The Invading Socialist Society. C L R James and Raya Dunayevskaya 1947
From the concrete exposition of policy in one of the most difficult and therefore most revealing problems in the modern struggle for socialism, it is necessary now to pass to the political tendencies in the Fourth International. But here also the terms sectarian, Menshevik, Economist, Bolshevik, make no sense except in strict relation to the analysis of the mass movement.
How difficult and misleading it is to use these words like sectarian unless within the framework of an analysis of the epoch is demonstrated by the example of Munis. In 1944 Munis and Peralta put forward the following program for the European workers; and in 1946 repeated it in another publication.
“1 The arming of the proletariat must be extended to the entire proletarian class and to the poor peasants. At the same time, we must demand the disarmament and dissolution of the armed forces of the bourgeoisie (army, police, etc.) and achieve this as soon as the occasion presents itself. ...
“2 ... The nationalization of industry, of finance capital or of the land by the capitalist state must not deceive the masses. That will be a trick of bourgeois, Stalinist and reformist coalitions to preserve capitalist property. Any confiscated property must not be delivered to the bourgeois state. The proletariat must administer the economy by itself and establish a single plan for all countries to the degree that international contact among the exploited permits this. It is already possible to elaborate a project of unified production between the French, Italian and Belgian proletariat; tomorrow it will be possible with the German Spanish, Greek, Russian workers, etc. Although the coalitions between bourgeois, Stalinists and “socialists” supported by the bayonets of Wall Street, of the City and of the Kremlin prevent for the moment the putting into practice of a social plan for Europe, the project ought to be established and defended by the revolutionaries of every country. In the face of the reactionary designs of the governmental coalitions, it would be an enormous force for propaganda, of persuasion and of socialist agitation
“3. ... Where ... committees do not exist, the immediate objective of the masses ought to be their establishment. Where they exist, they must be united on a national scale by the means of the Congress of Committees which will study and resolve the problems of the masses and of the social revolution. The committees, of workers peasants and soldiers of different nationalities ought to make contact on the first occasion possible and create a Supreme Council of European Committees... What precedes can be summed up in this slogan. All political power to the Committees of Workers, Peasants and Soldiers and, for
The masses in general: Socialist United States of Europe.” ( LE GROUPE ESPAGNOL OF THE 4TH INTERNATIONAL IN MEXICO, Manifesto of October 31, 1944, translated from the French.)
We need not subscribe to every word. But the conception is magnificently concrete. Munis also makes it perfectly clear that a lull in the offensive of the proletariat does not alter the validity of this program. As we shall show, in this he is absolutely correct. There is not an ounce of sectarianism in this and people who in one place preach the approaching downfall of civilization and then reject as sectarian a program for the international mobilization of the proletariat are playing with revolution.
Yet Munis is a sectarian. His sectarianism consists essentially in his rejection of the slogan, the Communist Party to power. We unceasingly propagate the committees and the international plan, but until we have the committees, the Stalinist parties represent a profound mass mobilization and must be supported as we have described. The question is: What does Munis represent?
In 1920 during the revolutionary turmoil after the last war the Communist International faced the disease of infantile leftism, at the bottom of which was a refusal to make a revolutionary use of bourgeois parliaments. This sectarianism had its origin in the failure of the revolution because of the corruption of the Social-Democracy by bourgeois parliamentarism.
Munis represents the infantile leftism of today. Where bourgeois parliamentarism corrupted the proletariat in the period that culminated in the foundation of the Third International, the developed objective situation has produced a new type of betrayal, the betrayal of the Social-Democracy and Communist Parties with the actual state power in their hands. Just as the Left in 1919 reacted too violently against the corruption that had preceded them, so Munis reacts against the corruption that has preceded the historic opportunities presented to the Fourth International.
Germain, who is able to explain little, cannot explain Munis. He therefore cannot prepare the Fourth International for what can be a very serious danger: the violent reaction of increasing layers of the revolutionary masses as they see through Stalinism and their refusal to recognize the necessity of tactical compromises with even the bureaucracies of the Communist Parties in Western Europe.
But with Munis, his political positions carry over into his organizational practices. The same un-Bolshevik ferocity that he displays to the labor leadership – not Stalinism alone – he displays in regard to the leadership of the Fourth International.
Munis represents a tendency which has emancipated itself from the preoccupation with Stalinism as a mode of thought. His attack is on the labor bureaucracies, both Stalinist and reformist. His basis is obviously the proletarian revolution, the mass movement, as we have outlined it in this pamphlet. It is far different with the other tendencies.
The Johnson-Forest tendency in 1946, analyzed “the dual heritage” in the position left by Trotsky to the Fourth International: on the one hand, the Leninist program for the mobilization of the proletariat for the world proletarian revolution; on the other, the Russian position. We pointed out further that the movement was dividing along two lines – not on mere defeatism, but on the Russian experience in relation to the world revolution.
Now it is becoming perfectly clear that the political tendencies in the International are dividing along the lines we have indicated. The I.K.D., in its theory of historical retrogression, has elaborated the most fully and drawn to its ultimate conclusion those theories which are rooted in the degeneration of the Russian revolution.
The theory of retrogression claims that the degeneration of bourgeois society brings with it the degeneration of the proletariat. This has received its most finished and revealing manifestation in a passage from a thesis submitted to the 1946 Convention by the I.K.D. Fighting to break through the wall of conservatism of the W. P. Majority, the Johnson-Forest tendency had challenged it with the statement that in the United States no one could exclude the possibility that within two years a general strike could take place and the workers could form, if not Soviets, workers’ councils. The W. P. Majority which in a few months (such is centrism) would go much further than this, not in theory but concretely, professed to see in this a forecast of the last stages of the insurrection and the struggle for power. The I.K.D., however, took up the challenge directly and produced the following. The quotation is long but it has the advantage of saying everything.
“The necessity for a revolutionary leadership is recognized in words, but one has not the least notion how it has to be constituted. In order to convince ourselves of this let us push the insanity to extremes and assume that J. R. Johnson takes power with his party in the spring of 1948 Of course, Johnson will have Soviets all over and have at his command any number of different kinds of ‘workers’ committees.’ In addition the party will be imbued with the kind of wisdom which Johnson takes for ‘Marxism.’ We assume further that even the mass of workers have understood Johnson ‘fully and completely.’ Then what?
“On the basis of the ‘conception’ of the party which especially Johnson and the official Fourth hold, we would then experience a catastrophe of unimaginable extent.
“We would be faced by this problem: Army and industry national and international politics, agriculture and trade, imports and exports, educational system and propaganda, scientific research and technical apparatus, statistics and medicine, administration, housing and a hundred other branches would not only have to be re-organized, but also controlled and led. We would find ourselves in a concrete situation facing Stalinism as well as the church, the reformists, the other parties, the international diplomacy and the armed counter-revolution. Finance, regulation of currency, legislation, postal service, radio the motion pictures psychology, philosophy, pedagogy, literature, art, family life, sports, recreation, penology and a thousand other questions would create troubles which Johnson’s book-learning does not dream of. Faced with all these difficulties which (let us repeat emphatically) cannot be enumerated and are of gigantic dimensions, Johnson would realize that he has not understood “Das Kapital” if for no other reason than that he doesn’t understand anything about bourgeois society. Where enormous knowledge and utmost many-sidedness are required he would operate with a dead schemata. He would be at the mercy of the bourgeois specialists in every detail, for better or for worse.
“Does anyone imagine that one could do without this army of specialists or force them to cooperate through the ‘dictatorship’ because there are sufficient numbers of technically trained workers to keep production running? But just to maintain production and distribution, economists, architects, technicians, engineers, physicists, chemists, experts in forestry, mining, transportation, agriculture etc., are needed without end. All these people would not let themselves be commandeered by a party which is not in a position to check up on them. Under such circumstances even large stratas of workers, would assume definite traits of a “ruling” class in the bad sense and fall prey to this ever-present danger, the easier the more ignorant the party, and thus bring the workers to power as pure products of the capitalist environment. The workers then would have practically no more to offer than their “proletarian” self-conceit or the arrogance of their ‘historical’ mission. They would commit stupidity after stupidity. They would be forced to rule by naked power, arouse all the world against themselves and lengthen the chain of difficulties from this unforeseen point to the final decline of the revolution.
“In civilized countries the conquest and the maintaining of power are much more difficult than in backward ones (for example, in barbaric Russia). The more developed a country the more knowledge is required, and the more difficult is it to convince the specialists, to win them over and to discipline them. If Johnson, trusting in the development of the class struggle, would, after taking power, assemble them and submit his ‘plans’ they would remark to each other after the first address: Why, this is a prattler! He thinks he can solve difficult questions with agitational speeches.’
“Of course, every great revolution makes a great number of scholars, specialists, intellectuals of all kinds willing to join and be at its disposal. Only it has to be a great revolution and not a Johnsonnade upon which one will look with a superior smile or with panic as upon a folly, a childishness, a queer idea or an insane adventure. In the absence of a party which has already gained great political and moral authority the achievement of socialism will be lost every time.” (“The Crisis of Socialism and How to Overcome It,” BULLETIN OF THE W.P., Vol. I, No. 17, pp. 16-17.)
The strictly political implications of this are of profound importance for the clarification of our movement and the understanding of the class struggle. The extract shows that the state-capitalism of the I.K.D. is merely another name for bureaucratic collectivism or the managerial society of Burnham. The technicians and the managers will defeat the most powerful proletariat in the world in the most advanced society in the world because of the absence, not of a party, but of a special type of party. So special is this type of party that of necessity there looms the probability of “a third alternative.” It is not only the seizure of power that is feared. It is what happens after.
This party obviously is not a party consisting predominantly of workers. It is a party able to handle the fearsome hub of problems detailed by the I.K.D., a party of the educated elite. This is in theory the class basis of the Stalinist corruption of the proletariat in Western Europe. Thus the I.K.D. represents not Menshevik tendencies in general. It is a Menshevik tendency which corresponds to the degeneration of the Third International as classic Menshevism corresponded to the degeneration of the Second. Because Germain is unable to analyze the proletariat and the Stalinist parties, he is thereby as unable to analyze the I.K.D. as he is baffled by Munis.
The practical consequences of the policy of the I.K.D. are no less important. All who hold these views are and must be mortal enemies of the revolutionary struggle for power and the revolutionary propaganda and agitation which go with it. These must wait for the party. Agitation for revolution, propaganda for revolution, is pushing the proletariat to its certain destruction. The proletariat is not ready. The party is not ready.
From this flows the unbridled, the ungovernable ferocity and rage with which the extreme representatives of this tendency attack the Fourth International, the bitterness and hate with which they review the whole past history of the proletariat, and the platonic construction which they call the role of the party.
As always in the historical manifestations of a logical line, the supporters of the I.K.D. show every variety of deviation and combination of contradictory phenomena, usually an empirical response to national conditions. But all through run certain conceptions, e.g., the backwardness of the masses, and the predilection for a realistic, “practical,” “non-sectarian” policy, in other words, the drowning of Bolshevism in ill-concealed Menshevik politics. They show a fanatical interest in statistics of boom and economic “stabilization.” The maintenance of some sort of equilibrium by an American financed recovery is vital for these tendencies. Without it the struggle might be precipitated by the backward proletariat upon the unready party. In varying degrees the policy is the policy of “the lesser evil,” i.e, the labor status quo, until such time as the proletariat and the party are ready For them always the status quo. In the U. S. they capitulate to American petty-bourgeois radicalism and the union bureaucracy; in Britain they capitulate to the labor government; in France they capitulate to the Stalinist bureaucracy. For a second it might appear that the French capitulation to Stalinism is out of line. It is not. France is accustomed to a variety of revolutionary and counter-revolutionary regimes Stalin-ism leads the mass labor movement in France and is unlikely for some time to do more than maintain the democratic regime with some more nationalization.
The Workers Party has added a new theoretical clarification to these tendencies. It has now declared that there hangs a great question mark over the ability of the proletariat to reassemble a revolutionary leadership before it is “destroyed” by disintegrating capitalism.
Under these compulsions slogans such as National Liberation Constituent Assembly, nationalization, for the Labor Party in the United States and all variety of “democratic demands” assume the most conservative not to say reactionary, character. At the back of all this is a conception of the proletariat, learned in the Russian degeneration and fortified by the defeats in Europe.
Trotsky stood for the defense of the degenerated workers state but never except as a theoretical prognosis for the purpose of showing what was Evolved, did he adulterate the Bolshevism of the world revolution by the faintest trace of this poison.
We have elsewhere defined the tendency of Germain as an Economist tendency:
“In 1902 the Economists governed themselves by the economic necessity of large scale production rather than the mobilization of the masses to fight Tsarism and establish their political unification in the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry. In 1916, the imperialist Economists governed themselves by the economic necessity of supra-national centralization rather than the unification and mobilization of the proletariat and peasantry of the oppressed and oppressing countries. In 1918, Bukharin posed the economic necessity of nationalization rather than the mobilization of the Russian masses into their own organizations to control production and safeguard against counter-revolution
What does Germain propose today? In the full Economist tradition adapted to the present situation, he continues to speak of the economically progressive character of nationalization and planned economy. Already in Poland, his position shows the political seriousness of basic error. The Economists of 1902 thought that they were only defending the economic organization of large scale capitalism. In reality they were defending Tsarism because only the revolutionary democratic mobilization of the proletariat and peasantry could destroy political feudalism. The imperialist Economists in 1916 thought they were only defending the economic centralization accomplished by imperialism. In reality they were defending imperialism because only the mobilization of the masses of the oppressed and oppressing countries could destroy national domination. Germain in 1947 thinks he is only defending the nationalization and planned economy of the bureaucracy. In reality, he is defending Stalinism because only the strategic perspective of revolutionary reconstruction by the European masses as a unit, and particularly in Russia, Eastern Europe and Germany, can oppose both the internationalism of Stalinist Russia and the internationalism of American imperialism. No matter how loudly Germain proclaims that Stalinism is the main danger, no matter how he shifts on defeatism or defensism in Russia, he cannot wiggle out of his capitulation to Stalinism so long as he continues to look to economic centralization and planning for social progress.” (“The Economist Tendency In The Fourth International.”)
The basis for the Economist tendency of Germain lies in its special reaction to Trotsky’s heritage. It is the only tendency which tries to maintain “the dual heritage” as a unified world conception under circumstances which demand a development of the theory. The result is that the Germain tendency neither “defends” Russia by Trotsky’s method, nor fully advocates the world revolution by Trotsky’s method.
It continually vacillates on the defense of the workers’ state. It dared not call for the victory of Stalinist Russian over Japanese troops and only the rapid end of the war saved it from the full consequences of its false position. It finally calls for the withdrawal of the troops of the Red Army from the occupied regions, a policy which could not possibly be advocated by a political tendency which had thought through and was willing to face all the implications of its position.
The Red Army and the Kremlin are “introducing” in Germany according to Germain, “progressive property forms through bureaucratic measures.” American imperialism, as its maneuvers in regard to the Ruhr show, seeks “to preserve reactionary property forms through reactionary measures.” Whenever faced with this choice, says Trotsky, we choose “the lesser evil.” The Fourth International cannot choose. The source of these vacillations is rooted deep in theory.
Shachtman defines the relations of production in Russia as “slavery,” a definition of no value whatsoever except that by negation it excludes the Russian proletariat as being prepared for the socialist revolution by the mechanism of production itself. But the tendency of Germain, by insisting that the origin of the Stalinist bureaucracy is in consumption only, implies that the relations of production in Russia are socialist (or transitional to socialism) and thereby makes the revolution of the Russian proletariat a response to “tyranny” and “oppression” or stimulation from external forces. Germain continues to insist that the revolution in Russia is a political revolution. Thus, he and Shachtman exclude a revolution of the Russian proletariat based upon the process of production. The result is that, despite phrases, both in practice exclude the Russian proletariat as a revolutionary force from their calculations of revolution on a world scale.
Shachtman sees the world proletariat essentially through the same defeatist spectacles through which he views the Russian proletariat. He places a big question mark on the whole revolutionary perspective. He hands over the theoretical decision which he has to make to an empirical mysticism which he euphemistically calls “struggle.” What is his policy therefore? He holds on to the “democratic” labor bureaucracy as the French Majority holds on to the Stalinist bureaucracy. They want “a democratic interlude.” They want the proletarian revolution to wait until the mass party can guarantee a struggle without possibility of catastrophe.
Germain and his co-thinkers apply to the Russian proletariat the policy that Shachtman applies to the world proletariat. Where Shachtman and Co. hold on to the labor bureaucracy, Germain and his co-thinkers hold on to the nationalized property. They elevate into a policy Trotsky’s analogy of the Russian state as a big trade union. Their defensism continues because they are terrified of the proletarian revolution in Russia unless a mass revolutionary party can guarantee that imperialism will not profit by the defeat of the bureaucracy.
Shachtman vacillates between a verbal revolutionism and his actual subordination to the “democratic interlude” of the labor leadership. Germain vacillates between a real revolutionism in Western Europe and the Kremlin and Red Army. Shachtman’s revolutionism wrecked against his need to support the bureaucracies of Western Europe Germain’s revolutionism is wrecked against his defense of the nationalized property, i.e., the Kremlin and the Red Army
With the increasing success, i.e. lease on life, of the labor bureaucracy, Shachtman, the petty-bourgeois, becomes more defensist i.e., more Menshevik in his politics. With the increasing success of the Kremlin and the Red Army, however, Germain, a Bolshevik is compelled to become increasingly defeatist in regard to the Kremlin bureaucracy. The great difference lies in the perspective of world proletarian revolution consistently maintained by Germain and questioned by Shachtman. That is why Shachtman, beginning with a conditional defensism in 1941, ends with an unconditional defeatism in regard to Russia based upon a defeatist attitude to the proletariat everywhere. It is the concept of the world proletarian revolution which is driving Germain from a conditional to an unconditional defeatism in regard to the Kremlin and the Red Army.
The vacillations of Shachtman can be cured only by a recognition of the elemental and instinctive drive of the proletariat on a world scale and particularly, in his own country, to reconstruct society on communist beginnings. The vacillations of Germain can be cured only by the recognition of the elemental and instinctive drive of the Russian proletariat to reconstruct society on communist beginnings.
But if Russia and “nationalized property” are not adequately defended, the world revolutionary aspect of Trotsky’s heritage is not adequately defended either. The vacillation on Russian defense is reflected in the propaganda for the world revolution by the Fourth International.
The concept of the predominant role of the party, learnt in Russia, is transferred to Western Europe. It bases the corruption of the bureaucracies of the Communist Parties on the machinations of the Kremlin and not on the developed antagonisms of the bourgeoisie, the proletariat and the petty-bourgeoisie. Thereby, it is unable to meet on a fundamental class basis the demoralized opportunism of Shachtman and the IKD nor the infantile leftism of Munis.
Its revolutionary propaganda tends to demand certain actions of the proletariat rather than elicit and develop its own proletarian experiences. Hence its embarrassment when these actions do not take place and Shachtman and the I.K.D.’ers demand: where is the revolution you promised? ; its unrewarding concentration on issues like the vote on the referendum. As we demonstrated, it promulgates the revolutionary readiness of the masses but cannot motivate it from the objective manifestations as Trotsky did in regard to the union movement in 1919. It announces rather than analyzes. Its revolutionism consists more in exhortation, and in manifestos rather than the concrete daily presentation of the revolutionary program. It does not see the organic unity between the party and the revolutionary masses but is far too much governed by the false idea of Lenin in “What is to be Done” that the party brings socialist consciousness to the masses from the outside -direct result of the theory of the degenerated workers’ state Worse still, Germain now begins to find the consciousness and organization of the proletariat in 1944 lower than it was in 1918. He finds that the phenomenal growth of Stalinism corresponds to the “historic retreat” of the workers movement. If the vacillation on the Russian question is to be corrected by the revision, not the exposition, of Trotsky’s theory on Russia, the vacillation on the world revolution is to be corrected by the most resolute struggle for the method of Bolshevism. We shall take as a model the Third Congress of the Comintern, dominated by Trotsky, the same Trotsky who wrote the Transitional Program. (
In 1921 the Third International recognized that the revolutionary wave which began in October 1917 had passed.
“The first period of the revolutionary movement after the war is characterized by the elemental nature of the onslaught, by the considerable formlessness of its methods and aims and by the extreme panic of the ruling classes; and it may be regarded by and large as terminated.”
No such situation exists today. The extreme panic of the ruling-classes is far greater than in 1921. The quotation above continues:
“The class self-confidence of the bourgeoisie and the outward stability of its state organs have undoubtedly become strengthened. The dread of Communism has abated, if not completely disappeared. The leaders of the bourgeoisie are new even boasting about the might of their state apparatus and have everywhere assumed the offensive against the working masses, on both the economic and political fronts.”
Now some such period as this is what Trotsky had in mind when he wrote in 1939 that if, during or after the war the proletariat did not succeed in making the revolution and was thrown back on all fronts, then he could not conceive another situation in which it could conquer. If there are those who think that such a situation has now been reached, let them say so and stop their intolerable playing with great questions.
Of the proletariat itself the Theses of the Third Congress state:
“The elements of stability, of conservatism and of tradition, completely upset in social relations, have lost most of their authority over the consciousness of the toiling masses.”
We ask: When were the workers all over the world ever so free of all elements of stability, of conservatism, of tradition? If Stalinism corrupts the revolutionary urge of the masses in 1947, the Social-Democracy corrupted it in 1921. If Stalinism is the extreme corruption that it is, that is because of the extreme revolutionism of the masses. This is strictly in accordance with the laws of social development and is not the product of the Kremlin.
The Theses call the capitalism of 1921 “Capitalism in its death-agony.” The whole of world civilization is no longer in its death agony. Putrefaction and gangrene have set in. But the International cannot see this because it persists in seeing progress in the monstrous barbarism of Russia and the spread of this into Europe and Asia.
The Third Congress in its Thesis on Tactics, did not debate the level of consciousness of the masses. It gave freely to the centrists all that they wanted of this. It attributed the failure of the revolution to the treachery of the workers’ parties and added further:
“... it is this which during the period of apparent prosperity of 1919-20 encouraged new hopes in the proletariat of improving its conditions within the framework of capitalism, the essential cause of the defeat of the risings in 1919 and of the decline of the revolutionary movements in 1919-1920.”
Take that and do your best with it, Comrade Shachtman and all your co-thinkers. The Congress admitted that: “the majority of the workers is not yet under the influence of communism, above all, in the countries where the power of finance capital is particularly strong and has given birth to vast layers of workers corrupted by imperialism (for example in England and the United States) and where genuine revolutionary propaganda among the masses is just beginning.” Most important of all, the greatest fight at this Congress was around rejecting the theory of the offensive and the Congress insisted that there was no possibility of the revolution until the majority of the proletariat accepted the leadership of the Communists
Take it all, Comrade Shachtman and all the rest of you: Invent for 1947 a bourgeoisie confident, vast layers of workers corrupted by imperialism, a majority not accepting revolution, make your reactionary fantasies into a thesis. The International wastes its time and betrays its own vacillations when it argues with you on that basis.
It wastes its time. It betrays its own vacillations. Because in 1921 after registering the set-back, the decline of the mass revolts, the confidence and boasting of the bourgeoisie, the Third Congress then put forward policy. And what was this policy?
“All agitation and propaganda, every action of the Communist Party ought to be permeated by this sentiment, that on the capitalist basis, no durable amelioration of the condition of the great body of the proletariat is possible; that only the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the destruction of the capitalist state will make it possible to work for the improvement of the conditions of the proletariat and to restore the national economy ruined by capitalism.”
For 1947, is this Bolshevik policy or not? This is the question that must be answered. But for it to be answered, it must be asked and the example must be set. This is and has been the basic position of the Johnson-Forest tendency since 1943. Is it sectarianism, ultra-leftism, semi-syndicalism, phrase-mongering? Then let us have it asked and clearly answered on all sides.
The Thesis warns that this, of course, should not prevent the struggle for vital, actual and immediate demands of the workers. But these were not to be substituted for the propaganda and agitation for the revolutionary overthrow of bourgeois society. These theses, it should be noted, were not literary or historic surveys. They were written in 1921 to guide the parties until 1922:
“The revolutionary character of the present epoch consists precisely in this that the most modest conditions of existence for the working- masses are incompatible with the existence of capitalist society, and that for this reason even the struggle for the most modest demands takes on the proportions of a struggle for communism.”
The 1921 Theses say that the struggles may be defensive but it is the duty of the party to deepen the defensive struggle, to amplify it and turn it into an offensive.
To the French Party the thesis offered some advice, the reaction against the war was developing more slowly in France than in the other countries. In other words, the French proletariat was more “backward” than the others of continental Europe. The advice of the Third Congress was:
“The practical agitation ought to take a character very much more pointed and more energetic. It ought not to dissipate itself w incidental situations and the shifting and variable combinations of daily politics. In all events small or large, the agitation of the party should draw the same fundamental revolutionary conclusions and inculcate them into the working masses even the most backward.”
This is Bolshevism. Or is it sectarianism?
In 1922 the Fourth Congress met. It said that fascism, white terror and the state of siege against the proletariat was rising. It said that there was approaching an era of democratic-pacifist illusions, and democratic-pacifist governments in France and Britain. It warned that there were many stages between defeat and victory. It showed that with the decline of the revolutionary wave, the centrists had moved away from the Third International and gone back to the Second. But it did not then begin wailing about the illusions of the masses or speculating on the date of the insurrection. Instead it declared:
“The conception according to which, in the unstable equilibrium of contemporary bourgeois society, the gravest crisis can suddenly burst as the result of a great strike, a colonial uprising or a new war, or even a parliamentary crisis, is even truer today than it was at the time of the Third Congress.
“But it is precisely because of this that the ‘subjective’ factor. that is to say, the degree of understanding, of will, of combativity, and of organization of the working class and of its vanguard acquires an enormous importance.
“The majority of the working class of the United States and of Europe ought to be won, that is the essential task of the Communist International today as formerly.”
Now we ask: If this was Bolshevism in 1921, where is Bolshevism in 1947 ? A mighty debate shakes the conference halls of the British Congress. On what? Entry or non-entry into the Labor Party. The whole British party, majority and minority, despite superficial differences, is united on the most backward, the most superficial conceptions of the world economy and the crisis in Britain. Under its nose a responsible bourgeois journal writes:
“The severity of the problems that face the country is such that the great majority of people would endorse any policy that offered a real prospect of emerging from them. This does not exclude even the extreme forms of Socialism, enforced by dictatorial methods, that are advocated by the ‘Keep Left’ school.” * [*The Economist, August 16, 1947]
This is a serious warning to the International and can be verified in innumerable ways. The article appeared in the week that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition warned the British people of a crisis surpassing the crisis of the war. In the same week the Congress debated on the level of: illusions, no illusions; boom, no boom; lull, no lull. For this the International bears the entire responsibility as it does for the shameful and suicidal policies of the French Majority. In a world of great strikes, of continuous parliamentary crises, of colonial revolts on an unheard-of scale, and universal fear of war, in a society where no state has firm foundations under its feet, where all governments leap from one adventure to another, in this world unable to stand still, where all the negative features of 1921 are multiplied ten times over and the positive features have disappeared, here the International, in not one single document or discussion can face the Menshevik tendencies even with the Bolshevism of 1921, far less with what is required in 1947.
The inevitable result could have been foretold. Organizational and petty political problems such as entry or non-entry become dividing lines and the Russian question becomes a football in which extreme right and extreme left maneuver, each for its own purposes, wholesome or otherwise.
Yet even with this disorder rampant in its ranks the International is politically unable to defend Bolshevism for our epoch and differentiate itself from other tendencies. In July-August 1947, it publishes an editorial in the journal Quatrieme International with the portentous title “New Stage.” The new stage is not as in 1921, the recognition of defeat. No, it is quite the reverse.
“For the first time since the “liberation,” the proletariat (in France, Belgium, Italy and Holland) has taken the field in a vast class movement, conquering inertia and even the opposition of the bureaucratic apparatus of the Stalinist and reformist leadership, and partially disrupting them.
“There has taken place a sharp break, very important, above all from the consequences which it will have in the near future, between large layers of the proletarian vanguard and these leaderships. The experience acquired by the masses which have joined the battle with such vitality and dynamism in the great struggles of the past weeks will serve to reinforce the rapidity of revolutionary emergence from the treacherous tutelage of Stalinism and reformism.”
Here in the midst of the greatest dislocation of society ever known is a great movement of the proletariat on a continental scale accompanied by vast colonial movements in the Near East, the Far East and Africa. But the conclusion betrays the un-Leninist vacillation and timidity.
“Finally, after carefully weighing everything, one is compelled to conclude that we probably have before us a period of at least some years during which no decision will be arrived at either in the sphere of war or in the sphere of triumphant Revolution, but which will be characterized by the instability of the bourgeoisie, by great economic and political difficulties, by convulsions and crisis, and which will unloose, in the inevitable struggles which will be waged by the world proletariat and the colonial peoples, new revolutionary forces freed from Stalinist tutelage.”
The writer is “compelled to conclude” that we probably have before us a period of “at least some years.”
What is this doing here ? All the centrists, Shachtman in the lead, will pounce upon this, declaring that this is what they have been saying when in reality they have been saying something fundamentally different Whoever promised the victorious revolution as the overthrow of capitalism on a world or at least a continental scale except after long years of advancing and retreating struggle?
This passage in this place is a concession, one of the perpetual concessions to the centrists which they use to advance their own reactionary policies. Trotsky said in 1938 to the American comrades: You may be perfectly able to conquer the power in ten years. Therefore begin the revolutionary preparation for the masses now. And when Shachtman in 1938 thought as he still thinks that the time for revolutionary slogans is when the seizure of power was approaching Trotsky shouted at him, “How can we in such a critical situation as now exists in the whole world, in the U. S. measure the stage of development of the workers’ movements?”
We ask these editorial writers the same: How can you, in the situation of 1947 measure the development of “the new stage"? Either the statement means nothing except what every Marxist knows since Marx’s thesis of 1850, (it can be found in the Thesis of the Third Congress) or it is a political capitulation. Every line of the Third Congress is directed against precisely this “some years before the revolution” thesis, the political haven of left Menshevism.
Immediately after this the editorial swings away to the left.
“The new stage is above all marked by the broadest and most fertile intervention of the proletariat, which upsets all the calculations of the bourgeoisie and of the Stalinist bureaucracy...”
The words we have underlined should not be written if they are not meant. But before the sentence is over we are on the right again.
“... which can and must decide the historic alternative, not in the direction of war but in that of the world socialist revolution.”
The revolution is opposed not to the counter-revolution but to the war. That is precisely what all defeatists do and the extreme rightists are now doing.
Finally to clinch the confusion, the editorial ends as follows:
“It is for us, world movement of the Fourth International, to unfold before the oppressed masses of the world, clearly, audaciously, this perspective of the possible preparation of the Revolution which can prevent the war and lead tortured mankind from the impasse and the toils in which it is plunged by imperialism and the soviet bureaucracy...”
The war again is posed as alternative to the “possible” preparation of the revolution. We prefer not to try to explain what this means. But the last sentence cannot be ignored.
“The new stage into which we enter is that of the hardening of the revolutionary forces for the preparation, slow perhaps, but sure, of the Revolution.”
That last sentence is a political catastrophe. Shachtman, the French Majority, the British Party, the I.K.D., every conservative tendency in the International can hold to their positions and agree completely with this. How does one carry out a preparation, slow, perhaps, but sure for a revolution! The difference lies then in the perhaps. Shachtman is absolutely certain that the preparation will be slow. Some of his closest supporters think it will be twenty years. Otherwise, despite the great question-mark, Shachtman, who is liberal about these things, will be willing to be sure of the ultimate revolution just as long as the preparation is slow. And if, now that the proletariat in one great series of strikes has “upset all the calculations of the bourgeoisie and of the Stalinist bureaucracy,” if with this new stage, we declare that now the preparation is to be slow (perhaps) but sure, then during the two previous years when the proletariat did not advance to the new stage what exactly should have been the tempo of the preparation – presumably extremely slow and conversely extremely sure.
During two years the centrifugal elements in the International have with no slowness at all, (here they are never slow) and with a growing sureness, gathered their reactionary forces and are now declaring themselves. At this time, when the International, on the basis of the new stage, should have swept this continual setting the time for the revolution into the dustbin* [*The Johnson-Forest tendency met this same reactionary pre-occupation with perspectives of boom from the Workers Party Majority in 1946. We categorically refused to substitute the red herring of discussion on boom for the strategic questions.] and met them with the stiffest and most uncompromising programmatic counter-attack, this is the time it chooses to dally with them and in addition to statistics of boom, offers them united fronts on the time-table of the revolution. The insurrection will come when it will come, the world revolution will triumph in the whole world or in part in its own time. This has been and can be legitimate subject for discussion. But only after there is programmatic agreement. These questions, when raised in the midst of a world crisis never mean what they say on the surface but are a cover for retreat and reaction. Our task is to recognize, in the words of the Third Congress:
“The revolutionary character of the present epoch consists precisely in this that the most modest conditions of the masses are incompatible with the existence of capitalist society and that for this reason even the struggle for the most modest demands takes on the proportions of a struggle for communism.”
How is it possible in the face of this to tell the workers about the slow but sure preparation of the revolution. They are then slowly but surely to starve and shiver without houses, without clothes, without fuel.
Over and over again, in reading the debates between right and left we are reminded of the pregnant words of Chaulieu and Montal, French Minorityites: “Only the vocabulary distinguishes Frank from Geoffroy.”
The basis, the spearhead of Bolshevism in our time is the uncompromising presentation of the need and the methods of social revolution. Nothing else can be the basis. It is the lack of this basis which make it sometimes almost impossible to distinguish right from left at some plenum debates except by the names of the speakers. And this feebleness is not accidental. We can only repeat. It is the Russian position which holds back the International from making a Bolshevik use of the Transitional Program.
It has been necessary to establish the method of Bolshevism, because of the fate that has overtaken the Transitional Program of Trotsky. The Transitional Program is one of the great documents of Marxism, Bolshevism of our time. Yet it is being made the vehicle for the most reactionary theory and practice.
We shall here show what it was, what it is and to what degree 1947 has made readjustments and extensions necessary.
The Transitional Program of 1938 was a program for the “systematic mobilization of the masses for the proletarian revolution.”
Except on this basis the Transitional Program could not have abolished the old distinction between the minimal demands and the maximum demands by linking “day-to-day work... indissolubly ... with the actual tasks of the revolution.”
All minimal demands must be linked to factory committees, for workers’ control of production and workers’ militia. These are precisely what separated the Transitional Program from the old minimum program anybody can demand anything. It is the method that makes the demands of the Transitional Program transitory to the proletarian revolution. Demands for workers’ control of production and workers’ militia are not demands on the bourgeoisie but on the proletariat to prepare it for the proletarian revolution.
The Transitional Program was to implant the idea into the minds of the comrades of “the general (i.e., profoundly revolutionary) character and tempo of our epoch.”
“In our minds it the slogan of workers and farmers government leads to the “dictatorship of the proletariat.”
The transitional demands became revolutionary in fact “insofar” as they “become demands of the masses of as the proletarian government”:, i.e., insofar as the masses take over control of production and form themselves into workers’ militia, workers’ and farmers’ government. The Transitional Program is a program for the arming of the workers , a program with the Soviets in mind.
Trotsky was no putschist. He said repeatedly that these were “ideas” to be implanted as propaganda. But not a line in the program is to be seen except as an idea which only awaited mass mobilization to be transplanted into revolutionary action of the most violent kind. The military program is a case m point. The program says simply:
“Military training and arming of workers and farmers under direct control of workers and farmers’ committees; creation of military schools for the training of commanders among the toilers, chosen by workers’ organization; substitution for the standing army of a people’s militia, indissolubly linked up with factories, mines, farms, etc.”
In those simple sentences the leader of the October Revolution and the organizer of the Red Army was preparing the revolutionary proletariat to split the bourgeois army, take over a section of it, organize it as a Red Army, build up a proletarian force and then arm the whole population. This is the significance of the Transitional Program.
The position of the Johnson-Forest tendency is clear. For us the main difference between 1938 and 1947 can be summed up in two concepts.
I. IT IS THE TASK OF THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL TO DRIVE AS CLEAR A LINE BETWEEN BOURGEOIS NATIONAL-IZATION AND PROLETARIAN NATIONALIZATION AS THE REV-OLUTIONARY THIRD INTERNATIONAL DROVE BETWEEN BOURGEOIS DEMOCRACY AND PROLETARIAN DEMOCRACY.
II. THE STRATEGIC ORIENTATION IS THE UNIFICATION OF PROLETARIAN STRUGGLE ON AN INTERNATIONAL SCALE AS EXEMPLIFIED IN THE STRUGGLE FOR THE SOCIALIST UNITED STATES OF EUROPE.
This understood we shall take the key features of the program as it was in 1938 and compare it as a program for 1947.
“THE OBJECTIVE PREREQUISITES FOR A SOCIALIST REVOLUTION”
1938. “The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat.”
This is the key sentence of the Transitional Program. Why?
“Democratic regimes, as well as fascist, stagger on from one bankruptcy to another.
“The bourgeoisie itself sees no way out...
“In countries where it has already been forced to stake its last upon the card of fascism, it now toboggans with closed eyes toward an economic and military catastrophe.
“In the historically-privileged countries... all of capital’s traditional parties are in a state of perplexity, bordering on a paralysis of will.
“International relations present no better picture ...”
This is the classic formula for the pre-revolutionary situation. The bourgeoisie cannot govern in the old way. That is why “The historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership,”
1947. The war has come. There is not one single regime, bourgeois-democratic, social-democratic, or military occupation, to which 1938 would not seem a paradise. There is no longer perplexity, there is only terror and fear. The problems are insoluble.
From the bourgeoisie Trotsky now passes to the proletariat.
“THE PROLETARIAT AND ITS LEADERSHIP”
1938. “The economy, the state, the politics of the bourgeoisie and its international relations are completely blighted by a social crisis, characteristic of a pre-revolutionary state of society.”
1947. The economy, the state and the politics of the bourgeoisie and its international relations are no longer completely blighted as in 1938. Barbarism is already eating away at the heart of European civilization and the colonial periphery. The regimes of Stalin and his satellites surpass the traditional bourgeois regimes only in the depth of the decline and the hypocrisy of their rulers.
1938. “In all countries, the proletariat is wracked by a deep disquiet. In millions, the masses again and again move onto the road of the revolutionary outbreaks. But each time they are blocked by their own conservative apparatus.”
1947. Since 1938 the proletariat and the peasantry have repeatedly shaken decaying bourgeois society to the ground as in country alter country during 1944 or paralyzed it with mighty convulsions as in the great strikes of the United States. But the conservative apparatuses have picked up prostrate bourgeois society, set it on its feet again and are holding it together. Without them bourgeois society would not exist.
1938 “The definite passing over of the Comintern to the side of the bourgeois order, its cynically counter-revolutionary role throughout the world, particularly in Spain, France, the United States and other “democratic” countries, created exceptional supplementary difficulties for the world proletariat ... The laws of history are stronger than the bureaucratic apparatus. No matter how the methods of the social-betrayers differ – from the social legislation of Blum to the judicial frame-ups of Stalin – they will never succeed in breaking the revolutionary will of the proletariat.”
1947. The reformist bureaucracy precisely because it is reformist can no longer hold the allegiance of the masses. They have poured by the hundreds of thousands and the millions into the Communist Parties, thereby declaring as never before, their understanding of the need for a revolutionary transformation of society. But convinced of the bankruptcy of the national bourgeoisie and the national state and in terrible fear of the proletarian revolution, the Comintern seeks to create in Europe and Asia national satellites of Stalinist Russia with the Red Army as its main protector against proletarian uprisings within and intervention from without. In vain. No sign of stabilization appears. The new regimes are driven along the road of totalitarianism. The parties of the Comintern seek to corrupt the revolutionary will of the masses by the prejudices of the petty bourgeoisie, bringing into play all the treacherous devices learnt in the school of the Kremlin. But already the masses have in all spheres shown their capacity to confound and upset the most carefully laid calculations of the leadership. In major countries, already for masses, the term Trotskyism has become synonymous with the idea of revolutionary proletarian struggle for power as opposed to the Kremlin-dominated policies of the Comintern.
It is at this stage that Trotsky in 1938, having established the unbreakable drive to the revolutionary power of the proletariat, distinguishes between the Transitional Program and the minimum program. Trotsky then talks of the necessary question of tactics. But T here 1947 is not 1938.
Today the proletariat faces and knows that it faces an economy and social order so shattered that nothing but the most unparalleled efforts can destroy the counter-revolution, rebuild the economy and finally extinguish the spreading flames of war. Every passing day shows to the proletariat that its nearest every-day immediate needs can be satisfied only by actions of the most far-reaching historical character. The struggle for power therefore becomes the main objective of the revolutionary education of the masses.
WAR AND THE ARMING OF THE PROLETARIAT
1938 “The present crisis can sharpen the class struggle to an extreme point and bring nearer the moment of denouement. But that does not mean that a revolutionary situation comes on at one stroke. Actually, its approach is signalized by a continuous series of convulsions. One of these is the wave of sit-down strikes. The problem of the sections of the Fourth International is to help the proletarian vanguard understand the general character and tempo of our epoch and to fructify in time the struggle of the masses with ever more resolute and militant organizational measures.
“Strike pickets are the basic nuclei of the proletarian army.” This is our point of departure. In connection with every strike and street demonstration, it is imperative to propagate the necessity of creating workers’ groups for self-defense. It is necessary to write this slogan into the program of the revolutionary wing of the trade unions. It is imperative wherever possible, beginning with the youth groups, to organize groups for self-defense, to drill and acquaint them with the use of arms.
“A new upsurge of the mass movement should serve not only to increase the number of these units but also to unite them according to neighborhoods, cities, regions. It is necessary to give organized expression to the valid hatred of the workers toward scabs and bands of gangsters and fascists. It is necessary to advance the slogan of a workers’ militia as the one serious guarantee for the inviolability of workers’ organizations, meetings and press.”
This does not depend on the consciousness of the masses. It is precisely the consciousness of the masses which is to be altered.
“Only with the help of such systematic, persistent, indefatigable, courageous agitational and organizational work, always on the basis of the experience of the masses themselves, is it possible to root out from their consciousness the traditions of submissiveness and passivity...”
1947. The objective conditions of 1947, the great experiences of military and class warfare that the proletariat has gone through since 1938 makes the 1938 point of departure inadequate. Today in large areas of the world the point of departure is the arming of the proletariat. The slogan of a workers’ militia embodying the whole population, men and women, is needed not for defense but as the basis of the seizure of power, a new form of state administration and the reconstruction of the national economy.
ALLIANCE OF WORKERS AND FARMERS
On the same revolutionary scale is the program for the alliance of the workers and farmers. In 1938 there is not one word of parliamentarism in the hundreds of words devoted to this.
1938. “Committees elected by small farmers should make then-appearance on the national scene and jointly with workers’ committees and committees of bank employees take into their hands control of transport, credit, and mercantile operations affecting agriculture.”
1947. The vanguard, in the face of the starving nation, summons the proletariat to lead the nation and particularly the farmers, to overthrow the bourgeois regime in order to begin the reconstruction of the economy.
WORKERS CONTROL OF PRODUCTION
1938. “The working out of even the most elementary economic plan – from the point of view of the exploited, not the exploiters – is impossible without workers’ control, that is, without the penetration of the workers’ eye into all open and concealed springs of capitalist economy. Committees representing individual business enterprises should meet at conferences to choose corresponding committees of trusts, whole branches of industry, economic regions and finally, of national industry as a whole. Thus, workers’ control becomes a school for planned economy. On the basis of the experience of control, the proletariat will prepare itself for direct management of nationalized industry when the hour for that eventuality strikes.”
1947. The workers no longer need to penetrate into any of the Springs of capitalist economy. In some of the most important countries of the world the ruin and thievery of capitalist economy are open secrets to the workers. Workers’ control of production by an derail plan becomes the sole means whereby it would be possible to rebuild the ruined nationalized economy.
The ruin of the economy is complemented by the demonstrated need and desires of millions of workers to finish once and for a with the slavery of capitalist production and to exercise to the full the vast productive capacities created in them by capitalism, the experience of the Russian Revolution has proved beyond a shadow of doubt that workers’ control of production is the deepest expression of proletarian democracy and that without it, it is impossible to solve the basic antagonisms of value production.
1938 “The necessity of advancing the slogan of expropriation in the course of daily agitation in partial form, and not only in our propaganda in its more comprehensive aspects, is dictated by the fact that different branches of industry are on different levels of development, occupy a different place in the life of society, and pass through different stages of the class struggle. Only a general revolutionary upsurge of the proletariat can place the complete expropriation of the bourgeoisie on the order of the day. The task of transitional demands is to prepare the proletariat to solve this problem.”
1947. The crisis of national economies like those of France and Britain compel the immediate expropriation of all the basic industries of the national economy by the armed proletariat. Piece-meal expropriation with or without compensation is doomed to failure. Far from agitating for the partial expropriation of individual industries, the need now is for total expropriation under workers’ control and comprehensive plans for the integration of national economies into an international production. Not only the ruin of the economy but the capitulation of the impotent bourgeoisie to the need for internationalization forms a sure basis for the agitation and propaganda of international social construction.
The “Marshall Plan” forms the latest climax to the need for a plan of the invading socialist society, imposing itself on the capitalist productive forces. Precisely because of their capitalist nature all such plans can result ultimately in nothing else but disruption of the world economy, increased drive to war and the degradation of the world proletariat.
To these pseudo-international plans of the bourgeoisie the vanguard in every country and particularly in the United States must aim at preparing the proletariat for a genuinely international action: workers’ control of the main sources of production, international workers’ control of all means of transport; an international plan for the reconstruction of the world economy upon a socialist basis.
Without such plans the proletariat is weakened before the reactionary and malignant manipulation by the bourgeoisie of the inherent need of the productive forces to be organized on an international socialist basis. Above all, the vanguard exposes the worldwide counter-revolutionary role of American imperialism and the hypo-critical character of its economic “gifts.”
1938 “However, the state-ization of the banks will produce these favorable results only if the state power itself passes completely from the hands of the exploiters into the hands of the toilers.”
1947. Only if the nationalization takes place under the workers’ control of production and the state power in the hands of the toilers, will the statification of banks and other basic industries produce anything except frustration, demoralization and ultimately penal labor for the working class. The slogans of workers’ control of production, nationalization can no longer he used except as Lenin used them, in the closest relation with the slogan of a workers’ and farmers’ government, on the road to the dictatorship of the proletariat.
THE U.S.S.R. AND PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION
1938. “From this perspective, impelling concreteness is imparted to the question of the ‘defense of the USSR.’ If tomorrow the bourgeois-fascist grouping the ‘faction of Butenko,’ so to speak, should attempt the conquest of power, the ‘faction of Reiss’ inevitably would align itself on the opposite side of the barracades. Although it would find itself temporarily the ally of Stalin, it would nevertheless defend not the Bonapartist clique but the social base of the USSR, i.e., the property wrenched away from the capitalists and transformed into state property. Should the ‘faction of Butenko’ prove to be in alliance with Hitler, then the ‘faction of Reiss’ would defend the USSR from military intervention, inside the country as well as on the world arena. Any other course would be a betrayal.”
1947. The rise of Russia as a vast state-capitalist trust, driven by the contradictions of capitalist production and the struggle for the control of the world-market, has rendered obsolete prognoses about elements in the Stalinist bureaucracy who seek the restoration of private property. Neither the tendencies in world economy nor the economic and social development of the U.S.S.R. itself, gives the slightest indication of any tendency towards the restoration of private property. The bureaucracy defends the state-property and will continue to defend it. It no longer confines itself to the reactionary utopia of safeguarding socialism in a single country. Allied to the Communist Parties, it is a serious contender for world power and its very existence is the greatest source of corruption of the world proletariat. It is the greatest counter-revolutionary force in the world today. No remnant of the October Revolution remains. And the Russian proletariat in particular, and the world proletariat in general, must make no distinction whatever between Russian state-capitalism and American imperialism as the enemies of the proletariat and the chief torturers and oppressors and deceivers of hundreds of millions of workers and peasants. Above all, the vanguard pursues with the utmost relentlessness any theory which implies that a state reorganization of property by any agency whatever contains in it anything else but an intensification of the fundamental antagonisms of capitalist production and the degradation of all classes in society. If bases itself unshakably upon the theoretical conception, now demonstrated in practice, that the only solution to the antagonism of capitalist production is the creative power of the modern worker relieved from the status of proletarian.
1938. “A revision of planned economy from top to bottom in the interests of producers and consumers’. Factory committees should be returned the right to control production. A democratically organized consumers’ cooperative should control the quality and price of products.”
1947. The planned economy of Stalinist Russia cannot be revised. The proletariat alone through its factory committees, its free trade unions and its own proletarian party can plan the economy. All other plans consist first and foremost of terror against the proletariat, the chief of the productive forces, to enforce submission to the unresolved fundamental antagonisms of capitalist production. The antagonisms are insoluble except by instituting proletarian democracy.
THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL AND THE PROLETARIAT
1938. “Of course, even among the workers who had at one time risen to the first ranks, there are not a few tired and disillusioned ones. They will remain, at least for the next period, as by-standers. When a program or an organization wears out, the generation which carried it on its shoulders wears out with it. The movement is revitalized by the youth who are free of responsibility for the past. The Fourth International pays particular attention to the young generation of the proletariat. All of its policies strive to inspire the youth with belief in its own strength and in the future. Only the fresh enthusiasm and aggressive spirit of the youth can guarantee the preliminary successes in the struggle; only these successes can return the best elements of the older generation to the road of revolution. Thus it was, thus it will be.”
1947. The Fourth International does not confound its own forces with the objective revolutionary situation and the movement of the proletariat. Precisely because of its small forces, it addresses itself always to the vanguard of the proletariat, particularly the youth. By placing before them the revolutionary program in all its amplitude but based always on concrete circumstances and experiences, it wins over the most aggressive elements who in turn will lead the less advanced layers in revolutionary struggle. The fourth International rejects without reservation all plans to base revolutionary policy upon the backwardness of the masses or the smallness of the Bolshevik Party.
1938. “Without inner democracy – no revolutionary education. Without discipline – no revolutionary action. The inner structure of the Fourth International is based on the principles of democratic central-ism; full freedom in discussion, complete unity in action.”
1947 The crisis of humanity sharpens all contradictions, even those within the revolutionary movement itself. Never was it more necessary for the international party of world socialism to practice the most ruthless freedom of discussion. Never was it more necessary to have the most rigid discipline in action. Theoretical intransigeance must be combined with organizational flexibility. At the moment when the proletariat is in process of making a great historic advance, sects, historically progressive in periods of quiescence, become reactionary. For all who oppose the democratic imperialisms and Stalinism, unity in one party is essential. The Fourth International will pursue without mercy those enemies of proletarian power who fly the banner of Trotskyism, and yet seek to disrupt the continuity of our movement.
The above is not a program for adoption. Not even a draft program can reasonably come except from an international centre the work of comrades of varied knowledge and recent and concrete experiences with the proletariat. But enough has been said to make it impossible:
1) for Menshevism to conceal itself behind a treacherous interpretation of the Transitional Program.
2) for Bolshevism to allow Menshevik tendencies to obscure the fundamentals of our method with picayune disputes aimed at whittling away its revolutionary dynamism, confidence and audacity, demanded now as never before by the objective relations of society. There can be neither right nor left nor centre here. This is Bolshevism and opposed to it are its enemies.
We have to draw the theoretical arrow to the head. History has shown that in moments of great social crisis, its farthest flights fall short of the reality of the proletarian revolution. Never was the proletariat so ready for the revolutionary struggle, never was the need for it so great, never was it more certain that the proletarian upheaval, however long delayed, will only the more certainly take humanity forward in the greatest leap forward it has hitherto made. The periods of retreat, of quiescence, of inevitable defeats are mere episodes in the face of the absolute nature of the crisis. Wrote Marx in 1851,
“Proletarian revolutions ... criticize themselves constantly, interrupt themselves continually in their own course, come back to the apparently accomplished in order to begin it afresh, deride with unmerciful thoroughness the inadequacies, weaknesses and paltrinesses of their first attempts, seem to throw down their adversary only in order that he may draw new strength from the earth and rise again more gigantic before them, recoil ever and anon from the indefinite prodigiousness of their own aims, until the situation has been created which makes all turning back impossible, and the conditions themselves cry out...”
Today from end to end of the world there can be no turning back. But the democratic instincts and needs of hundreds of millions of people are crying out for an expression which only the socialist revolution can give. There is no power on earth that can suppress them. They will not be suppressed.
September 15, 1947