a German revolution would far outweigh in importance the Russian Revolution.
The specific weight of the German revolution and its successful prosecution are in no way impeded, however, if the vanguard of the German working class gives due consideration to the needs of the U.S.S.R.—its real needs and not those asserted by the bureaucracy. If, for example, Hitler, finds himself constrained by the logic of the situation to send military supplies to the Soviet Union; the German workers would have no reason, in that concrete instance; to resort to strike or sabotage. The development of the German revolution would find sufficient scope while facilitating whatever material aid the Soviet Union would be receiving from its imperialist ally 38. In the imperialist countries fighting against the U.S.S.R. in a war, also, the proletariat must not lose sight of the interests of the U.S.S.R.;in cases of real necessity, the workers must resort to the most decisive action: strikes, acts of sabotage, etc. in order to hinder the sending of soldiers and supplies against the U.S.S.R.
The practical differences dictated to the workers on each side in connection with the defense of the U.S.S.R. in no way modify the fundamental principle that, in all imperialist countries, independent of the fact as to whether or not they are in alliance with the U.S.S.R., the proletariat must develop the class struggle with the purpose of seizing power as soon as possible.
39. For the revolutionary vanguard in the democratic imperialist countries, where their voices are being drowned out by the anti-Soviet thunder, the real danger now is not the danger of confusion between our concept of what is worthy of defense in the U.S.S.R. and that of the Stalinists, but the danger that we may give direct or indirect help to the dominant political current which tries to identify the U.S.S.R. with the Fascist states. In order to inspire the workers to defend the Soviet Union, it is vitally important to make clear to them what we defend (nationalized property), against whom (the imperialists and the bureaucracy), and how (by revolutionary means). This work of developing clear and inspiring slogans will not produce miraculous results, for we are working amid the thunderous din of democratic-imperialist propaganda. Our voices may very well be drowned out for a time by the first waves of patriotism. We are going today against the stream. He who argues against our program from the standpoint that it is difficult to make it persuasive to the workers, is thereby yielding to the democratic pressure; if logical, he will end up in the patriotic camp.
40. We are not a government party; we are the party of irreconcilable opposition, not only in capitalist countries but also in the U.S.S.R. Our tasks, among them the “defense” of the U.S.S.R., we realize not through the medium of bourgeois governments and not even through the government of the U.S.S.R., but exclusively through the education of the masses, through agitation, through explaining to the workers what they should defend and what they should overthrow. Such a defense cannot give immediate miraculous results. Our work must be directed so that the workers on whom we have influence should correctly appraise events, not permit themselves to be caught unawares, and prepare the general sentiment of their own class for the revolutionary solution of the tasks confronting us.
This kind of defense of the U.S.S.R. naturally differs, as night from day, from the official defense which the Stalinists conduct. The difference is summed up in these slogans. The Stalinists say: “For the Fatherland! For Stalin!” The defense waged by the Fourth International is carried on under the slogan: “For Socialism! For the world revolution! Against Stalin!”
Last updated on 28.12.2005