2. Socialismo em um só país
A luta entre a linha reformista do stalinismo e a política revolucionária de Marx, Lenin e Trotsky não é um assunto acadêmico de interesse apenas para historiadores. As políticas contrarrevolucionárias do “Grande Organizador de Derrotas” (Stalin) levaram não apenas ao assassinato de Trotsky por um agente da GPU de Stalin e de dezenas de milhares de membros da Oposição de Esquerda russos nos campos de concentração da Sibéria, mas também à estrangulação das revoluções chinesa (1927), alemã (1933), francesa (1936), espanhola (1937), indonésia (1965) e francesa (1968), assim como a “acordos de paz” traidores dos stalinistas vietnamitas em 1946 e 1954. A luta contra stalinismo e trotskismo é literalmente uma questão de vida ou morte para o movimento revolucionário e deve receber a maior atenção dos militantes que buscam a estrada do marxismo.
First printed in ‘1917’ No.11 (3rd Quarter 1992). Copied from: http://www.bolshevik.org/1917/no11/no11ddr.html
First the Wall…Then the Factories
The following article is an edited report by a comrade of the Gruppe Spartakus (German section of the International Bolshevik Tendency) outlining the process of capitalist restoration in the former German Democratic Republic (DDR).
Capitalist restoration in the former DDR, now the eastern section of the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD), has been a social and economic disaster. Soon after the border went down, economic planning disappeared. Foreign trade was uncontrolled and the BRD’s deutsche mark (DM) simply took over. Hordes of people gathered at train stations and border crossings to try to exchange their DDR marks for BRD ones at 12 to 14 times the official rate.
The economic destabilization of the DDR accelerated in July 1990 when an ‘‘economic, social and monetary union’’ with the BRD was proclaimed. Historically, three-fourths of the DDR’s trade had been with the Soviet bloc. Suddenly all trade had to be conducted in hard currency. The DDR’s trading partners simply could not pay, so foreign trade largely collapsed. Meanwhile, capitalists from the BRD consumer goods sector moved east and voraciously bought up stores, warehouses and every link in the system of distribution. Once they controlled the retail network, the first thing they did was substitute their products for those manufactured in the DDR.
The takeover of retail marketing was particularly destructive for the DDR’s collective farms, which had been the most efficient of any in the Soviet bloc. The DDR had been able to meet most of its own domestic requirements for basic foods and still have some left for export. Farming and food production collapsed very rapidly once the BRD concerns destroyed the demand for their products. If you drive through the East today, you’ll see the villages and land sitting idle. Most of the collective farms have simply gone bankrupt. By January, according to Berlin’s Journal for Human Rights (JHR), only a quarter of the 800,000 people employed in agriculture in the DDR were still on the land. Half of those remaining are expected to be eliminated before the ‘‘rationalization’’ is complete.
The West German economy expanded by five percent in 1990. Most of that growth was due to increased sales of consumer goods in the East. These goods were largely purchased with unemployment insurance and other benefits paid to DDR citizens to smooth the path for reunification. BRD statistics indicate that the 1991 rate of growth fell to 3.2 percent and Kiel University’s World Economic Institute is projecting real growth of only one percent this year. The German central bank reported that this year net transfer payments from West to East are expected to increase almost 30 percent to DM180 billion. Some 6.5 percent of West Germany’s GNP will go east this year (Financial Times, 19 March). These ‘‘transfers’’ from the BRD treasury are ultimately paid for by the employed workers in the West.
Annual inflation in the East was over 25 percent last year—five times the rate in western Germany. This was largely a result of the removal of subsidies on transport, rent, communication and other basic necessities. In the DDR rents had been limited to between five and seven percent of a person’s income. When controls were removed last October rents soared by some 700 percent. Yet workers in the East lucky enough to have jobs earn only 30 to 40 percent as much as their colleagues in the former BRD.
Unemployment: Ex-DDR’s Growth Industry
The working class of the DDR was one of the most skilled and best educated in the former Soviet bloc. Ninety-five percent of all workers had an apprenticeship. Despite Stalinist promotion of the family and considerable cultural backwardness, women had more of the material prerequisites for real social equality than almost anywhere else in the world. The Stalinist regime made a priority of providing housing for single women with children, thus removing the economic compulsion for women to remain in relationships. The DDR also had one of the most extensive systems of childcare in the world. Most workplaces were required to provide child-care on the premises and to allow working mothers to visit their children during the work shift. With full access to job training and guaranteed employment, more than 90 percent of DDR women worked, compared to only 50 percent in the BRD.
Capitalist restoration has reversed many of these gains. Women workers have generally been the first laid off. The subsidized childcare system has now been almost entirely disbanded, with the intent of forcing women back into the home. Mothers unable to afford private childcare cannot claim unemployment insurance and are reduced to welfare. Last year Kurt Biedenkopf, Prime Minister of Saxony, estimated that two million DDR workers, mostly women, will never work again (Die Tageszeitung, 7 March 1991).
Officially, unemployment in the former DDR is reported at 16.5 percent, but this figure is the result of a variety of devices designed to hide the reality. Some 350,000 workers were enrolled in phony make-work schemes (which are now being wound up). In many cases they were put to work dismantling their old factories. Another technique used to juggle the figures was the creation of ‘‘short-time work.’’ These workers put on ‘‘short time’’ were officially classified as employed, and still drew about 80 percent of their wages, but rarely if ever set foot in their factories. Workers were told that being on ‘‘short time’’ meant that they still had jobs and, one day, if things picked up and the capitalist miracle took hold, they might go back to work. This is not how things have turned out, and most short-time workers have now been officially reclassified as unemployed.
According to the November-December 1991 issue of Intereconomics, four out of the ten million workers in the DDR in 1989 are out of work. Approximately a million of these workers were forced to retire early on reduced pensions. Officially, pensions in the East are about half of those in the West, but the JHR estimates that the three million pensioned workers in the East in fact only get about 30 percent of the benefits paid to Western retirees.
One of the little publicized features of the reunification treaty is Article 143 of the BRD Constitution, which effectively suspends elementary constitutional rights in the former DDR until 1993. Using this provision the government can ‘‘legally’’ reduce access to the social benefits to which citizens in the East are supposedly entitled.
Demolishing the DDR Economy
The DDR economy had serious problems, and most analysts doubted that many of its enterprises could successfully compete in the world market. Labor productivity was probably only half that of West Germany. Yet the DDR was generally considered to be among the fifteen largest economies in the world, and it was certainly the most advanced of the workers states.
In theory, when the German bourgeoisie took over the DDR, they could have continued to operate the state-owned economy and even retained some degree of planning. France and other Western European countries have functioned successfully with substantial state-owned sectors. The Ruhr, the industrial heartland of post-war Germany, was built with considerable state intervention.
Yet, unlike the former degenerated and deformed workers states, the nationalized industries in Western Europe were administered for the benefit of the private sector. French state intervention in steel and auto-mobile production was designed to maintain France as a major industrial power and strengthen the position of French capitalism in the world market. In the former DDR and the other deformed workers states, by contrast, all primary productive forces were collectivized and subjected to centralized state planning and administration.
From the beginning, the serious German bourgeois press was united in its absolute hatred of collectivized property. Even the most ‘‘left’’ sections of West German social democracy never seriously contemplated taking over and running the state-owned economy. In their minds, the DDR Kombinats could only be a source of unwanted competition.
One of the paradoxes of the capitalist Anschluss is that the workers in the East hardest hit by the economic ‘‘rationalization’’ are those employed in sectors considered the most competitive by world standards (machine tools, ship-building and optics, for example). While the German capitalists were initially very anxious to get access to the ex-DDR, they were soon worrying about ‘‘unnecessary production’’ from industry in the East cutting profit margins. Germany’s leading bourgeois newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, began early on to talk about liquidating the chemical, textile, electronics and optical goods industries as well as the remaining large-scale farms.
The BRD capitalists complain that overemployment in the former DDR tends to put upward pressure on wages. They are also frightened by the potential volatility of this highly proletarian population. Capitalist social stability requires significant numbers of ‘‘middle-class’’ citizens, housewives, petty proprietors and others who are not direct participants in production to counterbalance the influence of the organized workers.
On 3 October 1990, the day that reunification was formally completed, the entire DDR economy was put under the control of a government agency, the Treuhand. This body was not a holding company in the usual capitalist sense, but a tool created by the German bourgeoisie to liquidate the entire DDR economy. It has not attempted to reorganize or salvage the firms the BRD inherited. In a scandal-ridden process (exemplified by the bargain basement sale of the East Berlin NARVA light bulb factory to a West German land speculator) the Treuhand had, by the end of 1991, sold off 4,777 firms with 6,000 remaining (Die Welt, 8 January).
Der Spiegel (23 March) reported that in the former DDR, as of November 1991, textile production had fallen 32 percent, machine-building had dropped 37 percent, electronics was down 54 percent and optics 88 percent. Even the most ambitious West German move into the East, the Opel takeover of the Wartburg auto plant at Eisenach, involves slashing the workforce from 9,000 to 2,000. The most optimistic capitalist estimates of the future of the region project 40 percent of the labor force out of work by the turn of the century. Most commentators are closer to R. J. Barro and X. Salal-Martin (Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, l991, No. 1), who calculate that it will take 35 years to halve the income gap between East and West.
Why Did DDR Workers Succumb to Capitalism?
The DDR was a workers state in which proletarians were deprived of the right to organize, to discuss politics and to read and write what they wanted. They had no access to anything resembling Marxist analysis, and had learned to be suspicious of the lies of their Stalinist rulers. They lacked the tools to cut through the pro-capitalist propaganda barrage that preceded the Anschluss.
DDR workers had no objective interest in turning over their economy to the Frankfurt bankers. They did have an interest in breaking the political stranglehold of the Stalinists and running the planned economy through democratic workers councils. Under such a regime they could enjoy the political freedom that Honecker’s police state had denied them, while tapping the enormous creativity of the working masses to preserve and extend the gains of collectivized property. Most importantly, such a proletarian political revolution could have provided a powerful example for the rest of the Soviet bloc, while simultaneously exerting a powerful influence on workers in the BRD and the rest of Western Europe.
The DDR working class did not see this as an option. Events proved that their attachment to collectivized property was very shallow. In the first few weeks of the autumn 1989 political crisis, there was widespread sentiment for maintaining the DDR as a separate state. This reflected popular fears that a conversion to capitalism would mean a loss of social benefits and a drop in living standards. In only a few weeks the capitalist propaganda machine managed to undermine this sentiment. Collectivized property was equated with Stalinism, and DDR citizens were promised that once the border was down everyone would have a share of ‘‘democracy’’ and the good life they had seen on BRD television. Tragically, there were no forces with any roots or influence in the German workers movement that sought to organize opposition to reunification. The overwhelming majority of DDR workers believed the honeyed lies of the capitalists and their social-democratic lackeys, and opted for the free market.
Once convinced that capitalist reunification was a good thing, DDR workers bypassed the social-democratic middlemen and voted heavily for the political parties most closely connected to the big capitalists. After all, they were the ones who were going to be performing the market miracle.
German nationalist sentiments became increasingly powerful as reunification gained momentum. In the first days of the mass protests the crowds chanted ‘‘We are the people,’’ an assertion of democratic rights against the dictatorship of the Stalinist Socialist Unity Party (SED). This was soon replaced with the cry ‘‘We are one people’’—in other words, we are Germans. The extremely rapid shift to the right that took place in the DDR revealed that this once vigorous and politically cultured working class (which in 1953 spontaneously rose against the SED’s political monopoly and even attempted to spread their strike to workers in West Berlin) had gradually been suffocated by decades of Stalinist repression.
Strike Movement in the East
Shortly after voting for the pro-capitalist parties in the March 1990 elections, DDR workers launched a strike wave demanding BRD pay scales and contractual guarantees against layoffs. Simultaneously, DDR cooperative farmers blockaded the highways in an attempt to stop the flood of Western products that was destroying their market. Those leaders of the FDGB (the DDR trade-union federation) who had not deserted their posts tried to give some direction to the strike movement, and in many localities took the lead in organizing the protests.
This largely spontaneous working-class outburst panicked the BRD capitalists and social democrats. The Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund (DGB—the main BRD trade-union federation) immediately dispatched thousands of organizers, with lots of hard currency and technical support, to the East to ‘‘reorganize’’ the unions on a class-collaborationist basis. Their first objective was to destroy the FDGB.
Using its money and powerful connections, the DGB had already gained control of a few FDGB unions and had them demand a conference. Amid an orgy of red-baiting, the DGB had its proxies put up a motion to disband the FDGB. When this passed, the next move was to incorporate the former FDGB unions into the equivalent social-democratic controlled industrial unions of the West. After that, the DGB lost no time cleaning out the old FDGB leadership, right down to the shop stewards. Thousands of new shop stewards and trade-union functionaries were enrolled in training courses to learn the class-collaborationist norms of the DGB. The labor lieutenants of capital thus successfully diffused and strangled this round of working-class defensive actions, and consolidated their political monopoly over the German unions.
The 1990 mass actions by workers and collective farmers scared the BRD government into pouring money into the East to soften the impact of the huge social dislocations of capitalist restoration. It also stiffened the resolve of the BRD capitalists to liquidate DDR industry and atomize this explosive working class. The German rulers recognized during the summer of 1990 that they had a potentially explosive situation in the DDR, and that they possessed no reliable instruments in the East to suppress growing proletarian resistance. So they moved up the date of the Anschluss.
From Stalinists to Social Democrats
One of the most striking features of the collapse of the DDR was the complete demoralization of the Stalinists. While SED leader Erich Honecker was bitterly rejecting Gorbachev’s market ‘‘reforms,’’ much of the cadre of his party had apparently already begun to adopt the perspectives of social democracy. In the 1980s, as the DDR was busy ‘‘normalizing’’ relations with the BRD, there was considerable sentiment within the SED bureaucracy for a political dialogue initiated by the Social Democratic Party (SPD). The result was an extensive series of political/ideological discussions, codified in Streit der Kultur (joint declaration of the SED/SPD, 1988).
While BRD rightists vilified the social democrats for playing footsie with the SED, these discussions helped undermine the morale of a significant layer of middle and upper-level Stalinist cadres. They gradually came to accept the social-democratic thesis that any system based upon collectivized property is incapable of sustained growth, and concluded that the only role for a workers party is to bargain over the terms and conditions of wage slavery.
The SPD’s Ostpolitik reinforced the effects of Gorbachev’s turn toward ‘‘market socialism.’’ The result was the ideological collapse in the ranks of what had appeared to be a monolithic Stalinist formation. In the summer of 1989, when Hungary opened its border with Austria, tens of thousands of the DDR’s best workers began fleeing to the West. This, combined with massive demonstrations in the autumn demanding freedom to travel and democratization, shook the morale of the regime. By late 1989 the Stalinist bureaucracy had lost confidence in its ability to rule. When the SED elected a new leadership in early 1990, the proto-social democrats within it moved into the top positions. The SED passively accepted capitalist reunification and reconstituted itself the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), a slightly left social-democratic formation. Relegated to the status of a minor opposition party in the DDR parliament after the March 1990 elections, the PDS limited its objectives to agitating for better conditions for DDR workers in a reunified Germany.
Armed Bodies Fail to Defend Collectivized Property
All the repressive organs of the DDR—the secret police, the army and the police—proved completely subservient to the Stalinist bureaucracy. The ‘‘armed bodies’’ remained passive, as the bureaucracy capitulated and collapsed. The fearsome Stasi (secret police) were told to remain in their barracks and not to bother anybody—and that is what they did.
By early 1990 the army had begun to dissolve. The DDR had what was probably the most highly trained and best equipped army in the Warsaw Pact, but suddenly the soldiers began to walk away from their posts and go home. In the six months after Honecker was deposed, the army shrunk from 173,000 to 90,000. Some lower-ranking officers tried to sign up with the BRD army. A few hundred were accepted. The higher ranks remained passive and most of the top-ranking officers were pensioned off. After reunification almost all who remained were discharged, although some noncommissioned officers were kept.
Even before reunification BRD officers had begun to take over DDR army units. They disbanded regiments and integrated the remnants into the BRD army. At no time did any DDR police or army units attempt to resist capitalist reunification. The only independent initiatives were the creation in early 1990 of a few scattered soldiers’ committees. But these committees limited themselves to demands for better housing, wages and working conditions.
The DDR police were also incorporated without difficulty. While the tops were replaced by police officials from the West, most rank-and-file cops in the East today are holdovers from the DDR. Former SED members and current PDS members are being weeded out, but the police in the East are still not considered entirely trustworthy by their new bosses.
Most of the top civil bureaucracy was dismissed, particularly in the fields of law, education and state administration. Bonn sent large numbers of administrators east to take their place. A partial exception to this pattern is in industry, where some old SED bureaucrats have been allowed to stay for a while. This is because, within the SED, the section of the bureaucracy charged with administering industry was the first, in its majority, to go over to capitalism.
The State of the Left
SED/PDS cadres and most former SED members are being subjected to a continuing massive witchhunt, spearheaded by the social democrats. At every step, instead of resisting, the PDS has capitulated. It has only very timidly attempted to give any leadership to the spontaneous defensive actions of the embattled working class. PDS groups in the workplaces have been disbanded, and PDS members in the trade unions are instructed not to run for even the most minor office, including shop steward. The PDS now has very little influence in the working class, nor for that matter, does any other ostensibly socialist group.
The German left has been badly disoriented by the momentous events of the past several years. Among the ostensible Trotskyist formations, the German followers of James Robertson’s American-based political obedience cult (currently known as the Spartakist Arbeiter-partei Deutschlands—SpAD) initially aimed at ‘‘unity with the SED,’’ and mistook the counterrevolution sweeping the DDR for a ‘‘proletarian political revolution.’’ (For more on the SpAD’s peculiar Stalinophilic performance during the last months of the DDR, see ‘‘Robertsonites in Wonderland,’’ 1917 No. 10).
Most of the rest of the supposedly Trotskyist left were so deeply Stalinophobic, and so hypnotized by the ‘‘mass movement’’ against the SED dictatorship, that they closed their eyes to reality and hailed each step toward capitalist restoration as a progressive development. The same ingrained Stalinophobia has led some of them to support the witchhunt against the PDS.
Lessons of 1991 Strike Wave
In the spring of 1991 there was another round of massive working-class resistance in the East. By this time the reality of life under capitalism had dispelled many earlier illusions. Strikes, led by shop stewards’ bodies, broke out in industries slated for liquidation. An alarmed DGB leadership moved in to grab control of the demonstrations, call off the strikes and divert the protests into an endless series of pointless meetings, assemblies, rallies and marches. Top DGB leaders from the West monopolized the stage at every event, while the shop stewards leading the struggles were not allowed to speak. The boring bureaucratic speechifying eventually demoralized the strikers and dissipated the energy of the protests. The immediate danger passed.
Militants within the shop stewards’ bodies who wanted to escape the control of the DGB apparatus should have attempted to set up a representative body to coordinate the protests and to provide the organizational framework to push the struggle forward. This would have meant a political fight against the class collaborationism of the social-democratic tops. Our comrades in the Gruppe Spartakus intervened with a program that showed the way out of the impasse (see box).
One key factor in the defeat of the 1991 upsurge was the failure of the workers in the West to respond to the rebellion in the East. In the West, the main struggle of the workers has been to resist getting stuck with the bill for the Anschluss. Thus far the DGB has successfully resisted the ‘‘reunification’’ of the workers movement across the old border. For example, the DGB tops negotiate separate contracts, naturally with different expiry dates, for workers on each side. In April 1991, at the height of the strikes, the DGB called a meeting in East Berlin for metal workers from the East to protest the collapse of their industry and the loss of jobs. Workers flocked from every corner of the former DDR. Yet this massive meeting was scheduled for a weekday, during working hours, to ensure that metal workers from West Berlin could not attend.
Workers in the DDR grew up in a society where rent, food, clothing, childcare, transportation and even furniture were all subsidized. Today they are experiencing capitalist social Darwinism first hand. As prices soar and unemployment benefits run out, as more firms go bankrupt and jobs disappear, life for many workers has become a struggle to survive. There is a growing gap between the attitudes of workers in the West, whose real standard of living remains among the world’s highest, and the mood of the workers in the East, who are rapidly becoming bitter, atomized and demoralized. The crime rate is rising; domestic violence, alcoholism, drug abuse and prostitution are increasing dramatically; serious psychoses are on the increase and the suicide rate has doubled.
In recent months a new wave of plant occupations against the destruction of jobs has swept the steel mills, factories, mines and shipyards in the East. These actions have had very little economic weight since the Treuhand does not really care if the enterprises go bankrupt. Although these strikes often demand no more than ‘‘socially acceptable’’ privatization, some of them have won partial concessions because of the capitalists’ fear of social unrest.
Attacks on West German Workers
Reeling under the combined pressures of the enormous costs of reunification, an international economic downturn and sharpening global competition, German capitalism has stepped up its attacks on the working class. Bonn ran the national debt up to DM1.1 trillion in l991. This represents 3.7 percent of the Gross Social Product, compared to 3.5 percent for the U.S. According to Lothar Mueller, President of the Bavarian Central State Bank, the national debt will hit DM2 trillion in 3 years (Der Spiegel, 23 March).
In the West the attacks on living standards which began last year are increasing. Wage settlements in l991 averaged about 7 percent, but this was well behind the increase in the cost of living. Income, insurance, tobacco and many hidden taxes went up. The tax on gasoline alone went up 55 cents per gallon. The British Financial Times reported on l9 February that, ‘‘Net wages dropped between 1.1 and 3.3 percent between October l990 and October l992.’’ Apprenticeship training programs have been cut back; spending on education is down; health care cuts introduced in l989 reduced the medical budget 9.5 percent in the first year alone. Pensions have been ‘‘adjusted’’—to keep people working longer. Chancellor Kohl was reported to have approved an increase of only 2.7 percent in state pensions, well below even the ludicrously low 4.2 percent official annual rate of inflation. Some bourgeois experts have suggested that workers would need wage increases of l2 percent just to catch up.
The bourgeois media is full of stories from the capitalists and their flunkies accusing the workers of wrecking the economy. Economics Minister J. Moellemann is demanding a statutory limit of 5 percent on pay rises for civil servants and calling for breaking the traditional system of national wage agreements in favor of increasing disparities from one region to another, especially between East and West. He is also demanding ‘‘greater flexibility of working times,’’ i.e., a longer working week.
Saddled with the openly pro-capitalist DGB bureaucracy, the workers in the West have generally been slow to react, but they are beginning to show signs of restiveness. Der Spiegel (24 February) reported a survey indicating that 78 percent of West Germans have reached the limit of their willingness to shoulder the costs of reunification. Workers in the declining steel industry settled this spring for a 6.4 percent pay increase, but other large unions such as the OTV (which represents 4.67 million public workers) and the powerful metalworkers union are demanding pay rises closer to 10 percent.
The difference in material circumstances between workers in the East and West has naturally produced differences in consciousness that are compounded by the cultural differences that arose over the past four decades. Workers in the East see those of the old BRD as arrogant and unsympathetic, while workers in the West see those from the former DDR as lazy, passive and easily manipulated.
The Way Forward
When workers in the former DDR, acting alone, occupy the idle factories, they are only sitting on properties that the Treuhand is planning to liquidate anyway. Only by connecting their desperate plight to the struggle against the capitalists’ attacks on the workers of the West can the workers of the ex-DDR put up an effective resistance. Workers in both sections of Germany have a common enemy in the German ruling class and their agents who control the DGB. The Trotskyists of the Gruppe Spartakus advocate demonstrations, strikes and factory occupations against the capitalist assault. We also call for workers in the East to organize sizeable delegations to go directly to workers in the West—especially in the highly industrialized Ruhr—to appeal for solidarity strikes and other forms of support.
The more politically conscious layers of the Western working class already know that what is taking place in the East poses a serious threat to their living standards. The German bourgeoisie intends to make the working class pay for reunification. To do that it must further slash living standards and social benefits and rip up the decades-old social contract.
The DGB tops’ control of the unions, which the capitalists exchange for guaranteed labor peace, can be broken by a militant response from the base to the capitalist offensive. The inability and unwillingness of the official leadership to resist creates the possibility of a political realignment within the unions and the explosive growth of a militant left wing. This in turn poses the question of leadership and program. While participating in every struggle of the workers to defend their past gains and win new concessions, it is the duty of class-conscious militants to struggle within the unions for a program that addresses more than just the immediate issues facing one or another section of the class. It is necessary to connect these struggles to the fundamental question of which class shall rule.
The German bourgeoisie is driven by the logic of global competition with Japanese and North American imperialism to step up its attacks on German workers. In this situation effective defensive struggles can ultimately pose the question of power. This is a question that can only be answered by a revolutionary leadership with roots in the working class. Such an organization, standing in the tradition of the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky, must possess both the programmatic capacity and the political will to struggle for the overturn of the whole system of capitalist exploitation, with a perspective of forging a workers Germany as part of the Socialist States of Europe.
[First printed in 1917 West #3 December 1992 http://www.bolshevik.org/1917/West/1917%20West%20%233.html
A phenomenon has swept large parts of the United States. There has been a proliferation of people wearing the letter X, the symbol of Malcolm X, on pants, shoes, shirts, caps, etc. Many celebrities, including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and even Arsenio Hall have appeared on national television with the X on their baseball caps. Something is definitely going on when Hall, who once shamelessly bragged about having told a friend to “put his Malcolm X tapes away,” now proclaims in an interview with Denzel Washington that people should read the Autobiography of Malcolm X! Many People are wondering if this is just a fad.
While it is true that many people are walking around with the X on their clothing but little of Malcolm’s story or ideas inside their heads, there is evidence that this is more than a fad. Fads generally do not enjoy four or five years of rising popular interest; the increased sales of Malcolm X books and speeches reveal the interest in Malcolm is beyond the visible fashion image. On a recent tour with Attallah Shabazz, Malcolm X’s daughter, Yolanda King, Martin Luther King’s daughter said on national television she was more in agreement with Malcolm X’s philosophy than that of her father.
Why has there been such a resurgence of interest in a man who has been dead for almost twenty-eight years and who was vilified by the bourgeois media during his lifetime? Perhaps the most important reason is the realization by black people that the struggle for liberation in the U.S., which began the slave rebellions of the last century, is not finished. Malcolm, a key figure in the 1960s, made many important statements, observations, and predictions that are still relevant today. For instance his prediction that the mainstream civil rights organizations’ strategy of seeking to integrate black Americans into the existing social order would fail has been powerfully vindicated, and even many of Malcolm’s detractors, like Louis Lomax, have had to concede this.
Although the bourgeois media ignored or slandered Malcolm X during his lifetime, and was much more favorably disposed toward Dr. King because of his preaching of nonviolence and belief in the system, large numbers of black people, for good reason, looked upon Malcolm as an honestly committed man to be respected and revered for his fiery drive for black liberation. Black people know that these qualities are necessary for a successful liberation struggle and, as long as the need to struggle exists, Malcolm X will not fade away.
By being sincere and dedicated to the ordinary black people who comprised his audience, Malcolm X built up a trust with his followers that neither the U.S. government nor his detractors were able to take away. He was a brilliant, eloquent and charismatic man who could break down and communicate his ideas on important issues to his audience. He harnessed these abilities and worked to enhance them. For instance, he learned to speed read, which enabled him to expand his knowledge more quickly. His prison transformation from “Detroit Red,” hustler, to Malcolm X, fiery orator, should be an inspiration to all.
With a burning desire, fearless spirit, and tireless energy he played a major role in building the Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam (NOI—or “Black Muslims”) from about 5,000 members nationwide to 100,000 between 1954 and 1960. Although the Muslims played no significant role in the political and social struggles against racial oppression that were building during this period, their appeal—as a black-separatist self-help organization—lay not in their apolitical religious cultism but rather in their strident denunciation of the racist reality of American society.
Differences With Elijah Muhammad
For most of his time in the NOI Malcolm was a loyal and uncomplaining follower of Elijah Muhammad. After Malcolm had gained considerable notoriety for the NOI through his columns in Harlem’s Amsterdam News and the Los Angeles Herald-Dispatch, he did not object when these columns were appropriated by Elijah Muhammad. Nor did he complain when Muhammad Speaks, which he had started from his own basement in New York, containing mostly his own copy, was taken from him and placed under the administration of John Ali in Chicago.
As the NOI grew, a layer of members centered in Chicago around Elijah Muhammad’s family developed a vested interest in the considerable real estate holdings and commercial enterprises which had been financed by the contributions of the membership. Although the enterprises were owned by the NOI, which was tax-exempt because of its status as a religious organization, it was common knowledge that most of them benefitted Elijah Muhammad’s immediate family and their business partners. At the time of his death Elijah Muhammad had amassed a fortune of $25 million (Emerge, April 1992). Elijah Muhammad and his inner circle felt threatened by Malcolm X and his attempts to politicize their organization.
There was an uproar in the black community of Los Angeles when the cops shot down several unarmed Muslims, killing one and paralyzing another, on 27 April 1962. Malcolm saw this as the moment to “go out there now and do what I’ve been preaching all this time,” which was to organize the NOI with all black people against this barbaric attack. He also had strong support from local churches, community activists, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in what was to be mass protest action. Elijah Muhammad stopped all the protest campaigns. According to Louis Lomax, “Malcolm began to smart under charges from militant blacks that he and his group were all talk and no action” (To Kill a Black Man). The fact that no legal assistance was provided by the NOI to the four Black Muslims that went to prison as a result of this incident made matters worse.
Louis Lomax pointed out that:
“Malcolm was consistently pressing Elijah Muhammad for permission to become involved in demonstrations. Each time Malcolm received a flat and unequivocal ‘No!’ It finally came to the point that Elijah ordered Malcolm not to raise the matter again. Malcolm obeyed.”
Black Nationalism Makes Strange Bedfellows
There was a perverted logic in the NOI’s self-satisfied desire to maintain the status quo. Malcolm X explained that in December 1960:
“I was in the home of Jeremiah, the [NOI] minister in Atlanta, Georgia. I’m ashamed to say it, but I’m going to tell you the truth. I sat at the table myself with the heads of the Ku Klux Klan, who at that time were trying to negotiate with Elijah Muhammad so that they could make available to him a large area of land in Georgia or I think it was South Carolina. They had some very responsible persons in the government who were involved in it and who were willing to go along with it. They wanted to make this land available to him so that his program of separation would sound more feasible to Negroes and therefore lessen the pressure that the integrationists were putting upon the white man. I sat there I negotiated it. I listened to their offer. And I was the one who went back to Chicago and told Elijah Muhammad what they had offered.”
—Malcolm X: The Last Speeches
Malcolm X concluded: “From that day onward the Klan never interfered with the Black Muslim movement in the South.”
This was not the first time that black nationalists, who claimed they were acting on behalf of the persecuted black masses, have made common cause with the most deadly enemies of black people. Marcus Garvey created an uproar in his Universal Negro Improvement Association, when he visited the Ku Klux Klan in June of 1922. In 1985 Louis Farrakhan, Elijah Muhammad’s successor, personally invited Tom Metzger, former grand dragon of the California KKK, to a rally in Los Angeles at which Metzger donated $100 as “a gesture of understanding;” and today in South Africa we witness the grotesque alliance between Gatsha Buthelezi’s Inkatha and the fascist Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB).
How can these black nationalist misleaders justify fraternizing with the avowed enemies of black people? If they really believe all white people are devils, or some equivalent, that means there are no significant political differences between whites, at least as regards blacks. The logic of this is that a marriage of convenience with white fascists is no worse than an alliance with any other whites. White racism, which justifies and advocates systematic oppression, should not be equated with black nationalism, which is a response to that oppression. There is nevertheless a strange symmetry between the objectives of black nationalists, who want a separate black “nation” and white supremacists pushing segregation.
The FBI and Malcolm X
As chief spokesperson for the NOI, Malcolm had attracted the attention of the FBI. He and many others were aware of the FBI’s surveillance of him and the NOI, but few people are aware of the extent of that surveillance (over 3,600 pages)! Clayborne Carson has contributed a useful and informative service to the public by gathering and compressing a selection of documents from Malcolm X’s enormous FBI file.
In a report dated January 10, 1955 the FBI interviewed Malcolm X and asked him if he would defend the U.S. in the event of a foreign attack. Malcolm X declined to answer. He also declined to answer whether of not he considered himself a citizen of the U.S. (Malcolm X—The FBI File). In contrast to the belly-crawling, flag-waving official leadership of the civil rights movement, Malcolm X was no flag-waving patriot of U.S. imperialism.
In a July 2, 1958 account the FBI, which recognized Malcolm X’s desire to play a leading role in the black movement, designated him a key figure in the NOI (Ibid, p 149). Later that year it had noticed that older members of the NOI were fearful of Malcolm’s radicalism. They even went so far to claim in a statement dated November 17, 1960 that Malcolm X was forming a nucleus within the NOI to take it over.
Elijah had declared that any NOI member that participated in the 1963 civil rights march on Washington would be suspended for 90 days. Malcolm went further: he denounced the march as the “farce on Washington,” taking King and other liberal civil rights leaders to task for making sure that the march was a tame event, in no way hostile to the Kennedy administration. When Malcolm responded to the assassination of John F. Kennedy by noting that it was a case of “chickens coming home to roost,” Elijah Muhammad suspended him from the NOI.
Exit From the Nation of Islam
During his time in the NOI Malcolm tried to close his eyes to the contradiction between the need to struggle against racist injustice and the passive acceptance of the status quo preached by Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm X, to his credit, finally recognized that if he was going to play a leading role in the black liberation struggle it would have to be outside the NOI.
Initially his break with the Muslims was cloudy. At the March 1964 press conference he called to announce his departure from Elijah Muhammad’s organization he said: “I still believe that Mr. Muhammad’s analysis of the [race] problem is the most realistic, and that his solution is the best one.” He did not go into the reasons that compelled him to leave the NOI, and expressed reluctance at having to make the move. In an interview with Les Crane on December 12, 1964 he said that he didn’t think he would “contribute anything constructive to go into what caused the split.” Far from encouraging other members to follow his example, he explicitly stated: “my advice to all Muslims is that they stay in the Nation of Islam under the spiritual guidance of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. It is not my desire to encourage any of them to follow me,” (Malcolm—The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America, Bruce Perry).
Such statements could only confuse and disorient people who may have looked to Malcolm X for leadership. The rebellious black urban youth who knew of and respected Malcolm X were not about to join any religious sect. They wanted a fighting organization.
But Malcolm X at this time had not developed an understanding of the importance of a clear revolutionary program to attract and organize the most conscious layers of the black liberation movement. This was clearly revealed in his assertion that:
“I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they’ll create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action.”
—Malcolm X: A Man and His Time
Build a Workers Party!
After leaving the Muslims, Malcolm made a pilgrimage to Mecca and toured various newly independent African states. While he was in Africa he commented that:
“The U.S. Peace Corps members are all espionage agents and have a special assignment to perform. They are spies of the American government, missionaries of colonialism and neo-colonialism.”
—Malcolm X: The FBI File
It was statements like this, along with his attempts to enlist the support of African heads of state to denounce the U.S. government in the United Nations for its mistreatment of American blacks, that led to the FBI’s push for the use of the Logan Act to put Malcolm X behind bars—again. Unfortunately, while Malcolm was correct in situating the black struggle in the U.S. in an international context, he also displayed a certain amount of disorientation on this issue. His faith in the UN, which at the time was seeing an influx of black African states, was totally unjustified. It should have been obvious that the UN was dominated by world imperialism and could take no decisive action against the interests of the U.S. ruling class. Likewise he overestimated the ability of the petty-bourgeois leaders of the new African states to influence or oppose U.S. policy. Despite their claims to independence and even “socialism,” these regimes were never really able to escape the control of the imperialist powers.
Probably the most significant result of Malcolm’s trip to Mecca was the recognition that he had been mistaken to assume that all whites were necessarily and automatically evil and racist. This discovery opened the door to redefining the struggle against racist oppression and, potentially, connecting it to struggle against the capitalist system which produces it. In the last year of his life Malcolm paid tribute to the great abolitionist fighter, John Brown, and stated his willingness to ally with whites like him.
Malcolm’s attempts to build a new organization after his break with the Muslims led Louis Farrakhan to threaten that, “Such a man as Malcolm is worthy of death.” But it was not just Elijah Muhammad’s followers who wanted Malcolm out of the picture. Once Malcolm was independent of the Muslims and their religious dogma, he was perceived as a much greater potential danger to the status quo.
For all his talents as a thinker and an inspirational orator, Malcolm X left very little in terms of a tangible political legacy. Because he was in political motion at the time of his death, the legacy of Malcolm X has been claimed by everyone from the ex-Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party to black conservatives such as Clarence Thomas.
Liberation for black people cannot come about within capitalist society, which needs and breeds racism as a mechanism of exploitation and control. Black capitalism, advocated by the likes of Farrakhan, is no alternative. Religion is a distraction from the struggle for equality. The creation of a society without racism and exploitation requires a force with the social weight to bring it about. No individual, no matter how serious or talented, can act effectively alone. Black nationalism, which can have a certain appeal in times of social reaction, offers no solutions for the oppressed black masses. Blacks in the United States are not a nation, but rather a color caste forcibly segregated at the bottom of this society. Only the working class which, because of its position in capitalist society as the creator of wealth, has both the social weight to overthrow capitalist rule and an objective interest in doing so.
The working class must have its own revolutionary party to accomplish its historic task through linking workers’ struggles to those of other people oppressed by capitalism, including blacks. Such a party must in turn be armed with the correct program, a road map pointing the way forward. As great an individual as V.I. Lenin was, he would not have led the overthrow of capitalism in czarist Russia if he were not part of a mass-based workers party, the Bolshevik Party, with a collective leadership and a program that answered the needs of the masses.
The Bolshevik Tendency, is committed to the task of building such a party, the American section of a reborn Fourth International, the party of world-wide socialist revolution. Our program for black liberation includes calls for a struggle against all manifestations of racism and all racial discrimination; for workers’ defense guards to stop racist violence and to smash the Nazis and Klan; for an end to unemployment through a fight for decent jobs for all; for special worker-run programs to upgrade the positions of women, blacks and other specially oppressed minorities; for open admissions to colleges and universities along with well-funded teacher-student-run programs to guarantee an education to everyone who wants one. As revolutionary socialists we call for a complete break with the Democratic and Republican Parties, the twin parties of capitalism; the expropriation without compensation of basic industry under workers control, and the establishment of a workers state with a democratically planned economy.
We urge all workers, blacks, women, youth and other oppressed peoples inspired by Malcolm X’s heroic fight for black liberation to consider seriously the political program and ideas put forward by the Bolshevik Tendency. Capitalism is in an international depression, and the U.S. economy, which is in a fairly advanced state of decay, is being hit particularly hard. The election of Bill Clinton, the governor of a “right-to-work” state, who interrupted his campaign for the Democratic nomination to preside over the execution of a brain-damaged black man, will not improve the lot of ordinary people in this country, regardless of color. Capitalism has long outlived its usefulness and can only offer oppression, environmental deterioration, racism, sexism, poverty, hunger and, eventually, world war. We are in complete solidarity with Karl Marx who said at the end of the Communist Manifesto, “Workers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains!”
Black Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!
Os stalinistas e a contrarrevolução
[Tradução realizada pelo Reagrupamento Revolucionário em agosto de 2013, a partir da versão original em inglês postada pela então revolucionária Tendência Bolchevique Internacional (TBI) em http://www.bolshevik.org/Leaflets/IBT_I4I_GDR.html.]
“Nesses últimos oito anos, desde janeiro de 1996 para ser exato, a versão oficial da Liga Espartaquista e da sua Liga Comunista Internacional tem sido a de que os stalinistas ‘lideraram a contrarrevolução’ na Alemanha Oriental (a RDA).”…“A SL/LCI de fato adotou a linha de que ‘o stalinismo é contrarrevolucionário de cabo a rabo’ contra a qual ela havia lutado com unhas e dentes no passado. Essa era a lógica da estalinofóbica ‘Tendência Bolchevique’, que sustentava que o ‘perigo principal’ na Alemanha Oriental era o regime do SED [o partido stalinista], blindando dessa forma a verdadeira ameaça contrarrevolucionária da burguesia da Alemanha Ocidental e os seus capangas socialdemocratas, e com essa base acusava a SL/LCI de ter uma ‘tendência estalinofílica’.”
“Nesse período [no inverno europeu de 1989-90] a LCI não se preocupou em combater [o Primeiro Ministro da RDA] Modrow como um traidor que os trabalhadores deveriam derrubar em defesa da RDA. Ao invés disso, eles o criticaram apenas de passagem…”― “Robertsonites in Wonderland”, 1917 No. 10, 1991
“A direita ganhou espaço enquanto a confusão prevalecia entre os trabalhadores mais conscientes que confiavam nos stalinistas ‘honestos, regenerados’. Era por isso que o regime de Modrow era especialmente perigoso, e o motivo pelo qual era imperativo alertar os trabalhadores contra ele.”― Idem.
“A acusação de que nós dirigimos a maioria de nossas críticas contra o SED/PDS, ao invés de dirigi-las contra o abertamente restauracionista SPD [Partido Socialdemocrata Alemão] e os partidos burgueses lembra as reclamações dos centristas contra Trotsky, por ele concentrar os seus ataques políticos na Frente Popular e, particularmente, no componente da ‘extrema esquerda’, o POUM, durante a Guerra Civil espanhola. Afinal de contas, Franco não era o ‘inimigo principal’? As mesmas críticas foram feitas a Lenin em 1917, quando os Bolcheviques dirigiram a maioria de suas polêmicas à falsa esquerda, ao invés de aos czaristas, às Centúrias Negras e outros contrarrevolucionários. Isto é, naturalmente, um ABC para os trotskistas, mas a conversa de ‘inimigo principal’ na RDA talvez exija reiterá-lo.”― “Carta para o IG e a LQB”, reimpresso no Trotskyist Bulletin No.6, “Polêmicas com o IG”
“Considero a fonte principal de perigo para a URSS, no presente período internacional, ser Stalin e a oligarquia encabeçada por ele. Uma luta aberta contra eles, às vistas da opinião pública mundial, para mim está inseparavelmente ligada à defesa da URSS.”
“Os stalinistas não se comportam como uma classe dominante porque eles não são uma classe dominante. O principal inimigo dos trabalhadores no Leste Europeu hoje não são as várias burocracias nacionais, que estão em avançado estado de decomposição, mas os capitalistas dos Estados Unidos e da Alemanha Ocidental, que buscam reintegrar essas economias ao mercado mundial imperialista.”…“O mergulho rumo à restauração do capitalismo só pode desintegrar ainda mais qualquer poder social que o aparato stalinista ainda possua. Se os países do bloco soviético reintroduzirem o capitalismo, quando isso acontecer as burocracias stalinistas serão desmanteladas. O grosso da nomenkletura está bastante ciente de que sua substituição pelo mercado capitalista como regulador da atividade econômica vai implicar a perda de ambos os privilégios materiais e o status social.”― “A Agonia de Morte do Stalinismo”, 1917 No. 8, 1990
“A declaração de novembro de 1989 da LRCI [o grupo internacional do Workers Power] sobre a RDA, intitulado ‘A Revolução Política na Alemanha Oriental’, exigia: ‘Abaixo os planos stalinistas e imperialistas para restaurar o capitalismo!’. O problema com esse slogan é que ele falha em distinguir entre a traição dos burocratas stalinistas, que capitularam à restauração capitalista, e os imperialistas que a realizaram. No seu balanço de julho de 1990 sobre a queda da RDA, Workers Power declarou que o ‘inimigo principal da classe trabalhadora dentro da RDA’ não eram as forças germinantes de um renovado capitalismo pangermânico, mas o rapidamente decrépito ‘aparato de Estado burocrático’ (Trotskyist International No. 5, outono de 1990).”…“A LRCI compartilha da responsabilidade por essa catástrofe [na RDA]. Ao invés de tentar atrair os elementos com maior consciência de classe dos trabalhadores para resistir à demolição do Estado operário, esses supostos marxistas fizeram tudo que podiam para convencer os trabalhadores de que a destruição do Estado operário deformado alemão foi uma ‘vitória histórica’.”― “Doubletalk in the 2.5 Camp”, 1917 No. 10, 1991