O giro para a “Frente Popular” veio perto do fim de 1933 quando a Internacional Comunista, sob o domínio stalinista, faz um repentino recuo das suas políticas ultra-esquerdistas do “Terceiro Período”. Com o triunfo de Hitler e a renovada ameaça de ataque imperialista, a burocracia soviética, em pânico, definiu que precisava de aliados para a defesa da pátria soviética. A Rússia entrou na Liga das Nações e assinou o pacto de assistência militar Franco-Soviético. Ao longo desse período, a Comintern buscou se agraciar com as burguesias das potências imperialistas democráticas, através de uma contenção calculada dos movimentos proletários revolucionários na Europa. O método: alianças de colaboração de casses com a participação nos governos da burguesia. O disfarce: a luta contra o fascismo.
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
Revolução Mundial Sim, “Socialismo de Mercado” Não
Perestroika: Uma Caixa de Pandora
“O processo de reforma, personificado agora por Mikhail S. Gorbachev […] evoca […] desânimo, por todo o terrível sacrifício, luta e privação que eles impuseram por tanto tempo é agora declarado como tendo sido em vão, que a fé secular que certa vez prometeu tanto agora se revela aos seus próprios adeptos como um fracasso”.
“Ao perseguirmos a lógica de uma luta antiimperialista, nós permitimos a nós mesmos – contrariamente aos interesses de nossa pátria – sermos tragados para a corrida armamentista, e ajudamos a introduzir a ‘imagem de inimigo’ e criar barreiras tecnológicas e culturais entre a União Soviética e os Estados Unidos.”
“Entretanto, caso se olhe para a burguesia monopolista dos Estados Unidos como um todo, poucos de seus grupos, e nenhum dentre os principais, estão conectados com o militarismo. Não há mais nenhuma necessidade de falarmos, por hora, sobre um conflito militar por mercados ou matérias primas, ou pela divisão e redivisão do mundo.“Nenhuma das classes ou estratos da sociedade soviética estão sujeitos a exploração pelo capital estrangeiro, e assim nenhum deles pode resolver os problemas fundamentais que lhes afligem através de uma ‘luta contra o imperialismo’. Só há um meio de fazer isso – a renovação interna revolucionária do socialismo, incluindo a eliminação de idéias anacrônicas sobre o mundo ser uma arena para a ‘batalha internacional das classes’. É ainda mais estranho se falar dos interesses irreconciliáveis entre estados com sistemas sociais diferentes agora que até os conflitos de classes dentro dos países capitalistas se dão sob a forma de angariar compromissos dentro de um escopo legal mutuamente aceito, ao invés de sob a forma de um árduo confronto. Segue-se que a solidariedade dos trabalhadores soviéticos com seus irmãos de classe no Ocidente, passa longe de justificar as teses do confronto global entre classes.“O mito de que interesses de classe dos países socialistas e dos países em desenvolvimento coincidem em resistir ao imperialismo não se sustenta contra as críticas. A maioria dos países em desenvolvimento já aderiram ou tendem em direção ao modelo ocidental de industrialização e eles sofrem nem tanto do capitalismo, mas da sua falta…”
“para organizar suas economias por meio de um sistema administrativo, sua dependência de auxilio militar vindo do exterior e seu desdém por liberdades democráticas levou inevitavelmente à polarização de forças políticas. Virtualmente, todos esses regimes foram arrastados para conflitos prolongados com uma oposição que, por sua vez, depende de suporte externo…“Nosso envolvimento direto ou indireto em conflitos regionais levou a perdas colossais, devido à escalada geral da tensão internacional, justificando a corrida armamentista e dificultando o estabelecimento de laços mutuamente vantajosos com o Ocidente.”
“O Sr. Hue disse que uma nova definição de socialismo se faz necessária, focando em questões mais gerais de justiça social como igualdade de oportunidade, ao invés de propriedade pública dos meios de produção. Mr. Hue afirmou que, enquanto Marx em geral estava certo no campo da política, ele errou em economia ao se opor à propriedade privada.”
“tem aumentado de ano para ano: 1983 – em 12 bilhões de rublos; 1984 – em 15 bilhões de rublos; 1985 – em 18.7 bilhões de rublos. Pelo bem da comparação, frisamos que os depósitos em 1965 totalizavam 18.7 bilhões de rublos, enquanto agora eles totalizam mais de 220 bilhões de rublos.”—The Soviet Review, janeiro-fevereiro.
October 12, 1984
PROTEST ARMY OCCUPATION OF BLACK SOUTH AFRICAN TOWNSHIPS AND KILLING OF OVER 80 BLACKS
At the September membership meeting I tried to raise a motion in support of black South African goldminers whose strikes for union recognition were being suppressed with at least eight miners killed by police. I intended to bring the same motion to the following Executive Board meeting, September 27, but – as often happens – there was no quorum, and the meeting was cancelled.
The situation in South Africa is now escalating. At least 80 blacks have been killed, and the South African army is being openly mobilized to occupy the black townships. I urge brothers to support my efforts to put the following updated motion on the floor at next Thursday’s membership meeting.
MOTION: Local 10 protests the killing of eight black South African goldminers who were recently on strike for union recognition. We protest the killing of over 80 blacks during the current mass protests against the phony elections which exclude blacks. We further protest the mobilization of the South African army to occupy black townships.
In order to dramatically express our solidarity with the mass rebellion of South African blacks we will not work the next Nedlloyd Line ship carrying South African cargo to the Bay Area. We appeal to the rest of the coast to join us in this action, as they did in our successful 1977 boycott of a Nedlloyd Line ship.
UPDATE: Local 10 Executive Board unanimously passed this motion Thursday night, October 11. Come to the membership meeting Thursday, October 18, and vote for final approval of the motion!
By late 2018, a comrade from Revolutionary Regroupment contacted members of Bolshevik East Asia, a split of the International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT), in an attempt to better understand some of their differences with the other two sides of the IBT three-way split. See: https://bolsheviktendency.org/2019/04/13/why-things-fell-apart/
Initially, Bolshevik East Asia sided with the grouping led by Tom Riley (former leader of the IBT and now in the “Bolshevik Tendency” split group) against the incorrect notion defended by Logan/Decker/Dorn that Russia had become an imperialist power qualitatively equivalent to the U.S. and the European imperialists. Later, they broke from Riley in face of his “neutrality” on the military coup d’état in Egypt in 2013 and the 2016 attempt in Turkey. They also proclaimed their fundamental disagreement with the IBT view on the 1978/1979 events in Iran.
We disagreed with the Bolshevik East Asia comrades rejection of the 1978/1979 Spartacist League position on the Iranian revolution (the SL is the organization from which the IBT originated and which legacy we claim in opposition to most of the degeneration of post-WWII Trotskyism). We thought that these comrades were responding in a confused way, but with a good instinct, to Tom Riley’s methodology of neutralism and “not taking sides” in conflicts between bourgeois forces in which there was a clear advantage for the workers to defeat an attempted reactionary coup d’état/movement.
Riley argued that revolutionaries should not “take sides” when two sides in a conflict were equivalent in terms of their rejection of bourgeois democracy. He reassessed the Marxist opposition to Gen. Franco’s coup and the subsequent civil war in Spain and the opposition to the coup against Salvador Allende’s Popular Front in Chile in 1973 as justifiable by one side being ahead of a bourgeois democracy and the other being dictatorial. Later, Riley’s grouping also took a “neutralist” position on the coup/impeachment in Brazil in 2016, analyzing that both sides were equally part of the game of bourgeois democracy. See: https://bolsheviktendency.org/2019/08/28/on-the-igs-2016-capitulation-in-brazil/.
To further confusion, Riley argued that his views derived from the Spartacist position in Iran in 1978/1979, in which the slogan “Down with the Shah, down with the Mullahs” supposedly meant revolutionists should not have “militarily sided” neither with Shah of Iran, nor with the Islamist forces. In general, he accused his opponents, including some now still in the IBT, of “support one gang of reactionaries against another in Turkey, Egypt and Iran”. See: https://bolsheviktendency.org/2019/04/12/marxism-islamic-reaction/
Tom Riley did a terrific job at discrediting both Trotskyism and the best elements of the Spartacist tradition. Let’s try to clarify those matters. Marxists oppose reactionary civil wars, violent attacks and coups d’état aimed at removing a government or regime when what is at stake is crushing working class resistance or working class rights (whether social or democratic). Often times, this is done by means of destroying bourgeois democracy and replacing it with an authoritarian regime, particularly common in neo-colonies. Very often, those movements receive logistical/indirect military support from imperialist powers. Sometimes, though, there is no complete destruction of a democratic regime, but a hiatus in its functioning for the re-arrangement of the capitalist forces. Other times, the neo-colonial regime is itself a semi-dictatorship and no less “democratic” than its adversaries. Should we be neutral in these cases?
Our criteria is guided by the historical interests of the workers, and we oppose “government change” when it has become clear that the victory of the opposition will mean a qualitative destruction of working class positions and gains. We do this without giving any political support to the status quo or the current leaders, but defend a proletarian revolutionary position. That is why we sided against the military junta in Egypt in 2013 (See: https://rr4i.milharal.org/2018/11/28/the-military-coup-in-egypt-and-the-scandalous-position-of-the-iwl-pstu-2013/) and against the gang of right-wingers who removed the Brazilian popular front in 2016 by a combination of street pressure and illegal parliamentary/juridical proceedings (see: https://rr4i.milharal.org/2013/07/19/brazil-down-with-the-putschist-government/). Riley’s neutralism would result in prostrating the workers’ movement in face of the destruction of their achieved positions in bourgeois society whenever it does not fit his abstract scheme.
On Iran, we believe Riley is simply confusing apples and oranges. There was a potential revolution developing in Iran, with left-wing guerrillas, strikes and struggles, but which by the lack of an independent proletarian revolutionary pole, was later engulfed by the reactionary pro-Khomeini forces. Many on the left saw this political predominance of Islamists as a minor element, believing the struggle would develop “objectively” into the interests of the workers. The defeat of the officer corps in February 1979 allowed the strongest political force – the Islamist mullahs –to fill the vacuum of power left by the destruction of the Shah regime and of his puppet Bakhtiar “conciliation government”. The ascension of Khomeini led to the subsequent “Islamic republic” and the destruction/abortion of any real possibility of a working class revolution against imperialism and capitalism, not to mention the suppression of left-wing organizations, independent unions, women’s rights, etc. See: https://rr4i.milharal.org/1979/09/24/iran-history-takes-its-vengeance/
To begin with, revolutionaries would have intervened in several strikes, mass demonstrations and other struggles against the Shah. Marxists don’t analyze things as if they themselves were detached from reality, picking sides abstractly. A potential revolution is a complex phenomenon with multiple events. In some we had “no side”. We would not have supported the Islamists in their own sectarian marches or any relevant aspect of their program. But we could have “militarily sided” with the Islamists against mass repression by the Shah’s political police, for example, or if there were a military intervention against the struggles (even those led by the reactionary Mullahs). That, to our knowledge, was also the Spartacist League position, as we quoted in one of our letters. On the issue #225 of their paper, the SL wrote:
“Had such a confrontation erupted into civil war, Marxists would have militarily supported the popular forces rallied by the mullahs against an intact officer caste, even as our intransigent political opposition to the reactionary-led movement sought to polarize the masses along class lines and rally the workers and lower strata of the petty-bourgeois masses around the proletarian pole.”
The comrades from BEA, however, gave a step further. They considered that the victory of the reactionary Islamists over the Bakhtiar/Shah regime was a “partial victory”, or rather a victory of both Khomeini and the workers together, and that the situation after the victory of the Islamists over the Shah regime was “much better” than before. These comrades tended to analyze the dynamic of the anti-Shah struggles the same way Riley did – an open-ended “confrontation of forces”. But instead of “not taking sides”, they saw the victory of Khomeini as the better side or the side “against imperialism”. Their rationale for this was to equate the ascension of Khomeini with the defeat of an imperialist invasion/attack embodied in the Shah regime. In our correspondence, they repeatedly compared it with the side the Fourth International took against Japan in its occupation of China in the 1930 and 1940s and other anti-imperialist positions we shared.
Trotskyists oppose all sections of the bourgeoisie and promote working class independence. We do not promote one wing of the capitalists as supposedly “anti-imperialist” or less pro-imperialist but instead show the falsehood of that claim. It is impossible to truly break from imperialism without defeating capitalism. When a conflict erupts in which the results could deepen the imperialist control over an oppressed nation or destroy a working class movement fighting imperialist interests, we take a side to defend current obtained positions.
Declaring that the results of Iran after February 1979 were a “victory” for the workers and the situation “much better” does not help defending any positions, except confuse the workers about the dangerous meaning of the Islamists’ ascension. While the BEA comrades never clearly formulated it, it would be consistent with this position to promote the victory of Khomeini from the get-go (as it would be a “partial victory”). In fact, at one point they wrote that the task from the beginning of the revolution until the toppling of the Shah/Bakhtiar was to “struggle with Khomeinites to overthrow the regime” and “after the victory of Anti-Shah struggle” (!) they would struggle for workers’ power:
From the beginning of the revolution on January 7, 1978, until the collapse of the military on February 11, 1979, we struggle with Khomeinites to overthrow the regime. At the same time, we unconditionally protect the political and organizational independence and warn the working class of the reactionary nature of the Khomeinites. After the victory of Anti-Shah struggle, we struggle to build the workers’ power (1 August 2019).
We agreed, for instance, that we considered the nationalization of certain American companies by the Khomeini regime a partial gain and should defend it. While we could side with the Khomeinites on a practical level on certain specific issues, we could not have a general orientation of struggling “with them” (as opposed to having an independent proletarian orientation) to overthrow the regime. In the big picture, we wrote: “we do not confuse the two because, much more important than a couple of anti-imperialist measures is the fact that the new regime was dedicated to destroying the revolution and any chance of real, solid, anti-imperialism.” (12 June 2019).
It became clear that this was more than a “historical difference” when we realized their view also reflected on other events, such as the 2011 replacement of Egyptian dictator Mubarak by a junta of his generals and his former Prime Minister as a way of trying to contain the massive struggles and strikes against austerity and oppression. The BEA comrades also saw it as a “partial victory” and not a maneuver to distract the workers and the masses. We pointed this had many similarities to revisionist thinking (such as with the pseudo-Trotskyist Morenoites).
Discussions also involved the Spartacist slogans at the Iranian revolution, the meaning of the 1917 February revolution in Russia, other anti-imperialist positions such as the wars in Libya and Syria, and later the imperialist participation in the impeachment/coup in Brazil in 2016. From our letter of 9 July 2020 on, comrades from Bolshevik-Leninist in Australia took part in the written exchanges and in our online chat. Their political and technical help was very significant to the continuation of the discussions.
Despite a promising start, in which we agreed on significant issues, the discussions ended up in frustration, with the BEA comrades accusing us of being stubborn and of using a straw-man fallacy against them. They then chose to end discussions with us. In our last letter to them over a period of almost 2 years, we concluded:
“As for us being stubborn about our positions, we do not deny that in the least, but we are definitely not dishonest. To the very end we honestly tried to convince you to our best ability, in a language neither of our groups is fluent at. We viewed discussions with you as a serious opportunity of regroupment. We actively pursue discussions with groups and individuals internationally, in an attempt to build an international tendency on the basis of our positions. We will continue to stubbornly do that!
“One week before sending your letter on September 14, you showed desire to publicize the content of our exchanged letters, and asked if we were OK with the posting of our letters to you. This indicated to us that the discussions were over on your part, although you ignored our direct questions about it. We clearly stated to you: ‘We’re OK with making it public, but we’ll probably want to respond to your letter as well. Will it be added then?’ To our surprise, you chose to post only your side of the discussions. We will post the entire content of the discussions on our website (including your letters to us). We ask you do the same on your website for an honest representation of both sides’ views.” (September 28, 2020).
Now we make the letters from both sides available, in an attempt to help the clarification of the question to those looking for revolutionary politics.
Revolutionary Regroupment reply to Bolshevik East Asia’s Letter
1. Clarification on imperialist interests in the Brazilian coup d’état of 2016
Comrades of Bolshevik East Asia, on our July 2020 letter to you, we had written:
“We have not researched Turkey in depth, but if we should take a side on this confrontation it wouldn’t be because Erdogan had less pro-imperialist connections than his generals who attempted the coup. Speaking of Brazil, we know for a fact the PT government was in excellent terms with the imperialist powers during its entire existence. The coup, which never got to a physical confrontation, was much more a result of internal questions than of imperialist meddling/intervention. This is because imperialist interests were never at stake (your emphasis). Still, we take a side in it because it was a conflict in which the removal of the government by a reactionary band of right-wing forces accelerated attacks against the workers and the poor.
“Our take on events like this has nothing to do with the IBT neutralism, which uses a technical issue (the type of imperialist involvement) to declare themselves ‘not taking sides’ as quickly as possible. We are, instead, telling you that imperialist involvement on one side is a defining factor for Marxists, but not the only one. And also that on several occasions in which we should take sides in intra-bourgeois confrontations, this criteria alone may not be sufficient.”
A correction and clarification is necessary, since in your decision to end discussions with us, you took the underlined sentence as apparent “proof” of “how frivolously” we take political questions in Brazil:
“We are not fully aware of the specific situation of Brazilian history and social organizations. But at the very least, we know that the words ‘imperialist interests were never at stake.’ is dangerous word that is very likely to be wrong.
“Looking at the answers to this question like that, we got a glimpse of how naive and frivolously RR deals with the important question even in Brazil.”
In an article dated February 2017 concerning the results of the reactionary 2016 coup/impeachment of the Workers Party, we wrote:
“Another important rupture occurred in relation to the financing programs for the operations of a limited range of highly monopolized and internationalized mega-companies, considered Brazil’s ‘national champions’ (Odebrecht, OAS, Queiroz Galvão, Camargo Correia, JBS-Friboi, Grupo Eike Batista etc.). While the PT used the public funds (via the state-owned banks and pension funds) to finance part of the highly profitable operations of these companies, Operation Car Wash dealt a heavy blow to part of them, whose operations (especially in the highly profitable shipbuilding plan) is being absorbed by imperialist oligopolies.
“The coup government represents a break with the PT era also from the point of view of international politics. More specifically in relation to Brazil’s alignment in this period of troubled international relations that involve the gradual decline of exclusive American domination of the planet and the growth of Russian appetites in Asia and Europe, in addition to China’s commercial and productive weight. The choice of José Serra to head the Ministry of Foreign Affairs clearly indicated a willingness to collaborate more closely with the imperialist colossus in the northern hemisphere. The cooling of the relations with Russia and China shows to those countries that for different reasons partially escape the interests dictated by the great imperialists in the world, that they should have no expectation that the Temer government reflects their agenda.
“Dilma’s government in no way represented a brake or opposition to US imperialist interests. However, its diplomacy valued the construction of a multilateral approach to strengthen commercial interests with the BRICS, especially with China, which in the years of the PT became the country’s main trading partner, and with Mercosur. As for Mercosur, the coup makers’ agenda is also not promising. Serra endeavored to articulate Venezuela’s exclusion from Mercosur, not only as a way of strengthening the right-wing opposition that seeks to remove Nicolas Maduro from power, but to underplay this particular form of ‘regionalist’ capitalist configuration and return to the direct orbit of the United States.
“Here, once again, submission to imperialist interests is not exclusive to the coup makers. It was an agreement of the then Dilma government with the opposition led by Serra in the Senate that approved the law that allows the exploration of the Brazilian oil by foreign companies. In October, the coup makers in the House confirmed this law, which should open new profits for American, Canadian and European companies at the expense of Brazilian natural resources and the exploitation of our workers. Despite their different location in the international balance of forces, neither the coup makers nor the PT represent what workers really need and what the Brazilian people need, which is control over the wealth we produce.”
Clearly, what we should have written for better clarity was that the imperialist involvement in the coup was not decisive or crucial, nor was the Workers Party (PT) government being anyhow “anti-imperialist” or in any particular confrontation with imperialism. The timing of the coup had to do with an internal dispute within the Brazilian bourgeoisie and how to best realize the attacks against workers in a moment of economic crisis. As we previously wrote to you: “The fact that imperialists ‘have a part’ in what is going on does not change ‘the fact that a faction of the bourgeoisie was attempting to remove another from power to better repress and exploit the proletariat.’
The imperialist involvement was on a different level when we compare it to the recent coup attempts in Venezuela, the reactionary protests in Ukraine and Hong Kong, or the wars in Syria and Libya. Imperialists had interest in and supported the removal of the Workers’ Party popular front, but were not the main agents behind it. The Brazilian bourgeoisie of course is dependent of the imperialist powers, but it was the same capitalists who took part in the PT government who later removed them from office.
We could also correct that sentence in our letter by saying that under the PT government, imperialist interests were not at risk, although they were not met as easily (quantitatively speaking) as under Temer, or now under Bolsonaro, who is basically a grotesque imperialist stooge. You imply as if we thought the imperialist exploitation, interference, presence etc. in Brazil was not a relevant matter for us, which is in opposition to our beliefs. This conclusion seems to have been based on one poorly formulated sentence taken out of context. Had you asked for further clarification on this, this could have been easily solved.
Having made this correction, we want to point out that you have apparently chosen not to answer our question on Brazil, which would have clarified our different political approach and is crucial to understand where our difference lies:
“If today, amid Brazil’s reactionary government of Bolsonaro, there was a mass revolt with the PT playing a part in it and it ended up with them in power, protecting the bourgeois regime and its institutions, we might side with the PT on certain confrontations, but we would definitely not call the results a ‘partial victory’, neither say the outcome is ‘much better’ than before. The whole structure of the bourgeois state would be preserved because of the brake the PT ascending to power would mean. (All this is of course hypothetical since the PT is extremely legalist). If the PT succeeded in taking power over the government, would that count as a ‘partial victory’ to the Korean comrades? And if that is so, shouldn’t we be calling to vote for them?”
2. The Spartacist slogan on Iran
The slogan we claim from the Spartacist League on Iran in 1978/1979 is “Down with the Shah! No support to the Mullahs! Workers to power!”. This is the slogan that in our opinion best represents our position. The international Spartacist tendency itself made this correction to the original slogan of the American section. The fact that you confused it with “Break with the mullahs” was simply a sign of indifference or sloppiness towards what we were saying in our letter.
This slogan leaves no room for the sectarian interpretation that Marxists would take no part in the workers strikes, struggles and insurrection against the Shah in the course of 1978-79; that we would stand aside and “take no sides” as if we were no participants in the events. But it also makes clear we give no support to the Islamists and Khomeini. Their ascension to power was no “partial victory”. It was not the positive culmination of an anti-Shah revolution – it was its gravedigger, Kerensky and Kornilov fused in one single character. The Mandelites, Morenoites, Hansenites, all saw the events of February 1979 in Iran as a “victory” despite the pro-Khomeini forces griping power. We believe history fully confirmed the Spartacist assessment. See: https://rr4i.milharal.org/1979/09/24/iran-history-takes-its-vengeance/
3. The main difference
Your analysis of the fall of Mubarak in Egypt in 2011, who was replaced by a military junta and his former prime minister; of the fall of the Shah in Iran 1979, who was replaced by Islamist forces with many of the same repressive apparatus ahead of the bourgeois state; of the results of the Russian February revolution of 1917, which although it dismantled the monarchy, guaranteed the continuation of the interests of the landowners and the big bourgeoisie, all as “partial victories” and the situation being “much better” than before are serious political differences. We see the replacement of the previous governments/regimes by capitalist politicians and in some cases clearly reactionary forces as the pathway to the abortion and destruction of the potential revolutions if not overcome by the working class in time, not a progressive stage within them. This would clearly lead to opposed concrete views in future revolutions.
It seems you equate those situations with repelling of imperialist invasions – since you compare them with the side the Fourth International took in Japan’s war against China and in a hypothetical war of England against Brazil (positions which we are in full agreement with, but which are describing a whole different scenario). We see the equivalent of these in the case of an imperialist or Shah coup/invasion against Iran, in which we would take the other side despite the fact that Khomeini was persecuting communists, women, homosexuals, etc. As we quoted to show you, so would the Spartacists of 1978/1979.
We also conceded that a recently empowered capitalist government might be forced to make certain concessions/reforms to control the workers’ movement or a mass movement and we can regard those (such as the nationalization of certain imperialist companies or the opening of some democratic space) as partial gains which must be defended. But this cannot be said about the actual results in the realm of government/regime change.
4. Trotskyism and imperialism
Our opposition to your view on revolutions has little to do with not recognizing that “change has stages”, but with the actual meaning of one of those possible stages. There are many variants of “stageism”, not only the Stalinist one. Our early comparison of your interpretation with a left brand of Morenoism was drawn from our experience here in Brazil with this political tendency, which sees “victories” for the proletariat in events which cannot at all be interpreted that way. And by doing so, they tend to mesmerize the workers and see “progressiveness” in victories of reactionary forces. While you do not openly say it, this is clearly the direction your analysis leads to.
We translated our article on the 2013 events in Egypt to show you this. On that occasion, you had a correct position because you identified the removal of Morsi as a reactionary movement by the Egyptian generals and their imperialist backers (which the Morenoites did not). But when the ascending bourgeois force or party is not so blatantly pro-imperialist, or when it tries to pose itself as “anti-imperialist”, you seem to see the result of its ascending to power as progressive, even when the results are so clearly and so quickly fatal to the working class (as in Iran).
While we have our own critical assessment of the Spartacist tendency, we claim its legacy as an important exception to the almost complete degeneration and lack of principles among the “Trotskyist” organizations in the post-war period. We do not believe there was a tendency of capitulation to imperialism in the Spartacist group from the get-go. We proudly claim their defense of Algeria and Angola against the imperialists in the 1960s and 1970s as important examples. We have also analyzed their opposition to the right-wing pro-imperialist coups d’état against Allende in Chile in 1973 and Torres in Bolivia in 1971. But their subsequent degeneration has led to various capitulations to imperialism. From their 1983 position on Lebanon, in which they simply condemned and disregarded an attack against the US Marines occupying the country, to their 2001 rejection of calling for the defeat of US troops in Afghanistan and finally their shameful 2010 support to the American occupation of Haiti.
On Israel and the conflicts with groupings of neighboring Arab countries, the Spartacists changed their position in the 1970s to one of double defeatism to both sides in the wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973. They sided with Egypt against Israel and the British and French imperialists in the war of 1956 and the IBT also took a position siding with Lebanon against Israel in 2006. Their consistent call was to defend Palestine and smash the Zionist state by socialist revolution made by both Arab and Hebrew workers.
Their analyses of the wars did not ignore the imperialist interests, but seemed to point to the fact that both sides in the wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973 were struggling for imperialist favor and the predation of Palestine, not fighting to expel the imperialist forces from the Middle East or defend Palestine, despite the fact that the imperialists preferred the Zionists as their main support in the region. Their position on 1948 was shared by the then Palestinian section of the Fourth International at the time of the conflict, while it had opposed the partition of Palestine and creation of Israel sponsored by both the U.S. and the Soviet Union. See: https://rr4i.milharal.org/2011/06/19/the-trotskyist-position-in-palestine/
We do not uncritically follow every position the Spartacists have taken and are open to reviewing some of their views, but we must stress that to make a correct analysis of this issue one must define what the axis of the conflict was and the level of imperialist involvement on the Israeli side and the Arab countries side.
While capitulation in the face of imperialist attack/intervention or pro-imperialist “mass movements” has been a hallmark of fake-Trotskyists which we must fight (see our analyses on Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Hong Kong, etc.) we believe capitulation to popular-frontism, nationalism and bourgeois leaders posing as “anti-imperialists” has also played a significant role in leading to the swamp most “Trotskyist” currents are in. Often, these two forms of capitulation are found in the same tendencies. The destruction of the Fourth International by the Pabloists had the latter as its main feature. The betrayal of the 1952 Bolivian revolution by the FI involved their capitulation to a bourgeois government posing as “anti-imperialist”, which led to disaster. Same role was later played by revisionists in Algeria, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Brazil, etc. etc.
Our recent position on Venezuela, entitled “Down with the imperialist threats against Venezuela! No trust in Maduro’s authoritarian regime!” is a testimony on how we are opposed to both “types” of degeneration of the Marxist perspective. See: https://rr4i.milharal.org/2019/01/30/down-with-the-imperialist-threats-against-venezuela-no-trust-in-maduros-authoritarian-regime
5. Farewell comment
As for us being stubborn about our positions, we do not deny that in the least, but we are definitely not dishonest. To the very end we honestly tried to convince you to our best ability, in a language neither of our groups is fluent at. We viewed discussions with you as a serious opportunity of regroupment. We actively pursue discussions with groups and individuals internationally, in an attempt to build an international tendency on the basis of our positions. We will continue to stubbornly do that!
One week before sending your letter on September 14, you showed desire to publicize the content of our exchanged letters, and asked if we were OK with the posting of our letters to you. This indicated to us that the discussions were over on your part, although you ignored our direct questions about it. We clearly stated to you: “We’re OK with making it public, but we’ll probably want to respond to your letter as well. Will it be added then?” To our surprise, you chose to post only your side of the discussions. We will post the entire content of the discussions on our website (including your letters to us). We ask you do the same on your website for an honest representation of both sides’ views.
For Revolutionary Regroupment
28 September 2020
Published under the title “Imperialism, National Liberation and Permanent Revolution and also, a reply to the RR and BL”
This article is an answer to RR (9 July 2020, “RR and BL to BEA”). At the same time, for us struggling to establish the international leadership of the working class, the most important condition for overcoming the human crisis, we hope this article will contribute to the establishment of the right revolutionary program.
1. The repetition of straw man logic
Since the beginning of mutual dialogue in 2018, RR has argued that our position in Iran 1979 is to seek and support the rule of Khomeini. It is groundless and stubborn slander.
The position on Iran in 1979 is a very important programmatic point. For that reason, we have made our position clear several times.
The followings are the representative articles.
This position is in full accord with Lenin and Trotsky’s position on the struggle for national liberation in colony. We just applied the lesson to the 1979 Iran situation.
In the face of the Iran-U.S. conflict in 2019, RR, BT, IBT, ICL, and IG fought to defend Iran. In other words, it supported the position of military alliance with the current Islamic leadership of Iran in the conflict against U.S. imperialism. We judge that this indirectly sympathizes with the anti-Shah, the stooge of the U.S imperialism, military alliance line in January-February 1979.
In our two replies in March and August 2019, we pointed out the straw man fallacy and asked for its grounds.
This sentence of comrades [“To support the ascent of Khomeini to power would have been a strategical, political form of support which would only sown illusions and false expectations in the results of the Islamists’ rise to power.”(RR to Bol EA)] is the creation of a strawman. We have never insisted on “helping or supporting” Khomeini’s ascension to power. We have consistently been wary of “infusing illusions and false expectations on the Islamists’ rise to power.” Lenin’s April thesis in this regard is a key example of our tactics. I want you to point out which part did we insist on “helping or supporting” Khomeini’s grip on power, or the part that could be interpreted as such. ―Aug 2019, Bol EA to RR
But now, a year later, as if there was no document from August 2019, RR endlessly distort and slander our argument with the straw man logic without giving any grounds.
In our view, calling Khomeini’s rise to power a “partial victory” (or in your particular wording a “victory for the left-wing guerrillas and the working people”) seems to be implicit of a call to power, albeit critically. ― 3 page, RR’s 9 July 2020
To call such a thing a partial victory amounts to critical support of Khomeini’s ascension to power, which would be by definition “critically” supporting Khomeini’s grip on power (albeit contradictorily for the purpose of positioning his overthrow). ― 3 page
But this position has stagist implications. It certainly sounds like you are calling to side with Khomeini until his ascension to power. ― 4 page, (every emphasis is of Bol EA)
RR only presents their sensory organs as the grounds.
To make an opponent prone to attack, use extreme expressions ridiculously frequently.
You have the claim that imperialist involvement in itself is the defining factor, so that Marxists should always just oppose imperialists on whatever side they choose as a question of just anti-imperialism. We agree taking this factor into consideration is crucial. But with such methodology you limit the issue to just imperialism. This methodology is very mechanical, imperialist presence helps us choose which side, but is not the sole determiner.…Even in neo-colonies, this of course helps us build the picture, but cannot be the absolute factor in itself. ―1page
This is a dishonest and obstinate attitude. With this dishonest and illogicality, Marxist science cannot be dealt with productively.
2. The real slogan of the iSt: (a) Down with Shah! Break with Mullahs! vs (b) Down with Shah! Down with Mullahs!
This issue was analyzed and explained in detail in the August 2019 reply that ‘(a) is right and (b) is problematic.’
But RR still reiterates the argument that at that time iSt was no problematic and ‘(a)=(b).’, while we are wrong. In other words, future opportunistic interpretations of the iSt families are only a problem, and iSt’s position at that time was ‘(a)=(b).’
We see our analysis in the last letter as correct, but we may be wrong. We do not perfectly understand the internal circumstances and history of iSt at that time.
Let us leave this matter to our readers, including the iSt tradition (ICL, IBT, BT, IG).
They might answer these two questions.
1) what is right?
a: Down with Shah! Down with Mullahs!
b: Down with Shah! Break with Mullahs!
2) what is/was the real position of the iSt then and now
3. On the Brazil question
We, in August 2019, said to confirm each other’s commonality.
“But you comrades have a similar position with us in tactics in Egypt, Turkey, Libya, Brazil and Syria, which have been the big issues between IBT and us.”
Then, RR sent this opinion in July 2020.
“Speaking of Brazil, we know for a fact the PT government was in excellent terms with the imperialist powers during its entire existence. The coup, which never got to a physical confrontation, was much more a result of internal questions than of imperialist meddling/intervention. This is because imperialist interests were never at stake.”
RR is speaking of Brazil that “imperialist interests were never at stake [in the 2016 coup]”
* * *
We judge that Brazil is a neo-colony.
In other words, it was capitalized by the initiative of imperialist financial capital. The dominant capital, such as banks and key industries, was built for the super-profit of imperialist financial capital, and is directly and indirectly controlled by it. The national governance system, such as politics and military, was built around the interest of imperialist financial capital.
Exploitation is supported only by violence. Therefore, the army, the intelligence department, the police, etc. have a close relationship with imperialist financial capital. This is why there have been so many coups in the neo-colony, while there few in imperialist countries.
We think Brazil also shares these characteristics and history. And we need synchronic and diachronic studies on Brazilian capitalism.
RR says, “imperialist interests were never at stake. [on 2016 coup]”, but there are quite a few reasons not to say “never.”
“Michel Temer’s ties to the U.S. government, as revealed by WikiLeaks’ Public Library of U.S. Diplomacy, add to the growing body of evidence that the parliamentary impeachment of Brazil’s democratically-elected president, Dilma Rousseff, was supported by allies in Washington.”―WikiLeaks: Brazil’s Acting President Michel Temer Is US Diplomatic Informant, May 13th, 2016
“Instead of strengthening regional institutions, Temer’s policy promotes free trade, seeks to privatize state owned companies, and prioritizes economic relations with the United States and European nations.”―Council on Hemispheric Affairs, The Temer Administration and the Threat to the Southern Regional Integration Process, July 20, 2016
“We need class actions – not vague “movements,” but concrete measures – such as real, not symbolic, strikes and plant occupations to sink the budget cuts, the privatizations and the “reforms” ordered by big capital and imperialism, which is applying in Brazil the same program as in Greece.”―IG, Brazil: No to Impeachment!, April 2016
“LEAKED CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN Brazilian officials reveal the inner workings of a secretive collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice on a sprawling anti-corruption effort known as Operation Car Wash. The chats, analyzed in partnership with the Brazilian investigative news outlet Agência Pública, show that the Brazilians were extremely accommodating to their U.S. partners, going out of their way to facilitate their involvement in ways that may have violated international legal treaties and Brazilian law.”—The Intercept, 12 March 2020, “KEEP IT CONFIDENTIAL” The Secret History of U.S. Involvement in Brazil’s Scandal-Wracked Operation Car Wash
“after NSA documents leaked by Snowden revealed that the US electronic eavesdropping agency had monitored the Brazilian president’s phone calls, as well as Brazilian embassies and spied on the state oil corporation, Petrobras.”—Guardian, 24 Sep 2013, Brazilian president: US surveillance a ‘breach of international law’
We are not fully aware of the specific situation of Brazilian history and social organizations. But at the very least, we know that the words “imperialist interests were never at stake.” is dangerous words that is very likely to be wrong.
Looking at the answers to this question like that, we got a glimpse of how naive and frivolously RR deals with the important question even in Brazil.
For RR, the key word in their last reply to us is ‘victory.’ The word ‘victory’ is repeated 37 times from beginning to end in a six-pages long document. And this word is evenly distributed throughout the text (3 times in 1page, 11 in 3page, 14 in 4page, 5 in 5page, 4 in 6page).
For RR, who never wants to lose, this question was perhaps the most embarrassing subject.
This ridiculous argument also began as soon as the conversation began. We explained that the resignation of Egypt’s Mubarak in 2011 and the fall of Iran’s Shah dynasty in 1979 were similar social phenomena to that of Russia’s Tsar in 1917. Then RR said:
“Their coming to power is never described as a “victory” or “partial victory” of any kind by Lenin or Trotsky, but as a maneuver of the bourgeoisie to fool the masses.”
We explained the ‘ambivalence of matters’ in two replies, in 7 Dec 2018 and 15 March 2019. And introduced the February Revolution to the references of Trotsky and Lenin, who call it “victory” and we expected that this ridiculous debate on whether we can call it partial victory or not, would finish.
* * *
However, this time again, RR mentioned only one side of its’ face, repeating, ‘We cannot call them victory.’
The RR presents the fate of the Bolsheviks after the provisional government took power and the Iranian communists after Khomeini, as the basis for the events not to be and should not be called victory.
You say “We do not agree to describe this conflict simply as a bourgeois internal struggle”, but the results of such a victory – mass repression against communists, shows that it really was definitely (though not “simply”) a struggle between two factions of the bourgeoisie, with once taking power they can turn their guns against the masses that brought them into power.―1page
The expropriation of certain American companies and other issues may have been partial victories, but the process that led them to jail cannot be considered a partial victory, which is why they were soon after reversed and also combined with very reactionary measures. ―4page
In July 1917, under Kerensky’s interim government, Bolshevik was outlawed and threatened to death, and the leadership, including Trotsky, was imprisoned. Nevertheless, when Kornilov staged a coup in August, Bolsheviks went on a military alliance with the interim government of Kerensky.
In “On the Sino-Japanese War (1937)”, Trotsky insisted on an united front with the Kuomintang against Japanese imperialism. Chang Kai-shek of the Kuomintang was the one who crushed the Chinese Communist Party and massacred communists in 1927. Trotsky proposed to the Communists to form a military alliance with the Kuomintang of Chang Kai-shek. Perhaps RR never understood the meaning of the tactic if RR had not known that the writer of it was Trotsky.
In “Anti-Imperialist Struggle is Key to Liberation,” 23 September 1938, Trotsky argued that if Britain and Brazil clash militarily, even if the Brazilian regime is semi fascist, it should stand on Brazil’s side against democratic Britain. So, should the Brazilian Communists participating in the military alliance be promised in advance by the Brazilian fascist to guarantee the revolutionary activities of the Communist Party and legalization of the Communist Party?
* * *
The fate of communists, does not depend on the tolerance of the capitalists, domestic or foreign. But it depends on the scientific understanding on the mechanism of class struggle, and relationship of forces, leadership, and success or failure of class struggle.
If one does not understand the dialectical nature of the development of events, such as the two faces of things and the change and development, it is difficult to understand the revolutionary dynamics from February to October in 1917.
Not understanding it means not understanding the revolution. Rather than a revolutionary, then, it would be more of what Trotsky said in “Ultra lefts in General and Incurable Ultralefts in Particular.”
It doesn’t matter whether you call the events “victory” or not. What’s important is that the overthrow of Egypt’s Mubarak in 2011, the overthrow of Iran’s Pahlavi dynasty in 1979 and the collapse of Russia’s Tsar in February 1917 brought considerable results to the working class, while causing fatal losses to the ruling class. And it provided a springboard for the socialist revolution.
The fate of the working class and communists does not depend on the springboard or name of it, but on how to use it. Will it be used as a springboard for the revolution or as a springboard for the gallows?
We call “a large animal with four legs, a mane (= long thick hair on its neck) and a tail. being used for riding on, pulling carriages, etc.” a ‘horse’ in English and ‘cavalo’ in Portuguese. But it doesn’t matter whether you call it ‘horse/cavalo’ or not. Regardless of your naming of it, the horse will be running on the meadow.
5. The Theory of permanent revolution and stagism
RR also charges us as stagists. Of course, the evidence is only in their sensory organs as well.
You say: “From the beginning of the revolution on January 7, 19, until the collapse of the military on February 11, 1979, we struggle with Khomeinites to overthrow the regime. At the same time, we unconditionally protect the political and organizational independence and warn the working class of the reactionary nature of the Khomeinites. After the victory of Anti-Shah struggle, we struggle to build the workers’ power”.
But this position has stagist implications. It certainly sounds like you are calling to side with Khomeini until his ascension to power, and after this stage of overthrow, then we would struggle to build workers power. If that is the case, it contains within it a nucleus of a stagist position.
Our tactics, “sounds like” a stagist theory to you, are the application of Bolshevik’s during the Russian Revolution of April, August and October in 1917 and Trotsky’s teachings to Iran. But RR takes issue with it. It is slandered by saying that it is a stagist theory reminiscent of Menshevik or Stalinism.
We cannot win over the partner who are struggling against their own imagination. And there is no gain to win.
However, the iSt tradition of succumbing to imperialism has rationalized its opportunistic neutral position by using the theory of permanent revolution, and has distorted it in the process. Therefore, an explanation of this question is needed, in order to defend the theory of permanent revolution from opportunism. As such, the letter of August 2019 has already well explained it, but it will be supplemented again.
1) No Stages? Change has stages.
Everything, always, changes/moves. However, it maintains a form of movement such in a certain period of time. This form of movement has a continuity with them of before and after, but at the same time is distinguished. This is a stage.
Stages are observed in both water changes, human growth and social development. In the Russian Revolution, the periods of February, April, July, August and October were distinct from those of the previous ones, respectively. Lenin and Trotsky’s internal struggles were devoted to getting Bolshevik to understand the very difference in timing. Differences in the objective situation, differences in relationship of forces, status of the ruling class, and changes in the conscious and organizational readiness of the working class.
2) The Problem of Menshevism and Stalinism
The problem of Menshevik and Stalinist stagist thinking is not in recognizing the existence of stage. But it is in reducing the stages of historical development of mankind as the stages of a nation. Thus, it is a mechanistic thought that believes that every country must go through all stages of historical development of mankind. In other words, they think that capitalism should first go through in underdeveloped countries including such as Russia, China etc., where capitalism has not developed enough yet. So, they succumb to the capitalist class. Falling into the popular front, class-collaborationism, they are later exposed defenselessly to the counterattacks of the capitalist class (with imperialism).
3) The Value of the theory of Permanent Revolution
The value of theory of permanent revolution lies in looking at the development of a country as a dependent condition of global development. In other words, the theory of permanent revolution identifies the world as an organic system, not a simple collection of each country. In the organic system of the world, the law of uneven and combined development penetrates in each country. Therefore, a country does not necessarily have to take the stage of capitalist development. A country’s deficiency can be overcome through the world revolution.
The working-class revolution overthrowing the imperialist rulers in advanced capitalist countries and the struggle for the national liberation of colonies against imperialism are two forces that promote and complement each other in the course of the transformation of the organism of the world into socialism.
Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky understood this point, and explained it to us on several occasions. Here, we are quoting the representative sentences.
Marx and Engels:
“Now the question is: can the Russian obshchina, though greatly undermined, yet a form of primeval common ownership of land, pass directly to the higher form of Communist common ownership? Or, on the contrary, must it first pass through the same process of dissolution such as constitutes the historical evolution of the West?
The only answer to that possible today is this: If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that both complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for a communist development.”―The 1882 Russian Edition, Communist Manifesto
“Social-Democracy…must utilize the struggle of the young colonial bourgeoisie against European imperialism in order to sharpen the revolutionary crisis in Europe.
“The dialectics of history are such that small nations, powerless as an independent factor in the struggle against imperialism, play a part as one of the ferments, one of the bacilli, which help the real anti-imperialist force, the socialist proletariat, to make its appearance on the scene.
“We would be very poor revolutionaries if, in the proletariat’s great war of Liberation for socialism, we did not know how to utilize every popular movement against every single disaster imperialism brings in order to intensify and extend the crisis.”―The Discussion On Self-Determination Summed Up, July 1916
“Hence, the socialist revolution will not be solely, or chiefly, a struggle of the revolutionary proletarians in each country against their bourgeoisie—no, it will be a struggle of all the imperialist-oppressed colonies and countries, of all dependent countries, against international imperialism…We said that the civil war of the working people against the imperialists and exploiters in all the advanced countries is beginning to be combined with national wars against international imperialism. That is confirmed by the course of the revolution, and will be more and more confirmed as time goes on. It will be the same in the East.
“It is self-evident that final victory can be won only by the proletariat of all the advanced countries of the world,…But we see that they will not be victorious without the aid of the working people of all the oppressed colonial nations, first and foremost, of Eastern nations. We must realize that the transition to communism cannot be accomplished by the vanguard alone.”―Lenin, Address To The Second All-Russia Congress Of Communist Organisations Of The Peoples Of The East, Nov 22, 1919
9. The conquest of power by the proletariat does not complete the revolution, but only opens it. Socialist construction is conceivable only on the foundation of the class struggle, on a national and international scale. This struggle, under the conditions of an overwhelming predominance of capitalist relationships on the world arena, must inevitably lead to explosions, that is, internally to civil wars and externally to revolutionary wars. Therein lies the permanent character of the socialist revolution as such, regardless of whether it is a backward country that is involved, which only yesterday accomplished its democratic revolution, or an old capitalist country which already has behind it a long epoch of democracy and parliamentarism.
10. The completion of the socialist revolution within national limits is unthinkable. One of the basic reasons for the crisis in bourgeois society is the fact that the productive forces created by it can no longer be reconciled with the framework of the national state. From this follows on the one hand, imperialist wars, on the other, the utopia of a bourgeois United States of Europe. The socialist revolution begins on the national arena, it unfolds on the international arena, and is completed on the world arena. Thus, the socialist revolution becomes a permanent revolution in a newer and broader sense of the word; it attains completion, only in the final victory of the new society on our entire planet.―10. What is the Permanent Revolution? Basic Postulates
“In Brazil there now reigns a semi fascist regime that every revolutionary can only view with hatred. Let us assume, however, that on the morrow England enters into a military conflict with Brazil. I ask you on whose side of the conflict will the working class be? I will answer for myself personally—in this case I will be on the side of “fascist” Brazil against “democratic” Great Britain. Why? Because in the conflict between them it will not be a question of democracy or fascism. If England should be victorious, she will put another fascist in Rio de Janeiro and will place double chains on Brazil. If Brazil on the contrary should be victorious, it will give a mighty impulse to national and democratic consciousness of the country and will lead to the overthrow of the Vargas dictatorship. The defeat of England will at the same time deliver a blow to British imperialism and will give an impulse to the revolutionary movement of the British proletariat. Truly, one must have an empty head to reduce world antagonisms and military conflicts to the struggle between fascism and democracy. Under all masks one must know how to distinguish exploiters, slave-owners, and robbers!”―Anti-Imperialist Struggle Is Key to Liberation, Sep 1938
As such, the specifically established the theory of permanent revolution through Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky looks at the imperialist world system as a single organism, and deploys a country’s revolution in international relations. On the other hand, the core of Menshevism and Stalinism, which we call stagism, is a one-national view of a country’s class relations by separating them from the world system and looking at them in isolation.
But from a one-national point of view, there is not just Stalinism, “socialism in one country.” The degenerated Trotskyists also shared the one-national point of view (“Capitalism in one country?”). Among the degenerated Trotskyists, there has been a tendency to remove imperialist and international factors from the class conflicts in a country or a region, especially in colony.
After Trotsky’s death, and after World War II, the Fourth International, whose main branches were mainly located in imperialist countries, began to be weighed down by imperialist pressure, and a programmatic degeneration occurred. Revolutionary continuity was inherited to some extent in the question of the degenerated/deformed workers’ states which was a hot point of struggle in Trotsky’s last years. It is undeniably significant contribution to Marxism. However, starting with the Israel-Arab war in 1948, a programmatic degeneration occurred in colonial-imperialist affairs.
The iSt camp was the most radical tendency within the increasingly regressive Fourth International. The iSt maintained a revolutionary line in the question of the degenerated/deformed workers’ states such as the Soviet Union, North Korea, China, Cuba and Vietnam. However, in the issue of imperialist-colonial conflict, the revolutionary attitude was not consistently maintained.
After taking a neutral stance in the Israel-Arab War in 1948, the tradition of looking at class struggles in certain regions or countries from a one-national perspective began without looking it internationally. It eroded a lot the so-called Trotskyist camp, including the iSt. In particular, it has frequently taken an inconsistent attitude toward the issue of imperialism especially in the Middle East. It took a frequent neutral stance, claiming that the struggle within the colonies was just a struggle between two bourgeois or two reactionary forces. Since then, such a neutral attitude has become chronic. Now, it takes a neutral stance on some complicated and difficult issues. Let’s check some remarkable examples. (We have been working on this long-term project.)
ICL: against Yeltsin in Aug 1991 in Russia
IBT: on Moscow coup in Oct 1993 in Russia
ICL, IBT, IG: Libya in Feb 2011, Syria in April 2011
ICL, (IBT), IG: Egypt in 2013
ICL, IBT, IG: Euromaidan in Ukraine in 2016
ICL, (IBT), IG: Turkey in 2016
ICL, (IBT): Brazil in 2016
* * *
Human society, which emerged at the end of the evolutionary process of things, is the highest level of complexity. The revolutionary movement is the act of scientifically understanding the highest level of complex objects and intervening in the process of their transformation. Marxism is the highest level of scientific analysis framework for society and its transformation. And it is possible to maintain Marxism only when you can withstand the pressures of this imperialist society.
However, there are those who want to understand society and revolution as black-and-white logic and the four arithmetical operations. They do not understand the basis of the dialectic of ‘unity and conflict of opposites’, relationship of matters and endless movement of things. To bring down and distort the essence of an object to their own level of understanding. It is also a kind of idealism.
Here’s the conclusion from the last two years of talks with RR. Further dialogue is unproductive, whether it is under pressure or because of a lack of intellectual sincerity to understand Marxism. But through that conversation, we have become more able to understand more specifically about one of the most important issues of this time. Hopefully this can contribute to the construction of an international revolutionary party in the future.
14 SEP 2020
Dear Comrades of Bolshevik East Asia,
We are sorry for the late reply. We view your letter is a huge step forward towards a common international program and organization. Nevertheless, we think that there are still differences and misunderstandings. Our goal in this letter is to hopefully clarify and elaborate and hopefully reach common ground on the Iranian question so that we can focus on other areas of discussion we have not yet started.
“What is different?” or the role imperialism plays internationally
We welcome your statement that our position on Libya and Syria contribute to the reconstruction of the international socialist movement. However, we do not believe our line on Iran in 1979, derived from the Spartacist line at the time, is in contradiction with this. The SL repeatedly stated, as you yourselves are aware, it would side against an imperialist or Shah military reaction against the ongoing mass struggle, and against the Iranian people as a whole.
The fact that imperialists “have a part” in what is going on does not change “the fact that a faction of the bourgeoisie was attempting to remove another from power to better repress and exploit the proletariat or an oppressed nation.” (as you quote from us). It rather makes it clearer. We never attempted to hide or deny the role of imperialist intervention in Syria/Libya or Iran.
You say “We do not agree to describe this conflict simply as a bourgeois internal struggle”, but the results of such a victory – mass repression against communists, shows that it really was definitely (though not “simply”) a struggle between two factions of the bourgeoisie, with once taking power they can turn their guns against the masses that brought them into power.
Let us examine our differences between our methodologies on determining whether or not workers should take a dispute on certain issues. You have the claim that imperialist involvement in itself is the defining factor, so that Marxists should always just oppose imperialists on whatever side they choose as a question of just anti-imperialism. We agree taking this factor into consideration is crucial. But with such methodology you limit the issue to just imperialism. This methodology is very mechanical, imperialist presence helps us choose which side, but is not the sole determiner. We say that the criteria is if the victory of one side over the other represents a qualitative change on the conditions of the working class for class struggle. That is when there are real concrete differences between the sides in which a victory of one would serve in the interests of the proletariat.
For example, on the hypothetical Fascist coup in Germany Trotsky discusses in his book, Schleicher vs. Hitler. We would take a side because it would be beneficial for the workers to avoid it, not because of the other side being more pro-imperialist – which your methodology implicitly upholds. Even in neo-colonies, this of course helps us build the picture, but cannot be the absolute factor in itself, especially since at times there won’t be much difference on which side is “more pro-imperialist”.
We have not researched Turkey in depth, but if we should take a side on this confrontation it wouldn’t be because Erdogan had less pro-imperialist connections than his generals who attempted the coup. Speaking of Brazil, we know for a fact the PT government was in excellent terms with the imperialist powers during its entire existence. The coup, which never got to a physical confrontation, was much more a result of internal questions than of imperialist meddling/intervention. This is because imperialist interests were never at stake. Still, we take a side in it because it was a conflict in which the removal of the government by a reactionary band of right-wing forces accelerated attacks against the workers and the poor.
Our take on events like this has nothing to do with the IBT neutralism, which uses a technical issue (the type of imperialist involvement) to declare themselves “not taking sides” as quickly as possible. We are, instead, telling you that imperialist involvement on one side is a defining factor for Marxists, but not the only one. And also that on several occasions in which we should take sides in intra-bourgeois confrontations, this criteria alone may not be sufficient.
On the slogans
When you say “This ‘Down with the shah Down with the mullahs’ was an ‘ultra-leftist’ and ‘sectarian (Feb. 10, 1979)’ slogan which was controversial within SL” I think there is some misunderstanding. In the quote you referred to they do not call their old slogan “ultra-leftist” or “sectarian”. Or consider this change in slogan a line change at all. The “Slogans on Iran” motion makes this explicit saying:
“The slogan ‘Down with the shah, Down with the mullahs’ expresses the strategic Marxist perspective for the outcome of the Iranian revolution: a life without the shah and without the mullahs”.
According to the motion, they had amended the slogan because it didn’t best display the position they had, and it could potentially be interpreted and used for sectarian purposes if it were to be allowed to – which the ICL and I/BT eventually went on to do, so their assessment in 1979 was quite correct. That shows the flaw of the slogan, yes. But it is not calling the slogan sectarian but it being not as precise enough to display their same line as before – in their words it “lacks a tactical element (but not a principled one!)” as it had an implication of “equivalency between the shah and the Mullahs”, as such adopting a new slogan which “cuts through the possible [our emphasis] misuse of either of the other slogans”.
On the reason it was hidden in future publications, this most likely occurred because the SL liked “angular” slogans (which they themselves addressed in the same motion complaining that this new slogan does its job “less angularly and forcefully”). It was also easy for the real SL leadership in New York to ignore a correction from the IEC of the iSt because it was a bureaucratic organization. We have no doubt that within time in the SL, this “abstentionist” view started to consolidate. That is valid for the IBT too, especially Riley. The motion prophetically predicted this, stating:
“In the hands of revolutionary Marxists the slogan was used to express the correct program; in other hands it could be used to mask a sectarian program”.
The original slogan certainly could be used for sectarian purposes, and it certainly did serve that purpose in the end for Riley, but was the slogan that way originally? We do not think so, and neither did this correction.
WV 219 loudly states “Down with the Shah! Down with the Mullahs!” in its title. Does this mean “ultra-left abstentionism”? Well when referencing the strikes that occur they acknowledge its limitedness in that is has subordinated itself to a common program as the Mullahs:
“However, the leftist students and striking workers seem united to the bourgeois liberals and Muslim clergy by a common “democratic” program directed against the shah: the end of martial law, freeing of political prisoners and replacement of the monarchy by a parliamentary regime.”
Yet, they explicitly call for “victory to the strikes”! This is quite the opposite of abstaining from the struggle in spite of having such a program. In fact the SL later in the article says this point blank:
“An Iranian Trotskyist party must join in the struggle for bourgeois democratic demands. But this is inseparable from an irreconcilable opposition to the mullahs’ reactionary drive. The struggle for a sovereign, secular constituent assembly, land to the tiller, women’s rights, smashing SAVAK and the monarchy and the right to self-determination for Iran’s oppressed nationalities are impossible without the independent mobilization of the working class”. [Our Emphasis]
These quotes, in no uncertain terms confirm that despite the SL having the old slogan, they still had the position of “Down with the shah! No support with the Mullahs!” and that both the old and updated slogan were not abstentionist, in fact quite explicitly for intervening in the struggles for bourgeois democratic demands.
The description of the regime after the ascension of Khomeini as “much better than the shah”, like a “partial victory”, just like the SWP, the Mandelites, and the Morenoites is our key difference. In our view it is rather an aborted revolution, due to prominence of Islamists, lack of independence of the working class and lack of revolutionary party. Its result ended up a maneuver of a section of the ruling class in order to maintain capitalism. Would you agree with this key issue? We view it is a foundational point of this whole question.
Let us clarify on where we think you “insist on ‘helping or supporting’ Khomeini’s grip on power, or the part that could be interpreted as such”. In our view, calling Khomeini’s rise to power a “partial victory” (or in your particular wording a “victory for the left-wing guerrillas and the working people”) seems to be implicit of a call to power, albeit critically. What else would this victory be? A victory we don’t call to happen (and admittedly aim to go beyond)? To call such a thing a partial victory amounts to critical support of Khomeini’s ascension to power, which would be by definition “critically” supporting Khomeini’s grip on power (albeit contradictorily for the purpose of positioning his overthrow).
We would participate with our own banner in popular insurrection even with the participation of followers of Khomeini. But we do not consider their consolidation of power, although unstable, in the hands of his political forces a partial victory. You say it is a victory for Khomeini and also the working class – that is a contradiction, these days you cannot have both. It cannot be a “victory for the Khomeinites. But at the same time, it was also a victory for the left-wing guerrillas and the working people”. It may seem like so to some (as it certainly did for the SWP, the Morenoites and the Mandelites too). But Marxists know class struggle in the time of imperialist decay cannot work like this.
We can recognize some partial victories (on the economic level, for example) that they were forced to concede, but the movement in itself, their grip on power, cannot be considered a victory, albeit partial, at all. The fact that a section of the bourgeoisie was able to take the grip of power means the change as a whole can’t be considered a partial victory or a victory for the working masses. Proof of that is that the Mandelites and the Iran CP were jailed – no partial victories would lead to that. The expropriation of certain American companies and other issues may have been partial victories, but the process that led them to jail cannot be considered a partial victory, which is why they were soon after reversed and also combined with very reactionary measures. Marxists are willing to recognize those partial progressive measures and defend them (even if they are taken by the most reactionary regime). But to call the movement which led to the ascension of the Khomeini group to power (although still unstable) a “partial victory” is different. It masquerades the meaning of his ascension. That is the difference between Marxism and Mandelism, the SWP, Morenoism, etc.
While we are happy you agree with the line “Down with the shah, No support to the mullahs”, that shows an inconsistency in your argument. Calling for no support to the mullahs would not be calling their ascension a “partial victory”. No support to the Mullahs would mean we wouldn’t see their rise to power as a victory of any kind. You say that the working people “went beyond Khomeini’s control and toppled the military directly” which we think is a testament to the potential of the working people of Iran, and that confirms even more that a call “Down with the Shah, no support to the Mullahs! Workers to power!” could have great effect in exposing the reactionary nature of the Mullahs and help the Iranian masses move forward. But it does not change the fact that Khomeini had already taken over the lead and grip of power after this confrontation.
What position should have been raised? Permanent Revolution vs Stageism
You say: “From the beginning of the revolution on January 7, 1978, until the collapse of the military on February 11, 1979, we struggle with Khomeinites to overthrow the regime. At the same time, we unconditionally protect the political and organizational independence and warn the working class of the reactionary nature of the Khomeinites. After the victory of Anti-Shah struggle, we struggle to build the workers’ power”.
But this position has stagist implications. It certainly sounds like you are calling to side with Khomeini until his ascension to power, and after this stage of overthrow, then we would struggle to build workers power. If that is the case, it contains within it a nucleus of a stagist position. Marxists defend the need for workers’ power without the need of establishing any previous bourgeois regime (“with the Khomeinites”). That is the sole interpretation of Permanent Revolution for the defeat of reactionary regimes in backwards nations.
On this question, you appear to be using a similar methodology to Morenoites, and as such it may be worth drawing parallels with how the Morenoites saw Egypt in 2011, when the dictatorship of Mubarak was toppled. Would the ascension of the Muslim Brotherhood and other bourgeois forces to power in Egypt in 2011 be considered a “partial victory” after the fall of Mubarak? The democratic gains are partial victories, yes, but with the leadership and program, which can’t be ignored – we cannot consider this in general a partial victory just because the masses waged a mass struggle against the regime and it fell.
In WV 217, it explicitly details the problem the SL has with the Mullahs, that is, their program represented reaction. They correctly point out that the workers’ strikes that aroused from this period had a distinctly different character. It, in distinction from the Islamists led protests, had a sharply proletarian character. The urbanized and even secularized proletariat which reared its head were brushing against the Mullahs movement itself.
As the article said “The workers’ strikes are clearly seen as distinct from the mullah-led protests. This was made explicit when strikes by taxi drivers, government, airline, hospital and postal employees, among others, broke out and the merchants of Tehran unexpectedly opened the city’s main bazaar, which had been shut down in support of Khomeini and the mullah-led religious opposition. They wanted, said the merchants, “not to confuse the issue with the other strikes” (UPI dispatch. 8 October)” not to mention that “The airline strikers, for example, steadfastly refused to fly some 20,000 pilgrims to Mecca (the shah intervened to offer the pilgrims transport in air force planes in an attempt to refurbish his religious credentials.)” (WV 219) effectively acting as a strike breaker.
This posed the question of proletarian independence point blank. You cannot support the movement as a whole as well as supporting the strikes – it showed that a victory of the workers cannot be at the same time a victory of Khomeini. To join in certain struggles on a case by case basis with the Khomeinites, that is one thing. We take a side in certain confrontations, not just in general, “with the Khomeinites” for the fall of the Shah. One is concrete, the other is taking the side of the “anti-shah revolution”, which is abstract, doesn’t clarify the class character of the Shah defeat. But if Trotskyists were in Iran at the time, how could one reconcile the struggle of these workers with a general support to a movement politically dominated by the Islamists when they rose to power? Only by championing such a proletarian pole would Trotskyists be able to win the support of these workers, as such as opening an opportunity for the Islamist led movement to potentially have a split to the side of the workers.
You ask, “who will comrades fight against on whose side ‘temporarily’ when Rousseff and the rightists fight?” In our view, the struggle between PT and the rightists was not militarily based. Also, this is a different situation because the PT was the one already in power, not trying to obtain it. If today, in Brazil’s reactionary government of Bolsonaro, there was a mass revolt with the PT playing a part in it and it ended up with them in power, protecting the bourgeois regime and its institutions, we might side with the PT on certain confrontations, but we would definitely not call the results a “partial victory”, neither say the outcome is “much better” than before. The whole structure of the bourgeois state would be preserved because of the brake the PT ascending to power would be. (All this is of course hypothetical since the PT is extremely legalist). If PT succeeded in taking power over the government, would that count as a “partial victory” to the Korean comrades? And if that is so, shouldn’t we be calling to vote for them?
During the coup that removed the PT, we took a side when the rightists advanced but we did not call for the PT to “stay in power”. Defeating the coup would be a partial victory only in the sense of their not being removed by a reactionary movement, not because they stayed in power. We called for workers’ unity as a class against the rightist maneuver. The equivalent here would be a shah or imperialist coup against Khomeini after he had gotten to power. We state that we’d be on the side against American imperialism if they invaded Iran. But this is two different situations. As such, this example you have brought up does not seem to justify their call for the rise to power of Khomeini and calling that a “partial victory”.
The understanding of the February revolution and where it is similar and where it is different is crucial – the February revolution was a proletarian insurrection! But the proletariat was not ready to take power; its opportunist leaders gave the power to the bourgeoisie. The collapse of the Shah regime was not a proletarian insurrection, although it had an element of popular support, of course. In 1979, the Islamists took over power, despite the fact they did it as part of a larger bloc of forces and therefore couldn’t immediately apply their full program. There were partial victories in 1917 – the creation of the soviets, the establishment of socialist cells in the army, the toppling of the monarchy by a workers insurrection. But we do not consider the process as a whole to be a “partial victory” either. To describe the 1979 movement as that is just WRONG. It was a movement with potential for revolution. But change in power led by the Islamists was NOT the path for that. It was the path for burying the movement. We know comrades here agree with us, but your position of “partial victory” betrays this.
Today SL, IBT and BT alike have all adopted “Down with the Shah, Down with the Mullahs” to, in the prophetic words of the German section of the iSt and later its IEC, “mask a sectarian program”. We think your instincts against that are correct. But you have inverted their formulation. We hope clarifying how the SL did not do a line change with their slogan change will show how the current abstentionism was not the original line of the SL. We again apologize for the delay in response. And we hope this letter shows our seriousness in working towards a common program.
9 July 2020
[R. Beiterin] on behalf of Bolshevik-Leninist of Australia
Ícaro Kaleb on behalf of Reagrupamento Revolucionário of Brazil
Today, imperialism, culminating in the U.S., has extremely tensed the globe since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, invading Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Yemen, and provoking Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. Imperialism is mobilizing all its apparatus and propaganda machines to demonize its enemies and praise the war of aggression. Thus, they were able to mislead their own working class and turn the self-proclaimed “Marxist” into their heralds by intimidating them before the pressures of war. In this regard, RR comrades’ position on Libya and Syria, supporting the victory of Libya and Syria, must be an important contribution to the global socialist movement.
As you comrades know, we have separated from the IBT, which used to take a treacherous neutral position on imperialism and colonial affairs. Their theoretical basis derived from the neutral line of the Spartacus League on the 1979 Iran Revolution. We define it as an unscientific line deviated from Leninist tradition. RR comrades, on the other hand, express support for the 1979 SL line on Iran.
The common ground between RR and Bol-EA
But you comrades have a similar position with us in tactics in Egypt, Turkey, Libya, Brazil and Syria, which have been the big issues between IBT and us. And the conclusion reached by comrades through similar examples and quote of Trotsky is very scientific and completely consistent with our position. This is a very important point to let us know that our discussion is hopeful.
“For us, such a cases are analogous to the bloc with Kerensky against Kornilov, siding with China against the Japanese in the 1930s and 1940s, and siding with the Spanish republic against Gen. Franco‘s upheaval. one “classic” case often forgotten is the possibility of siding with German Bonapartist government of Papen/Schleicher against a fascist coup in the 1930s.”―RR, 12 June
“For Marxists, “militarily supporting one side against the other” takes the concrete meaning of defending the organization of an independent proletarian action, that is, with its own revolutionary perspective.”―Ibid
But comrades are showing flaws in analyzing the nature of the conflict that has taken place in these countries.
“The question at hand is about the correct relation between revolutionary strategy, which is based on Permanent Revolution, and revolutionary tactics, especially when it comes to taking a military side in inter-bourgeois conflicts such as coups d’état, imperialist interventions and civil wars.” ―Ibid
Who are the subjects of the conflict here? Are they the bourgeois of imperialist motherland and colonies? Or colonial bourgeois sects? Comrades say it is the latter in the next sentence.
“The political events discussed in the case of the coup d’état in Egypt and Turkey, or the civil war and later imperialist invasion in Libya and Syria can all be traced out to the fact that a faction of the bourgeoisie was attempting to remove another from power to better repress and exploit the proletariat or an oppressed nation. In these situations, Marxists have a duty to oppose defeat those attacks because their victory would mean the establishment of harsher conditions for the working class to fight for its revolution.”―Ibid
We do not agree to describe this conflict simply as a bourgeois internal struggle. In particular, all four countries are colonies. The political upheaval of these countries can be seen at some point (for example, from Libya until March 2011), on the surface, only through a struggle between the bourgeois sects. But the imperialism behind it is a much more decisive factor. Today, it has been revealed that the wars in Libya and Syria were long-term invasions of imperialism. Also, it is now clear who is responsible for the coup in the two countries, given Egypt, which has become more reactionary in the Arab world as an active tool of U.S. imperialism since the coup, and Turkey, which is in serious conflict with the U.S. after the failure of coup.
In fact, it was Riley’s analysis that the events in these countries were bourgeois internal struggle. Riley’s “Middle East Chaos” points out that Syrian “civil war” is actually a U.S.-led imperialist invasion, as shown in the table of contents such as “Syrian Jihad: CIA as Quartermaster,” “Imperialists Engineer ‘Salafist Principality’” and “Imperialists Propose Partitioning Syria.”
But at the end, it concludes that the event taking place in Syria is a “civil war,” or bourgeois internal struggle, and draws the political conclusion that we take neither side.
“In Syria’s civil war, revolutionaries do not support either the brutal Baathist dictatorship or its reactionary Islamist opponents.” ―Middle East Chaos
“The international workers’ movement has no interest in the victory of either Syria’s Baathist dictatorship or their reactionary Islamist opponents” ―Ibid
Riley certainly analyzed the Syrian situation scientifically in this article. However, he betrays the scientific analysis that imperialism is the cause of conflict, and brings to the wrong conclusion that we should be neutral because it is a bourgeois internal struggle.
On the other hand, RR comrades have different attitude. Comrades have come to the political conclusion that if the interests of the working class are at stake, we should not be neutral and fight with a sect of bourgeoisie against the other sect. This is the right conclusion to be faithful to the cause of the working class. But correct political conclusion should be based on scientific cause analysis.
The case of Iran
RR comrades criticize us on the question of revolutionary tactics in 1979 Iran:
“We do not think it was possible to give such movement an abstract “military support” in general or defend their rise to power. Neither do we call the Islamists ascension a partial victory” ―RR, 12 June
Furthermore, comrades criticize us by quoting Workers Vanguard 223 and 225 published on Jan. 19 and Feb. 16 that military support for Khomeini is to help him rise. And later, citing conflicts between women, ethnic minority groups and Khomeinites which were sharpened after March 1979, comrades say, ‘We should not give military support’ to the latter.
On the other hand, however, the comrades also expressed the view that if anti-shah camp, including Khomeinites, engaged with shah and imperialism we would fight on the side of former (Military support).
“For instance, if the Shah tried to “solve” their existence through bloody military repression, we would see it necessary to call for their defense, or if the imperialists had invaded the country to maintain a regime which favored them, we would also defend a practical bloc with the Khomeinites to throw them out.” ―RR, 12 June
The reason why the positions are so inconsistent is that you have mixed up anti-shah struggle, began in January 1978 and ended in February 1979, with incidents that took place after the struggle. Therefore, we would like to summarize the events in Iran in a brief chronology from January 1978 to March 1979 so that there would be no mutual misunderstanding before refuting the main arguments.
The timeline of Iranian revolution and Workers Vanguard
|Iranian revolution||Workers Vanguard|
January 7 – Police launch a bloody crackdown on seminary students protesting shah’s propaganda slander on Khomeini.
|late January to early August – Protests protesting regime’s violent crackdowns take place over several months and gradually subside.||April 7, 1978 No. 200|
|August 19 – A big fire break out at the Rex theater in Abandan, 422 people fell a victim, SAVAK is suspected of being behind. Popular animosity towards SAVAK widely spreads.|
|September 4 – Troops fire at sit-ins in Jaleh square in Tehran, killing 64 people. (Black Friday) “Down with the shah” slogan becomes the main demand of struggle||September 8, 1978 No. 214|
|September 9 – Teheran oil workers go on strike in protest of the Black Friday incident, A wave of strikes spread to the other sectors||September 22, 1978 No. 215|
|September to December – A nationwide general strike and demonstration involving millions of people takes place.|
January 4 – Shah appoints Bakhtiar as prime minister
|January 4 to 15 – Widespread general strike and protest calling for the overthrow of shah and Bakhtiar takes place.|
|January 16 – Shah flees the country|
|January 17 to 31 –Continuing mass protest and general strike calling for the overthrow of Baktiar. Khomeinites and liberals initiate negotiations, regarding the transition of power, with the military under control of general Robert Huyser||January 19, 1979 No. 223|
|February 1 – Return of Khomeini||February 2, 1979 No. 224|
|February 9 to 10 – A revolt supporting struggle breaks out at Tehran’s Doshan Tappeh Air Base, left-wing guerrillas join rebels to repel regular forces, rebels capture barracks, police stations, prisons and broadcasting stations.|
|February 11 – Military surrenders, victory of anti-shah struggle||February 16, 1979 No. 225|
|March 18 – Khomeinites assault on a rally advocating the rights of women||March 2, 1979 No. 226|
|March 18 to 21 – Provisional government and Khomeinites launch military campaign against autonomy seeking Kurds||April 13, 1979 No. 229|
The meaning of military support
In addition, we will make clear what ‘military support’ is. That’s because comrades describe our military support as something “abstract.”
“We do not it was possible to give such movement an abstract “military support” in general or defend their rise to power.”
“But we would not give Khomeini an abstract ‘military support’”
Military support is not “abstract.” It is a very “concrete” tactic adopted in “concrete” situations. For example, who will comrades fight against on whose side “temporarily” when Rousseff and the rightists fight? Of course, both sides are enemies of the working class, and it would be perfectly good if we could overthrow both of them at the same time. But what will you do when you can’t? Didn’t the comrades take the line of striking the rightists and defending Rousseff “temporary”? Trotsky gives an excellent analogy to this problem.
“When one of my enemies sets before me small daily portions of poison and the second, on the other hand, is about to shoot straight at me, then I will first knock the revolver out of the hand of my second enemy, for this gives me an opportunity to get rid of my first enemy.” – For a Workers’ United Front Against Fascism, December 1931
Military support in 1979 Iran
Let me now reveal our opinions one by one on the arguments of RR comrades. First of all, comrades criticize us as follows, quoting Workers Vanguard No. 223 (19 January 1997):
“To “militarily” support the Islamists ascension to power (Instead of entering practical blocs with them on specific occasions or contexts) amounts to political support.”
On January 19, 1979, when this article published, there were fierce protests and general strikes in the streets and factories of Iran to overthrow the shah’s prime minister Bakhtiar. Three days ago, Shah fled, but the military loyal to him survived under the control of Robert Huyser, who was sent by the US government. Coincidentally, in 1953, Shah fled overseas after the failure of the first coup, but returned immediately thanks to the success of second coup directed by CIA. Although the situation was a bit different in 1979, due to this similarity, No. 223 treated the military coup as a serious threat.
The backbone of the Iranian colonial regime was not shah but the U.S.-led military. So, at the moment when the No. 223 was published, the military had not yet been overthrown. Therefore, the struggle to overthrow the shah regime at this point was not over yet.
Iran’s working class played a major role in the struggle through a general strike, but failed to dispel the illusion of Khomeini due to the absence of the revolutionary vanguard party and the line of people’s front raised by self-proclaimed Marxist organizations, Tudeh party and Fedayeen. The working class has yet to be politically and organizationally prepared to wipe out the military and bourgeois opposition represented by Khomeini at the same time. Therefore, we had to fight ‘temporarily’ with the former against the latter in a battle between the opposition, including Khomeinites, liberals and leftist guerrillas, and the military at the time of the No. 223.
Workers’ vanguard 223 went further to warn that Khomeini and the military could establish Islamist military dictatorship like the Zia regime in Pakistan. But the class instinct of the working people in the streets regarded the military as an enemy. Revenge on SAVAK, introduced in No. 223, and widespread support for the military revolt that took place a month later prove this. Thus, negotiations between the Khomeinites and the military did not dismiss the struggle against the military, only giving the revolutionary vanguard a chance to expose their essence in front of the working people.
So, what had to be done to deal with Khomeinites? We would never have been silenced for anti-shah struggle like Tudeh party, Fedayeen and Mujahedeen. Instead, we would have criticized the negotiations with the military and raised “the overthrow of the military and the execution of the firing officers.” And we would have helped the working class to defend their political and organizational independence against the Khomeinites trying to stop the general strike for negotiations. Finally, we would have criticized the Khomeinites’ mentions advocating the oppression on women and persecution on heterodox Bahais and warned the working class of their reactionary nature.
Such a policy would have promoted political armament of the working class and the oppressed people who will fight against Khomeinites in near future, while overthrowing the military, the worst enemy of Iranian working class.
Straw man fallacy
Next, comrades argue on the basis of Workers Vanguard 225.
“To support the ascent of Khomeini to power would have been a strategical, political form of support which would only sown illusions and false expectations in the results of the Islamists’ rise to power.”
This sentence of comrades is the creation of a strawman. We have never insisted on “helping or supporting” Khomeini’s ascension to power. We have consistently been wary of “infusing illusions and false expectations on the Islamists’ rise to power.” Lenin’s April thesis in this regard is a key example of our tactics.
I want you to point out which part did we insist on “helping or supporting” Khomeini’s grip on power, or the part that could be interpreted as such.
Flaw of Workers Vanguard
The situation analysis of No. 225 has serious flaws. First, the title begins with a huge headline “Mullahs win” at the front, and claims in the section cited by comrades that:
“This is not a victory of working masses. Today, Iran belongs to middle-class Islamic reaction in a bloody alliance with a section of the same officer corps……But his victory, assured by the capitulation of elements of the higher levels of the military.”
Workers Vanguard 225 describes the situation in Iran as if an alliance between Khomeini and the military had been forged, like the Zia regime of Pakistan exemplified in No. 223. But what about reality?
On Feb. 9, seven days before the No. 225 came out, a revolt erupted at an air base in Tehran supporting the struggle. Rebel forces defeated the regular army with military support from leftist guerrillas and enthusiastic support from the citizens of Tehran. The victorious rebels and left-wing guerrillas armed the Teheran people with seized weapons and captured barracks, police stations, prisons and radio stations. The regular army collapsed without a hitch because it had already been weakened by demoralization and agitation of soldiers.
Khomeinites and liberals were forced to stop negotiations with the military and support the revolt because of the unexpected revolutionary awakening of the working people. The embattled military gave up resistance and surrendered on Feb. 11. This ended the anti-shah struggle with the collapse of the colonial feudal dynasty-military dictatorship.
Khomeini established a provisional government under the premiership of liberal Bazargan to prevent the complete collapse of regular forces and state apparatus. But the provisional government was so weak that it had to share its power with local committees (Komitehs) which were guided by various clergymen, workers’ strike committees-factory committees (Showra), and autonomous bodies of national minorities. In addition, Komiteh’s Revolutionary Guard, Khomeini’s militia Hezbollah, leftist guerrillas such as Fedayeen and Mujahedeen, and militias of national minorities all remained armed after the victory.
After the collapse of the shah regime, Iran’s state apparatus was in a highly unstable situation, unable to monopolize armed force. In addition, the U.S. imperialism, which had supported Iran’s capitalist system by force over the past decades, now lost its influence as Iran’s military has been neutralized. Iran’s capitalism faced a serious crisis after the anti-shah struggle, considering the point that private property without the protection of state power is meaningless.
The victory of the anti-shah struggle on February 11, 1979 was a victory for the Khomeinites. But at the same time, it was also a victory for the left-wing guerrillas and the working people, who went beyond Khomeini’s control and toppled the military directly. As a result, the apparatus has been greatly weakened, creating a dynamic of forces in favor of the working class for some time. But from then until 1983, the left-wing and labor camps failed to defend and expand the achievements of victory. As a result, Khomeini, the savior of Iran’s capitalist system, won the final victory.
But because of this the victory of anti-shah struggle should not be equated with the Khomeinite Islamists’ grip of power. Responsibility should be given to those who rejected the socialist revolution after the anti-shah struggle and really helped the Khomeinites’ rise to power.
The true line of Workers Vanguard
Next, comrades say that then-Workers Vanguard’s line was not “Down with the shah, Down with the mullahs” but “Down with the shah, No support to the mullahs” express in No. 225. And the slogan of No. 225 illustrates the line of SL well.
If SL’s line was the latter, it is perfectly in line with our position. But the central position of Worker Vanguard in 1978-79 was “Down with the shah, Down with the mullahs.” The reason we criticize Workers Vanguard is that SL has almost consistently raised this slogan to Iran and the world’s working class as a guideline for the struggle.
However, SL didn’t call for “Down with the shah, Down with the mullahs” from the beginning. The line of SL expressed in the Worker Vanguard 200 on April 7, 1978, in the early days of the anti-shah struggle, were as follows.
“Down with the Shah! Smash SAVAK!”
“For full trade-union rights! For full legal equality for women!”
“For the right of self-determination for national minorities!”
“For constituent assembly based on universal suffrage!”
“For workers and peasants government!”
These demands have combined very well the strategies and tactics to advance into the socialist revolution, responding appropriately to the development of the anti-shah struggle. This line lasted until September 8, Workers Vanguard 214.
However, on September 22, 1978, Worker Vanguard 215 posted a “Down with the shah Down with the mullahs” in a banner headline. From that time on, SL adopted this slogan as a new line and consistently pushed it until No. 224, issued on February 2, 1979.
Decision of International Executive Committee, February 10, 1979
But the slogan was not found in No. 225. Of course, the same slogan could not have been raised because the shah regime was overthrown at this time, but there was no indication of “Down with the mullahs.” But the slogan “Down with the mullahs” was raised again in the next issue. Why did this strange thing happen?
On Feb. 10, 1979, SL’s German branch adopted “Down with the shah No support to the mullahs” as a revision, criticizing the slogan, “Down with the shah, Down with the mullahs.” And it was unanimously approved by the International Executive Committee, which was attended by representatives from French and British branches. Proposals of the amendment explained the reasons why this slogan should be amended:
“There is a weakness to the slogan in that it expresses a historical perspective but lacks a tactical element; also, at the time that the slogan was first promulgated the shah was still in power and the slogan implied an equivalency between the shah and the mullahs. In the hands of revolutionary Marxists the slogan was used to express the correct program; in other hands it could be used to mask a sectarian program.”
And they proposed to adopt the slogan, “Down with the shah, No support to the mullahs!” Perhaps this is why the slogan of “Down with mullahs” has disappeared at the No. 225, published on February 16th. This “Down with the shah Down with the mullahs” was an ‘ultra-leftist’ and “sectarian (Feb. 10, 1979)” slogan which was controversial within SL.
Of course, revolutionary organizations can also make mistakes. The important thing is to correct it as soon as possible.
Back to the sectarian slogan
So, has SL succeeded in correcting its errors? No. In No. 226, published after the correction of No. 225, SL says:
“their position was spelled out in a banner headline in the American SWP’s Militant (23 February): “VICTORY IN IRAN.” A victory for whom? Not for the guerillas, not for the Kurds, not for the oil strikers or the women who will now be pressured or ordered to put back on the chador… Meanwhile, Khomeini and his mullahs-the real victors-are preparing to strike down the “satanic” left “traitors”!”
If the victory of the Anti-Shah struggle was a victory only for Khomeini and his followers, not for the working class and the oppressed people, why on earth had SL adopted the slogan “Down with the shah, No support to the mullahs”? Eventually, SL returned to “Down with the shah, Down with the mullahs.”
Furthermore, “Iran and the Left”, printed on Worker Vanguard 229 (April 13, 1997), reaffirmed that the slogan “Down with the shah, Down with the mullahs” was correct.
“Workers Power argues that participation in the Khomeinite demonstrations amounted to “a de facto anti-imperialist military united front” (ibid.). But these demonstrations were not civil war, in which victory for shah’s army would mean obliteration of the popular forces, and thus a policy of revolutionary defensism on the side of the mullah-led forces would necessarily be posed. The demonstrations were essentially a pressure tactic for the Islamization of the existing state apparatus. The Khomeini leadership was clearly looking forward a coup against the shah by a Persian equivalent of Pakistan’s “soldier of Islam” General Zia. The demonstrations for an Islamic Republic were just that.”
In other words, the demonstrations that took place in 1978-79 were not “civil war” but merely “pressure tactics” of Khomeinites, so there was no need to defend them. I wonder if they could say so to the people who were shot to death by troops on the streets of Tehran during 1978~1979.
As such, SL did not correct its line and returned to the “Down with the shah, Down with the mullahs” line with enormous cynicism.
Now, are these inconsistences of SL normal to the comrades’ eyes?
What position should have been raised?
Comrades point out the Khomeinites’ suppressions on women and minorities, calling on us to answer the following question.
“From a tactical standpoint, it is necessary to delimitate when and where we could have sided with Khomeini and Islamists.”
It’s a very good point. We will therefore clearly state when, where and how we should have sided with Khomeinites: “From the beginning of the revolution on January 7, 1978, until the collapse of the military on February 11, 1979, we struggle with Khomeinites to overthrow the regime. At the same time, we unconditionally protect the political and organizational independence and warn the working class of the reactionary nature of the Khomeinites. After the victory of Anti-Shah struggle, we struggle to build the workers’ power. In this process, we fight uncompromisingly against the Khomeinites’ assaults on working class, women, and ethnic minorities. But when the military stages a coup or imperialist invasion takes place, we fight temporarily with the Khomeinites.”
I think this has been enough to answer the question. Furthermore, I think it can be the answer to the question of bourgeois democracy. Because the reason why the Khomeinites were hostile to bourgeois democracy was not just because “The core Islamists were always openly in favor of a theocratic regime(RR).” Aside from their “subjective preference,” Khomeinites had to repress democratic rights like fascists because of the “objective conditions”, the fact that the Iranian capitalism was in danger after the Anti-Shah struggle. Therefore, we should have fought intransigently to defend the bourgeois democratic rights against the Khomeinites. Only through this path we could have defended the present dynamics of class and proceeded to socialist revolution.
Khomeini, Shah and the US imperialism
Finally, you comrades remind the United States of choosing the former while weighing Shah and Khomeini, and raise two reasons for that.
“(1) they preferred him to Khomeini and (2) they had nothing to lose by doing so”
We agree with RR comrades that Khomeini was never a true “anti-imperialist” champion and was ready to join hands with the United States. And later history proved it. But the reasons suggested by comrades are too simple and inconsistent with facts.
First, why did the US imperialism prefer Shah? In the aspect of class, there was no difference between the two. However, Shah unconditionally served to defend American interests, and Khomeini was based on a popular movement that violates the US interests apart from his subjective intentions. This difference was a serious issue to imperial financial capital. Because in short-term, oil rights, loans, arms contracts and joint ventures were at stake, moreover there was a possibility of national-liberation movements and communist revolutions spreading all across the region like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia etc.
Second, did they really have nothing to lose? By contrast, the US could have lost everything at the time and actually lost a lot. At the time, the Iranian communist revolution was a real threat to US. As a result, as the Islamic republic survived, US had partly lost what they could have lost all due to the communization. But the very fact that they lost something significant is undeniable. For example, they have lost oil rights and are constantly provoking Iran to reclaim them.
The 1979 Anti-Shah struggle, the so-called Iranian revolution, broke down the colonial regime. The people of Iran achieved the fruits of regaining its oil rights, which had been in the hands of Britain and US since 19th century, and driving the US forces out of Iranian territory. But the Iranian working class did not end the Iranian capitalist class, which hated them more than imperialists. As a result, a Turban wearing Bonaparte, called Khomeini, crushed the working class vanguard on the backs of the petty-bourgeoisie and the backward parts of working-class. As a result, the rights of the working class, women, and ethnic minorities have greatly degenerated, and a privileged group with turban appeared. At the same time, some of the excess profits that the imperialists used to pump up from Iranian oil wells were used to raise the average life expectancy and eradicate illiteracy after the revolution. This is why imperialists today abhor the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Permanent Revolution vs Stageism: 1917 Russia and 1979 Iran
Our position on Iran has been fully explained. What remains is whether the February Revolution or the 1979 Revolution can be called a “partial victory.”
The revolution clearly goes through a series of stages. These steps conform to the political consciousness, the degree of readiness and class dynamics of the masses, not arbitrary regulations. These steps are by no means just skippable. The masses can only leap to the next stage in a contradiction of each stage in where victory and setback intersect.
The February Revolution was also a stage where victory and frustration were combined. The revolution won the victory of neutralizing the Czar-Bourgeois state and building the Soviet. Thanks to this, workers, farmers and national minorities were free to organize, instigate, arm themselves and occupy land and factories.
At the same time, the February Revolution experienced a setback in which the Compromisers handed power to the bourgeoisie. The settlement of urgent issues such as the eight-hour labor system, land, peace and national self-determination has been postponed indefinitely and royalists, Black-Hundreds and officers have begun to run wild under the condolence of the Compromisers. Thus, the February revolution was both a victory and a setback for the Russian working class. Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Party could see through this contradiction and intervene in time to leap the February revolution into the October revolution.
The same was true of the Iranian revolution. The revolution won the victory of overthrowing the imperialist puppet regime and regaining oil rights. At the same time, the Iranian working class and the oppressed people had the opportunity to organize, instigate and arm themselves freely after 26 years since 1953.
But state power was passed on to Khomeinites and the Liberal Bourgeoisie, and an attack to restore capitalism ‘order’ began. The refusal of the nationalization of the means of production of the Shah and the large capitalists, the fascist violence of the Khomeini followers, the imposition of feudal lifestyle on women, and the bloodshed suppression of the ethnic minority came immediately after the revolution. This was a frustration of the Iranian revolution. Unfortunately, Iran did not have a Bolshevik party in 1979, so the contradiction of the revolution did not develop into a socialist path and eventually degenerated to the Islamic republic.
Finally, comrades hold the distinction between the February Revolution and the Iranian Revolution on the grounds that Khomeini was much more reactionary than Kerensky. But as we have seen, both Kerensky and Khomeini appeared at similar stages of revolution and mobilized all the reactionary means to stop the socialist revolution. Kerensky, however, had fewer means because of the correct guidance of the Bolshevik party. And decisively Kerensky was unable to show more of his reactionary nature because he was overthrown.
* * *
It is a pleasure for comrades to point out the reactionary nature of the Logan and Riley groups and to pursue a truly scientific path. But at the root of the groups’ claims is the line of SL, represented by “Down with the shah Down with the mullahs”, which February 10 1979 International Executive Committee points out to be “Sectarian.” This line was behind the neutral line in various imperialist-colonial conflicts, including Brazil.
We fully endorse the International Executive Committee’s resolution on February 10, 1979. Almost every sentence and logic in the resolution was our argument in the IBT internal debate. If so, then there is no contradiction between us in this matter.
The vanguard of working class should never be inconsistent in the analysis and the line. It is because the destiny of hundreds of millions of working classes is on our way. In 1978-79, SL analyzed the situation in a non-scientific way and stuck to the ultra-left-wing line with internal zigzags. As can be seen in the history of the revolution, this inconsistency grows more and more errors over time.
1 Aug 2019
Dear Comrades from Bolshevik EA,
When we raised criticisms in our last letter, we did not aim to put in doubt the revolutionary sincerity of the comrades, but to see if we could achieve a clarification on the political questions separating us. We expected this to be implicit in the fact that we sought to contact you even after having realized we had a different interpretation of the Iranian question.
We are happy to see that we seem to have the same position on Syria. On your question regarding Libya, we did not at the time recognize that the opposition leaders had received any significant material assistance from the US imperialists until March, although some US diplomats were speaking in their favor before that. That is why we did not take a general position in defense of the Libyan regime of Gaddafi but also did not support the opposition’s ascend to power (which we recognized as reactionary and could have sided against in some circumstances). In March, less than a month after the beginning of the conflict, such material support from the imperialists became apparent and we would have “taken the other side in the barricades” as a general approach. That is to say: defeating imperialists and their proxies became the number one priority.
We explain this in our article on Libya, originally published in Portuguese in 201 1 and that we are going to translate into English. We agree that if the IBT recognizes that the opposition was receiving material support from imperialists since the beginning, it should have taken a consistent position against it. We are open to correcting our position if there is sufficient evidence of this. What if, in reality, such assistance only started in March, as we analyzed at the time? Would you be willing to correct your position? The matter here seems to be simple, as well as minor, so we believe we can reach an agreement, even if we have small differences, because it is not a difference in methodology. What is important to us is the material/military assistance from the imperialists, not temporary diplomatic alignments, which may change really quickly when neither of the factions is really “anti-imperialist”.
To be quite honest, we were disappointed when your reply did not really engage with our position on the issue of Iran/February Revolution. We have to assume that our first email reply was not satisfactory in the objective of clarifying our political stance and the potential political programmatic differences which derive from your position of rejecting Spartacist position on Iran, and that therefore the comrades were unable to develop a proper counter to our arguments. This is, to an extent, to be expected, given that we both carry on a dialogue in a language which is not our own. Perhaps it was a fault of our own formulation. In any case, let us abandon abstract generalities and grasp the question by its roots.
Revolutionary tactics and revolutionary strategy
Upon reading your documents on the question and debating it with you, our opinion was that in fighting the passive sectarianism of the Riley faction, which fails to understand revolutionary tactics, the comrades from Bolshevik EA acquired some of Riley’s confused conceptions, but mostly inverted them. While your position is generally more correct from a political standpoint, it still suffers from abstractness in theory which can be dangerous in revolutionary politics. The question at hand is about the correct relation between revolutionary strategy, which is based on Permanent Revolution, and revolutionary tactics, especially when it comes to taking a military side in inter-bourgeois conflicts such as coups d’état, imperialist interventions and civil wars.
Marxists take a side in these conflicts when there is both a real conflict and real differences between the sides in regards to the interests of the proletariat. The political events discussed in the case of the coup d’état in Egypt and Turkey, or the civil war and later imperialist invasion in Libya and Syria can all be traced out to the fact that a faction of the bourgeoisie was attempting to remove another from power to better repress and exploit the proletariat or an oppressed nation. In these situations, Marxists have a duty to oppose defeat those attacks because their victory would mean the establishment of harsher conditions for the working class to fight for its revolution. For us, such cases are analogous to the bloc with Kerensky against Kornilov, siding with China against the Japanese in the 1930s and 1940s, and siding with the Spanish republic against Gen. Franco’s upheaval. One “classic” case often forgotten is the possibility of siding with German Bonapartist government of Papen/Schleicher against a fascist coup in the 1930s. Contrary to Riley’s words, the main issue here was not that one side had to be “democratic” and the other “authoritarian-Bonapartist”, but rather if, in context, there would be a significant difference for the working class organizations:
“By disregarding the social and political distinctions between Bonapartism, that is, the regime of ‘civil peace’ resting upon military-police dictatorship, and fascism, that is, the regime of open civil war against the proletariat, Thälmann deprives himself in advance of the possibility of understanding what is taking place before his very eyes. If Papen’s cabinet is a fascist cabinet, then what fascist ‘danger’ is he talking about? If the workers will believe Thälmann that Papen sets himself the aim (!) of establishing the fascist dictatorship, then the probable conflict between Hitler and Papen-Schleicher will catch the party napping just as the conflict between Papen and Otto Braun did in its time”. (Trotsky, Germany: the Only Road, September 1932)
Previously, in his famous pamphlet “What’s Next?”, Trotsky had explained a similar point in reference to the differentiation between the Bonapartist government of Bruning and Hitler, which the Stalinists failed to recognize. It does not need to be said that a Marxist intervention in an intra-bourgeois conflict is not the same as a petit-bourgeois intervention. For Marxists, “militarily supporting one side against the other” takes the concrete meaning of defending the organization of an independent proletarian action, that is, with its own revolutionary perspective. It is principled in as long as it leads to the political-organizational strengthening of the proletariat as an independent force. It is therefore a necessary implication that the Marxist organization preserves its independent political line during said conflict and does not take a side based on abstract notions of “democracy in general”.
For instance, fascists – a paramilitary organization aimed at destroying workers’ institutions under bourgeois democracy – are always a threat to the proletariat. Whenever there is real conflict, be it an armed demonstration or a physical attack, even between fascist forces and other bourgeois parties, Marxists have a side: it cannot be denied that the defeat of the fascists benefits us. While organizing counter demonstrations and resistance to fascists, Marxists would agitate the proletarian program, warning that merely defeating the fascists wouldn’t do: the only way to guarantee the rights of the workers would be fighting for a worker’s republic.
Sectarians generally do not deny that in those cases the defeat of one of the bourgeois factions would benefit the proletariat, but deny that Marxists should intervene in those conflicts, since that would entail working together with one of the bourgeois factions. As you mentioned, the now called BT (Tom Riley’s faction) did precisely this in regards to Turkey/Egypt.
The case of Iran
As we already said before, we consider the 1979 Spartacist line on Iran to be correct, but we do not identify it with how the IBT (and Riley’s group in particular) has attempted to depict it. That means, we do not think it is analogous to the coups d’état in Egypt and Turkey. By equating everything to a “conflict” in abstract and saying Marxists should “not take a side” or “defend dual defeatism” in them, Riley’s methodology seems to have led you to “take a side” in a situation in which it is not possible to do it in the same way we do in the above mentioned cases. When a tactical “military support” in intra-bourgeois conflicts is thrown in the whole development of the political crisis in Iran, it loses its content and meaning. “Military/practical support” cannot be given as a blank check to a bourgeois political force or movement, even if they were fighting a reactionary regime such as the Shah’s.
First of all, the Spartacists did not defend “abstentionism” in struggles led by Islamist fundamentalists and other political forces which contained progressive demands and which mobilized the workers against the regime in Iran in 1 978-79. The practical intervention of the SL in the Iranian question was basically to defend the democratic rights of oppositional forces while denouncing Khomeini’s program, putting forward a proletarian perspective. They also wrote denunciations of the opportunist support given by centrists to the Islamist leaders – from Stalinists and Maoists to Mandelites and Morenoites. They did what they could to pressure a split in the centrists – the only way through which they could have had an influence in the actual events.
We are not the IBT: for us there is no doubt we should have participated in a movement for workers’ demands instead of staying aside, which were still happening despite the Islamists’ gradual destruction of the potential of the movement with their religious fundamentalism. Our difference is on how to better propel such movement forward, beyond its reactionary leadership. The centrists and reformists tied to the existing leadership and to that movement “the way it was” and condemned it by giving the Islamists direct or indirect support. We do not think it was possible to give such movement an abstract “military support” in general or defend their rise to power. Neither do we call the Islamists ascension a “partial victory”.
In fact, in the issue 223 of WV, the Spartacist League called for socialists to defend propelling the masses towards a consistent organization of reprisals against SAVAK officers, when it was precisely Khomeini and his subordinates which were using their authority to stop the acts of popular vengeance, as they were hoping to reach a deal with this central agent of the Shah’s bloody rule. To “militarily” support the Islamists ascension to power (instead of entering practical blocs with them on specific occasions or contexts) amounts to political support. One thing is to defend proletarian positions in a specific correlation of forces. For instance, if the Shah tried to “solve” their existence through bloody military repression, we would see it necessary to call for their defense, or if the imperialists had invaded the country to maintain a regime which favored them, we would also defend a practical bloc with the Khomeinists to throw them out. This would make the case analogous to the situation in Turkey/Egypt or Libya/Syria. On the issue #225 of their paper, the SL wrote:
“Had such a confrontation erupted into civil war, Marxists would have militarily supported the popular forces rallied by the mullahs against an intact officer caste, even as our intransigent political opposition to the reactionary-led movement sought to polarize the masses along class lines and rally the workers and lower strata of the petty-bourgeois masses around the proletarian pole.”
But we would not give Khomeini an abstract “military support”. Khomeini couldn’t and didn’t solve any of the basic questions facing the Iranian proletariat. To support the ascent of Khomeini to power would have been a strategical, political form of support which would only sow illusions and false expectations in the results of the Islamists’ rise to power. The iSt wrote after Khomeini’s arrival to power:
“The working masses of Iran who took to the streets against the hated shah must not be tooled. This is not a victory for the working masses. Today, Iran belongs to middle-class Islamic reaction in a bloody alliance with a section of the same officer corps which has dealt out decades of death and oppression on behalf of the Pahlavis; they are prepared to do the same now. Khomeini pulled the masses of Iran behind his drive for power. But his victory, assured by the capitulation of elements of the higher levels of the military. It is this army and police that the ‘revolutionary Islamic republic’ will unleash against the workers, peasants and minorities whose demands for democratic rights, land reform and national equality will not be met by the cabal of clerical reactionaries and Bonapartist generals now in power.” (Workers Vanguard #225)
This is what “Down with the Shah, no support to the Mullahs! Workers to power!” means. While maybe at that time an independent proletarian policy could not have prevented the emergence of an Islamic regime headed by Khomeini, it would be the ONLY policy which would afford the workers any chance to not to stop at removing the Shah – the figurehead of the Iranian bourgeoisie – but to carry their demands to their logical conclusion: the struggle for a worker’s state, led by the proletariat in alliance with the peasantry.
The fact is that while Marxists can abandon neither their political independence nor their tactical flexibility. It is important to know when giving “military support” to a bourgeois force means politically supporting it. The main drive of a Marxist tendency had to be the unrelenting, consistent political denunciation of Khomeini, aimed at causing a split between the workers and the reactionary Islamists. That was the Spartacist position and is exactly analogous to the line of the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917.
From a tactical standpoint, it is necessary to delimitate when and where we could have sided with Khomeini and the Islamists.
The struggle for women’s rights and the struggle against religious conservatism in general had to be a struggle against the conceptions of both Shah and Khomeini, both of whom relied on the backward religious conservatism which was primarily present amongst the petty-bourgeoisie. It would mean organizing the radical-democratic and proletarian women in a camp opposed to both the Shah and Khomeini. Same applies for Khomeini’s reactionary religious rallies around fundamentalist slogans.
Khomeini’s movement was also chauvinistic in relation to non-Persians, but especially in relation to non-Shiites, such as the Kurdish, Baluchistan and Turkish peoples, not to speak of other smaller ethno-religious minorities. WV also repeatedly mentions the strategically important Arabic core of the Iranian working class. So there was no ground for intersection of struggles there either. The proletariat had to organize independently. The fact is that at the time, once again, the best way for a Marxist circle in Iran to mobilize those workers and oppressed groups, bringing them to the forefront of the struggle against the Shah, would be through a sharp delimitation with the Shiite fundamentalists and a consistent criticism of the centrist socialists for their capitulation to Khomeini.
On the question of bourgeois democracy in its more specific sense, there is little ground for common action too. The core Islamists were always openly in favor of a theocratic regime. But in the occasions where the Spartacists could call for the defense of the democratic rights of the Islamist opposition against the Shah’s brutal regime, they did. Collaboration and unity of action with those sections of the movement in favor of democratic rights for workers’ organizations was not only possible, but a necessity.
The only occasions in which Marxists would have sided with the Islamists or had a unity of action would have been the opposition to the government’s tyranny and the defense of the national independence of Iran, a colonial nation. Therefore, one could have struggled side by side with them against the Shah’s repression of the opposition and the actions of his secret police, as well as for the expropriation of the property of American companies and expulsion of American troops from Iran. Obviously, even in these occasions, we would have denounced the farce of the mullahs’ “anti-imperialism”, which was not in any way genuine nor consistent. The Mullahs, including Khomeini, had once sided with the CIA in order to overthrow the bourgeois nationalist government of Mohammad Mosaddegh and to crush the Stalinist Tudeh party. Khomeini’s “Anti-imperialism” was a mix of the anti-American religious conservatism which resulted from their Islamic fundamentalism with the need to appeal to the genuine concerns of the Iranian masses.
The US tried supporting the Shah, but they were not willing to use their own soldiers to stop the regime change. On the other hand, Khomeini had no interest in a real revolution, in destroying the structures which were the touchstone of Shah’s regime. Khomeini used his mass support to render the Shah powerless by rendering the discipline in the army moot, and then pressured the Shah and his henchmen – including Bakhtiar, supported by the Shah and the US as a “conciliation” government to avoid the Islamic Republic – to surrender and bow before Khomeini.
While studying Khomeini’s ascension to power, it was most curious, but not surprising, to learn that within the American apparatus there was a debate where it was proposed to help Khomeini come to power, despite him being openly against the American interests in the region. The reason given: fear of instability. Any Marxist knows this means fear of the proletariat. So even the American agents knew that the only consistent anti-imperialism is proletarian anti-imperialism, and while this policy was soundly rejected at the time, they continued supporting the Shah because (1 ) they preferred him to Khomeini and (2) they had nothing to lose by doing so. Given a different relationship of forces – that is, given a real, realistic danger of proletarian revolution – they could have without a doubt changed gears to support a transition to Khomeini’s rule. It was mostly thanks to the “Communist” “friends of Khomeini” that there was no such danger.
Permanent Revolution vs. Stageism
The reason why we focused on criticizing your conception of the February Revolution is not only because of its historical importance, but because it is a constant feature of the debates between defenders of the Permanent Revolution and of Stageism. However, it is also not fully comparable to Iran in 1 979. Among the differences is the fact that at the forefront of the February insurrection were the Bolsheviks and the other workers and peasants’ organizations, not reactionary bourgeois forces. The Russian Cadets and Monarchists were able to grasp political power only through backroom deals and the support of the opportunist section of the workers’ organizations. From that point on, we can consider them analogous situations. The moment of the insurrection was very different in Russia and Iran, but the political power put in the hands of a bourgeois faction after the insurrection was very similar, as well as the maintenance of previous repression structures in the state. It is the street insurrection that Trotsky is referring to when he talks about victory in his History of the Russian Revolution. That is why both he and Lenin also described the results of the February Revolution as an attempt to divert the workers from revolutionary tasks or as a “maneuver”.
For the Mensheviks, supporting the government established in this process was their supreme goal, their “victory”. But in February, none of the actual tasks of the revolution had been accomplished. On the contrary: the bourgeoisie was trying to dismantle the soviets. While some democratic measures by the Provisional Government were undeniably a concession to the working class, they were aimed at diverting the proletariat from the struggle for state power and from the completion of the revolution, tying them to the bourgeoisie and demoralizing them to later allow the counterrevolution to destroy the soviets. We do not deny that concessions may have been given by Khomeini’s regime (mainly in opposition to U.S. imperialism), but we do reject any kind of support to it or recognition of his ascension as a “victory” instead of a maneuver of the bourgeoisie.
It is no surprise that all defenders of “stageist” conceptions always spent a significant amount of time praising the February Revolution or similar previous stages of revolutions which meant not an advance in working class organization, but instead the establishment of bourgeois regimes which would be “better” of “far superior” than the previous. Quite often, these “better” and “far superior” bourgeois regimes smash the revolutions that generated them as a side effect. This is exactly what happened in Iran, with the Islamists destroying the revolution and suppressing all proletarian forces and organizations (including the Tudeh and the Mandelites) once they got to power.
A late example of this methodology is Moreno’s conception of a “democratic” or “February” Revolution led by bourgeois or petty-bourgeois forces (from the Argentinean generals to Khomeini himself) which would “objectively” develop into a new October Revolution at a later moment. Obviously, comrades disagree with such stageist views. However, the logic you adopted in your polemics against the Rileyite-Loganite cliques has elements in common with it. We do not need to support Khomeini’s ascension to power in order to critically defend certain practical measures taken by the Islamists against American imperialism. It is one thing to say that the expropriation of an American company or the expulsion of American troops from Iran is a partial victory. It is another thing to say that the Islamists getting to power is a partial victory. We do not confuse the two because, much more important than a couple of anti-imperialist measures is the fact that such new regime was dedicated to destroying the revolution and any chance of real, solid, anti-imperialism.
The Spartacist position and activity towards the Iranian revolution was aimed at undermining the most powerful weapon of reaction against the future of the movement – the dissolution of the working class camp into the Islamist opposition; disorganization and apathy, caused primarily by the capitulation of the centrist organizations to the reactionary religious opposition, justified through the Iranian variant of the old Menshevik stageist conception. Precisely therein lies the difference between the Bolshevik (or Permanent Revolution) strategy for proletarian revolution, and the Menshevik-derived stageist conception: in the adoption or rejection of the struggle for Marxist-proletarian hegemony of the struggles of the popular masses and in their stance towards the ascension of the Islamists.
The destruction of the Iranian Stalinists, Mandelites and of the proletarian organizations by Khomeini is a tremendous example of what we mean. Khomeini’s regime, which you describe as “much better” than the Shah, effectively destroyed any chance of a victorious workers’ revolution by massacring thousands of conscious workers. That is why their ascension into power had to receive the ringing bell of warning by revolutionaries – not the deceiving chant of “partial victory”.
We agree that the question “Who will take power?” was still put just after Khomeini’s ascension. But it was also sharply put before that. The fact is that his ascension, while removing the Shah, maintained the structure of the bourgeois state (which we insisted so much in our last letter, as you correctly pointed) and prepared the “stabilization”. This means the apparatus was used to crush the workers’ opposition piece by piece. Trotsky once described the Chinese revolution (in his book “The Permanent Revolution”) as having its personification of Kerensky and of Kornilov fused into one individual: Chiang Kai-shek. The Iranian case is very similar in this aspect, with the difference that Khomeini was miles more reactionary than Kerensky could ever be.
* * *
We make this last significant attempt to present our views in an organized way to see if any prospect of a fusion discussion is possible with you, comrades, because we value your trajectory. We think you have a correct instinct against both other factions in the collapse of the IBT.
The Logan group, still calling itself the IBT, has approached the question of imperialism as an abstract manner, defined by stagnated criteria, reaching the utterly false conclusion that Russia is not qualitatively (only quantitatively) different from the U.S., Germany, France, Japan and other imperialist powers. We agree that the Riley group, now calling itself the BT, has a correct position on this stance, but has declined into sectarianism on the issue of defense tactics. Riley has used his particular “interpretation” of the Spartacist tradition to justify his neutrality in the face or imperialism and reaction. However, the bureaucratic degeneration of the IBT, which we still hope to be able to discuss with you, preceded their political bankruptcy, and in a sense led to it.
We have a distinct appraisal of the Spartacist tradition. We have been trying to express this to you from the beginning, when we showed that the SL itself, back in 1979, corrected its slogan to “Down with the Shah, no support to the Mullahs! Workers to power!” in order to make their position clearer. It was not “abstentionism”: it was fighting for workers’ demands and a proletarian program in the movement against the Shah, including having unity of action with other political forces when advantageous for the proletariat. But they did not side with Khomeini in his reactionary fundamentalist marches, his insurrection under the Islamic banner, nor did they deem his victory over the Shah, a victory achieved through maneuvers and a conciliation with a section of the reactionary bourgeois army, any kind of victory for the workers. We are in 100% agreement with the 1970s Spartacists on this.
We hope to hear from you soon and better understand which aspects of what we wrote you disagree with.
Gabriel Diaz and Icaro Kaleb,
On behalf of Revolutionary Regroupment
Dear RR comrades
We have been happy to find one of the closest tendencies and to engage in political discussion with you.
In this letter we’d like to reply to your 26 Feb email, especially the preferential questions.
1. On Libya and Syria
We agree with your position on Syria.
“We definitely take “the other side of the barricades”when there are imperialist forces involved. Those forces have been active by means of financing, training and giving logistical military support to certain “rebels”fighting in the civil war.”
“What we are complaining about is the fact that the IBT did not seem to recognize this element of the civil war and declares to be “neutral”in conflicts between Assad’s army and rebel armies in general (even if those are financially and materially supported by U.S. imperialism).”
However, it still seems that you have slightly different view on Libya that only after the direct military involvement of imperialism (in March) you could side with the domestic force fighting against the imperialism or there had been no imperialist “financial, material or military support”from imperialism to the “rebel”force before March.
“We think that there was a very short period –namely between February and March 2011 — in which neither of the two contending factions of the bourgeoisie in Libya had yet been financially and militarily maintained or supported by imperialist powers (this would be the part we “agree with the IBT”)… However, it was not until March that major imperialist powers started preparations for an intervention to bring the opposition the opposition to power and that marked a qualitative change. When this happened, it was a duty of all socialists to take a general position of “fight on the other side of the barricades”, even if it was dominated by Pro-Qaddafi forces.”
You said that “between February and March 2011–in which neither of the two contending factions of the bourgeoisie in Libya had yet been financially and militarily maintained or supported by imperialist powers.”And you added that “this would be the part we “agree with the IBT”.”However, the IBT knew that from the beginning it was not a degenerated event, but was ‘imperialist regime change’using domestic agents which was receiving financial, military and logistic support from imperialism.
“This is a fair summary of events in Libya—“massive air power” destroyed the armed bodies loyal to Qaddafi and opened the door for local quislings to scramble to fill the vacuum.
“In both Libya and Afghanistan, the immediate result of “regime change” was the installation of new puppet leaders with strong American connections. Afghan President Hamid Karzai—who was appointed leader at a conference in Bonn, Germany in December 2001—had worked with the CIA as a fundraiser for the anti-Soviet mujahedin 20 years earlier. Libya’s new prime minister, Abdurraheem el-Keib, who holds American citizenship, attended school in the U.S. and taught at the University of Alabama before moving to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to chair the Electrical Engineering Department at the Petroleum Institute, where his research was partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
“The attack on Libya, like the earlier interventions in Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq, was preceded by a barrage of lies—in this case focused on claims of a wholesale slaughter of civilians by the Qaddafi regime following the 17 February 2011 “Day of Rage”protest.…It is now clear that there was no more “genocide”in Libya than “weapons of mass destruction”in Iraq in 2003.
“After months of bitter conflict, the cumulative effect of the imperialist bombardment (supplemented by opposition militias aided by hundreds of foreign special forces) succeeded in decimating Qaddafi’s military.…For the most part, however, the “rebels”were not a major factor, apart from their value in drawing fire from Qaddafi’s forces, who thereby made it easier for NATO airstrikes to target them.
“In fact, it was not “a loose network of young activists”but rather the imperialist-linked National Conference for the Libyan Opposition (NCLO—subsequently subsumed by the TNC) that initiated the 17 February demonstrations, as the SWP subsequently admitted.”
―Libya & the Left: NATO, Rebels & ‘Revolutionary’Apologists
But the IBT concluded a hypocritical or at best illogical position.
“When NATO bombing commenced, the question of Libyan sovereignty was indeed clearly posed, and the nature of the conflict changed from being an intra-elite struggle to a fight between a neocolonial regime and a coalition of imperialists and their lackeys. The attitude of Marxists changed accordingly—from defeatism on both sides to military support for Qaddafi and his supporters against the imperialists and their TNC auxiliaries.”―ibid
Do you agree with this analysis and conclusion of the IBT?
2. On ‘Victory’question about February in Russa, and Egypt in 2011 and Iran in 1979
In the last December conversation, when we talked the “limited, contradictory and partial”victory and “two faces”of the results of the Egypt, Iran and February revolution, comrade Kaleb commented “Their coming to power is never described as a “victory”or “partial victory”of any kind by Lenin or Trotsky, but as a maneouvre of the bourgeoisie to fool the masses.”And we replied to that question in 7 Dec.
It seems that you still have same approach.
“From the point of view of state power, February was no more of a victory than Iran 1979 or Egypt in 2011. From the point of view of self-organization of the working class, February was way superior to Iran or Egypt, since there was no creation of organs of dual power in the latter cases. Any gains achieved in those situations (in terms of democratic rights or opening for revolutionary ideas) should of course be defended.”―26 Feb
You are adding “From the point of view of state power”and repeated the words several time. Does it mean the change of the class character of the state? And if there is no change of the class character of the state, it cannot be a victory?
And you talked and repeated that as if we argued that “the ascension of different bourgeois forces to state power (the Islamic fundamentalists in Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt) is ‘victory’. No, that was not our argument and not what we call ‘victory’and defend. We guess that you and we put different meaning in the term ‘victory’or you make a straw man argument.
“As you know what we call victory is that Czar’s old regime was overthrown, the army changed their loyalty from Czar to Soviet, workers’and soldier’s Soviet was built and it had real power, so dual power situation was risen, Bolshevik rapidly grown on the legal and mass base, and most of all it gave the subjective and objective situation to overthrow capitalist system as a whole.”―Bolshevik EA, 7 Dec
Most of all, the historical events gave the subjective and objective situation to overthrow capitalist system as a whole to the working class. In Russia which had the revolutionary leadership, they achieved the final victory, while Egypt and Iran could not. We believe that they were significant chances for us which never could be dismissed.
Then, can we call ‘victory’to the events Lenin and Trotsky explained below, if we follow your assumption of ‘victory’? In those event, was “state power”question involved or not?
“Every Socialist would sympathise with the *victory*of the oppressed, dependent, unequal states against the oppressing, slave owning, predatory ‘great’powers.”
―Lenin, Socialism and War
“If Mussolini triumphs, it means the reinforcement of fascism, the strengthening of imperialism, and the discouragement of the colonial peoples in Africa and elsewhere. The *victory*of the Negus, however, would mean a mighty blow not only at Italian imperialism but at imperialism as a whole, and would lend a powerful impulsion to the rebellious forces of the oppressed peoples. One must really be completely blind not to see this.”
—Trotsky, On Dictators and the Heights of Oslo
3. On Iran from 1979 to 1983
It seems that you describe the Iranian event in the period too simply, “the ascension of the Mullahs.”Shah was an imperialist stooge regime which had been installed by the imperialist backed coup in 1953. In the anti-Shah protest, there were not only radical Islamists(there were also significant layer of pro-Shah Mullahs too), but also organized working class with other layers of working people. And in the struggle the Iranian working class were rapidly radicalized. Working class built their own alternative organization, ‘Shuras’, like workers’Soviet in 1905 and 1917, directly controlling the key industries. They did not agree with ‘Islam republic.’What the Iranian working class lacked at the time was the revolutionary leadership while there were Stalinist or guerrillaist political tendencies, Fedayeen, Mujahedin and Tudeh.
After the abdication of Shah and the collapse of the old regime, in Feb 1979, the state power was not a monopolized one. The collape of the old regime raised the question: ‘which class rule the state?’like Russia after Feb in 1917. There were competition for the state power in which Iranian working class engaged through various political organizations. Finally about 1983, Khomeini, as the bonapartist leader of bourgeois class, won the game and became the final winner after serial crushes of secular left organizations one by one. Fedayeen in 1980, Mujahedin in 1981 and Tudeh in 1983.
We think that the question ‘who could take power?’is strongly related with the question ‘which political formation working class support’? We do not think the political tendency which abstain the struggle against Czar, Shah and Mubarak could not get the strong support from working class.
Comrades from Bolshevik EA,
First of all we want to apologize for our 2-month delay in answering your kind letter. This was not due to indifference or lack of interest on our part, but rather because of the preparations for our first national conference in January and the tasks immediately following it. From now on, we hope to be able to more promptly answer your e-mails as well as return to the chats, which we hope we can do on video format. This would save a lot of time and allow us to discuss a broader range of issues in a 2-hour session.
We too are seriously interested in political discussions with you and agree with the cultural and linguistic barriers that may exist. We too are willing to overcome them if that is necessary to guarantee unity on the basis of revolutionary program. We have shared and will continue to share the transcription of our chats and all our interactions with all Revolutionary Regroupment members. As opposed to the IBT, we have nothing to hide. We will now proceed to answer your questions.
We will soon make our largest article on the civil war and imperialist attack against Libya available in English (for now, it is only available in Portuguese, unfortunately). Only a short statement and a polemic with a Brazilian group that politically shielded Qaddafi are available in English. We think that there was a very short period – namely between February and March 2011 — in which neither of the two contending factions of the bourgeoisie in Libya had yet been financially and militarily maintained or supported by imperialist powers (this would be the part we “agree with the IBT”). The military and tribal reactionary leaders of the opposition to Qaddafi attempted to channel the popular revolt against the Libyan dictator for the benefit of their interests. The coup in Benghazi is in reference to this opposition taking over the city of Benghazi. It was the first place where the opposition defeated Qaddafi’s government. We would have opposed their intent on that occasion (“we did not support it”). However, it was not until March that major imperialist powers started preparations for an intervention to bring the opposition to power and that marked a qualitative change. When this happened, it was a duty of all socialists to take a general position of “fight on the other side of the barricades”, even if it was dominated by Pro-Qaddafi forces. Their defeat by the hands of imperialist predators Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy meant the imposition of double chains against the Libyan people.
The war in Syria took much more complex traits than in Libya. We suggest you read one major article on this issue that we have translated into English. With the sentence that you quoted, what we meant is that there has been imperialist intervention in Syria through various ways since the beginning of the civil war. We do not necessarily side with Assad/Russian forces on every confrontation of that complex war. However we definitely take “the other side of the barricades” when there are imperialist forces involved. Those forces have been active by means of financing, training and giving logistical military support to certain “rebels” fighting in the civil war, as well as temporarily collaborating with the Kurdish SDF. While it is difficult to generalize all cases due to the fragmentation of oppositional forces in Syria, in many of those cases revolutionaries should say that Assad’s military victory was the “lesser evil” in face of imperialist proxies. What we are complaining about is the fact that the IBT did not seem to recognize this element of the civil war and declares to be “neutral” in conflicts between Assad’s army and rebel armies in general (even if those are financially and materially supported by U.S. imperialism).
3) Russian February revolution, Iran 1979 and Egypt 2011
Comrade Mikl talks about the “two faces” of the February revolution, Iran and Egypt. By no means have we had an “all or nothing” approach to reality. We are able to recognize partial gains and also the lesser evil when it exists and is not simply a scam. On the Russian February revolution of 1917, it is very easy to see these “two faces”. The abdication of the Czar led to the formation of a government headed by Prince Lvov, with the political dominance of the Russian bourgeoisie and landlords, mainly represented by the Cadets. This was nothing but a maneuver of the Russian bourgeoisie to fool workers who had bravely fought the Czar and the war in the streets of Petrograd. That it was so can be seen in all subsequent events. The new government continued the war and repressed the masses (including the Bolsheviks), even after the SR were brought to the center of gravity of the farce, with the formation of Kerensky’s cabinet.
What was then the other, progressive face of the February revolution? It is rooted in the fact that Soviets achieved a higher level of organization and authority among the working masses, mainly in Petrograd and Moscow. You correctly point out that “the army changed their loyalty from Czar to Soviet, workers’ and soldier’s Soviet was built and it had real power, so dual power situation was risen, Bolshevik rapidly grown on the legal and mass base”. All progressiveness was rooted in the advance in the self-organization of the workers’, the distinct feature of every revolution, from which the victory in October was a continuation. This was the main accomplishment of the February revolution, however fragile. This is not to be confused with the victory of the ascending liberals in the re-shuffle of the regime, which was no victory for workers.
From the point of view of state power, February was no more of a victory than Iran 1979 or Egypt in 2011. From the point of view of self-organization of the working class, February was way superior to Iran or Egypt, since there was no creation of organs of dual power in the latter cases. Any gains achieved in those situations (in terms of democratic rights or opening for revolutionary ideas) should of course be defended. But the ascension of different bourgeois forces to state power (the Islamic fundamentalists in Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt) should not have been considered a “victory” from our point of view, but instead a maneuver of the capitalist class. This is the point that we have insisted with you. From the point of view of state power (the center of the revolutionary strategy for Leninists) no “victory” was achieved either by the Russian February revolution, Iran 1979 or Egypt 2011, no matter what other gains or possibilities were achieved in the arena of class struggle. That is why we defend the core of the Spartacist position on Iran, that the ascension of the Mullahs represented “no victory” for workers.
We are fine with recognizing certain temporary gains, but the source of those was the pressure of working class struggle, not the formation of a Mullah regime. Your comment that “everything has two faces, everything is the unity and conflict of opposites” is correct in abstract. Technically, even the most reactionary organs of the bourgeoisie may have internal contradictions and deformations as a reflection of class struggle and pressure from the working class. But this does not change their general class character, as well as the events in February 1917, Iran and Egypt did not change the class character of the state. You quote the February revolution being described by Trotsky as a victory since it triumphed over the Czar. There, Trotsky is talking about the spontaneous street insurrection by the workers of Petrograd, which was a practical victory, but whose organs were not yet ready to form a government (to a great extent due to opportunism and lack of political clarity of its vanguard). He is not discussing the general results of the process, like the ascension of liberals or the maintenance of power in the hands of the bourgeoisie. When we talk about whether or not those events can be called “victories”, we are discussing them from the point of view of state power. In the vacuum of power in Iran, we would have called for the construction of workers’ councils and the empowerment of a congress of workers’ and peasants’ councils. Only through this policy could any semblance of a February Revolution could be accomplished in Iran (if such a congress were formed but not conquered state power).
We have had many discussions with Brazilian Morenoites, for instance, about the transition of Latin American regimes from bourgeois dictatorships to bourgeois democracies in the 1980s. We have insisted that those did not represent “victories”, but a farce of the bourgeoisie to frustrate potential proletarian revolutions. The Morenoites have always argued that those were “victorious democratic revolutions”. We would like to ask your view on those events, as well as in what seems to us to be a similar situation happening in South Korea around the same time (transition from a bourgeois dictatorship to bourgeois democracy).
Lenin on the establishment of the February regime: the liberals won their victory due to the weakness of the proletarian vanguard, which needs to achieve “real” or durable victory:
“The peculiarity of the situation lies in that the Guchkov-Milyukov government gained the first victory with extraordinary ease due to the following three major circumstances: (1) assistance from Anglo-French finance capital and its agents; (2) assistance from part of the top ranks of the army; (3) the already existing organization of the entire Russian bourgeoisie in the shape of the rural and urban local government institutions, the State Duma, the war industries committees, and so forth.”
“Comrade workers! You performed miracles of proletarian heroism yesterday in overthrowing the tsarist monarchy. In the more or less near future (perhaps even now, as these lines are being written) you will again have to perform the same miracles of heroism to overthrow the rule of the land lords and capitalists, who are waging the imperialist war. You will not achieve durable victory in this next “real” revolution if you do not perform miracles of proletarian organization!”
Trotsky on the contradictions of the victory of the street insurrection in February: it placed power in the hands of the bourgeoisie.
“To the question, ‘Who led the February revolution?’ we can then answer definitely enough: conscious and tempered workers educated for the most part by the party of Lenin. But we must here immediately add: this leadership proved sufficient to guarantee the victory of the insurrection, but it was not adequate to transfer immediately into the hands of the proletarian vanguard the leadership of the revolution.
“The insurrection triumphed. But to whom did it hand over the power snatched from the monarchy? We come here to the central problem of the February revolution: why and how did the power turn up in the hands of the liberal bourgeoisie?”
Trotsky discussing the possibility of the transition to bourgeois democracy in Fascist Italy (and what it would represent): not a victory, but the abortion of a revolution not fully matured.
“Does this mean that Italy might not again turn for a certain time into a parliamentary state or become a “democratic republic”? I consider – apparently in complete agreement with you – that such a perspective is not excluded. But it can manifest itself, not as the product of a bourgeois revolution, but as the abortion of the proletarian revolution, which had not fully matured and which had not been brought to its conclusion. In the event of a profound revolutionary crisis and mass battles, in the course of which, however, the proletarian vanguard proves as yet incapable of coming to power, the bourgeoisie might restore its rule on “democratic” foundations.
“Is it permissible to say, for instance, that the existing German [Weimar] Republic is the conquest of a bourgeois revolution? Such a characterization would be absurd. What took place in Germany in 1918–19 was a proletarian revolution which for lack of leadership was deceived, betrayed and crushed. The bourgeois counter-revolution, however, was forced to adapt itself to the situation created by the crushing of the proletarian revolution and to assume the forms of a parliamentary “democratic” republic.
“Is something similar (within certain limits, of course) excluded for Italy? No, it is not. The enthronement of fascism came as a result of the 1920 proletarian revolution which was not carried to its conclusion. The fascists can be overthrown only by a new proletarian revolution. Should this again not be carried to its conclusion (owing to the weakness of the Communist Party, the maneuvers and betrayals of the Social-Democrats, the Free Masons, the Catholics), then the “transitional” state which the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie would be compelled to create after the foundering of the fascist form of its rule could not be anything else but a parliamentary and democratic state.”
On behalf of Revolutionary Regroupment
Dear comrades of the Revolutionary Regroupment
We just started a political discussion with you by the active initiation of comrade Icaro Kaleb. Both organizations have similarity that we respect many parts of the iSt and the IBT’s politics. Therefore, we are seriously engaging in this meeting with you comrades with big hope.
However, both of us have grown in different culture, language and political situations. So those things might be source to obstruct our smooth conversation and to produce unnecessary misunderstandings. I think that we cannot avoid this rather natural process but only can overcome this by patient explanation and conversation.
Last Friday/Saturday I have talked with comrade Icaro about the history of both organizations and political viewpoints especially on Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Russia February revolution. After that, comrade Icaro added some more comments and I heard you comrades all know the conversation.
* * *
I’d like to ask some questions on the comments which are unclear to us and to explain different ideas on how to evaluate the results of Egypt, Iran and February revolution.
“We tended to agree with the IBT at the time as it became a civil war. But in terms of the coup in Benghasi, we did not support it.”
It is about Libya. Do you think when “it became a civil war” the character of the conflict was changed? And in the second sentence, we do not know what “the coup in Benghasi” and “it” in “we did not support it” means.
“In Syria, it is amazing that the IBT was still neutral after so much imperialist intervention.”
What do you mean “imperialist intervention”? Could you give some examples of it?
“Their coming to power is never described as a “victory” or “partial victory” of any kind by Lenin or Trotsky, but as a maneuver of the bourgeoisie to fool the masses.”
I talked “limited, contradictory and partial” victory and “two faces” of the results of the Egypt, Iran and February revolution. Then comrade Icaro commented above. I think it might be ‘all or nothing’ approach.
After the February revolution, Czar’s old regime was overthrown, the army changed their loyalty from Czar to Soviet, workers’ and soldier’s Soviet was built and it had real power, so dual power situation was risen, Bolshevik rapidly grown on the legal and mass base, and most of all it gave the subjective and objective situation to overthrow capitalist system as a whole. In Russia in which there was genuine revolutionary party armed with genuine Marxist program, working class could grip the chance and accomplished the final(?) ‘victory’, differently to other places.
Of course, the result of February revolution did not give us the final goal, socialism, but only the chance to achieve the goal. It was the reflection of the relationship of the forces at the time between the reactionary forces, ‘French and British imperialism, supporters of old regime and capitalism and Compromisers(Menshevik and Social revolutionary)’ and revolutionary forces, ‘working class supported by peasants and Bolshevik.’ That’s why it was limited and partial victory and had two contradict faces. And Trotsky described the February revolution using repeatedly the word “victory.” Everything has two faces. Everything is the unity and conflict of opposites.
I’d like to quote some comments that Trotsky described the February revolution with ‘victory’ from only one chapter “Chapter 9 The Paradox of the February Revolution” in the History of Russian Revolution
“The majority have already vanished. Such was the first reaction of the Duma, dissolved by the czar, to the victory of the insurrection.”
“However, even in those very first days of victory, when the new power of the revolution was forming itself with fabulous speed and inconquerable strength, those socialists who stood at the head of the Soviet were already looking around with alarm to see if they could find a real “boss.””
“But the situation changes the moment the victory is won and its political fortification begins. The elections to the organs and institutions of the victorious revolution attract and challenge infinitely broader masses than those who battled with arms in their hands.”
“This fact determined the political situation after the victory.”
7 Dec 2018
Workers Vanguard No. 3 (December 1971). Copied from: http://anti-sep-tic.blogspot.com/2009/05/1971-dec-third-period-healyism.html
The SLL-WL, seeking to make factional capital of the disastrous policy of the Bolivian POR, adopted a sectarian posture which only mud-the waters and sows confusion before serious is seeking to understand the crucial lesof the Bolivian defeat. Prominent among the Healyite charges of class treason heaped upon Guillermo Lora of the Bolivian POR was this from Wohlorth in his 30 August Bulletin:
“Together with the Stalinists the POR supported the position of threatening a general strike and military action in defense of Torres!” [emphasis in original]
Such is Wohlforth’s conception of treachery against the working class. The most charitable interpretation is that Cde. Wohiforth was sorely pressed for time in grinding out turgid copy for the weekly Bulletin. More likely, Wohlforth didn’t know that he had scrapped a basic Leninist tactic for defeating counterrevolution and making proletarian revolution. In his self-proclaimed fight for the continuity of the Fourth International, Wohlforth would do well to re-establish continuity with the views of Trotsky:
The party came to the October uprising…. through a series of stages. At the time of the April 1917 demonstration, a section of the Bolsheviks brought out the slogan: ‘Down with the provisional government!’ The Central Committee immediately straightened out the ultraleftists. Of course we should popularize the necessity of overthrowing the provisional government; but to call the workers into the streets under that slogan-this we cannot do, for we ourselves are a minority in the working class. If we overthrow the provisional government under these conditions, we will not be able to take its place, and consequently we will help the counterrevolution. We must patiently explain to the masses the antipopular character of this government, before the hour for its overthrow has struck, Such was the position of the party….
“Two months later, Kornilov rose against the provisional government. In the struggle against Kornilov, the Bolsheviks occupied the frontline positions. Lenin was then in hiding. Thousands of Bolsheviks were in the jails. The workers, soldiers, and sailors demanded the liberation of their leaders and of the Bolsheviks in general. The provisional government refused. Should not the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks have addressed an ultimatum to the government of Kerensky?-free the Bolsheviks immediately and withdraw the disgraceful accusation of service to the Hohenzollerns – and, in the event of Kerensky’s refusal, have refused to fight against Kornilov? This is probably how the Central Committee of Thaelmann-Remmele-Neumann would have acted. But this is not how the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks acted. Lenin wrote at the time: ‘It would have been the most profound error to think that the revolutionary proletariat is capable, so to speak, out of “revenge” upon the SRs and Mensheviks for their support of the crushing of the Bolsheviks, the assassinations on the front, and the disarming of the workers, of “refusing” to support them against the counterrevolution, Such a way of putting the question would have meant, first of all, the carrying over of petty-bourgeois conceptions of morality into the proletariat (because for the good of the cause the proletariat will always support not only the vacillating petty bourgeoisie but also the big bourgeoisie); in the second place, it would have been-and this is most important-a petty-bourgeois attempt to cast a shadow, by “moralizing,” over the political essence of the matter….
“It is precisely this ‘petty-bourgeois moralizing’ which Thaelmann & Co. engage in when, in justification of their own turn, they begin to enumerate the countless infamies committed by the leaders of the Social Democracy.”
(“Against National Communism,” reprinted in The Struggle Against Fascism in
Wohlforth is counting – not for the first time – on the ignorance of his supporters. He hopes that his own “petty-bourgeois moralizing,” cataloguing the horrors of bourgeois regimes and the crimes of the reformists who participate in them, will cover his inability to handle them. Trotsky’s devastating critique of the policies of the Stalinists and ultra-lefts in pre-Hitler Germany, “conducting politics with blown-out lanterns,” applies with equal precision to the “Trotskyist” Wohlforth. More from The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany:
“One might have said, ‘For Bolsheviks, Kornilovism begins only with Kornilov. But isn’t Kerensky a Kornilovite? Isn’t he crushing the peasants by means of punitive expeditions? Doesn’t he organize lockouts? Doesn’t Lenin have to hide underground? And all this we must put up with?’
“… I can’t think of a single Bolshevik rash enough to have advanced such arguments. But were he to be found, he would have been answered something after this fashion. We accuse Kerensky of preparing for and facilitating the coming of Kornilov to power. But does this relieve us of the duty of rushing to repeal Kornilov’s attack? We accuse the gatekeeper of leaving the gates ajar for the bandit. But must we therefore shrug our shoulders and let the gates go hang?’ Since, thanks to the toleration of the Social Democracy, Bruening’s government has been able to push the proletariat up to its knees in capitulation to fascism, you arrive at the conclusion that up to the knees, up to the waist, or over the head-isn’t it all one thing? No, there is some difference, Whoever is up to his knees in a quagmire can still drag himself out. Whoever is in over his head, for him there is no returning.”
For the Smarter Ones
On “critical support” advocated by Lenin “as a rope supports a hanged man,” Wohlforth says:
“Is it necessary to point out that Lenin was referring to support to social democratic parties and not to bourgeois governments and certainly not to military dictators?”
Correct, But Lenin was referring to political support, not military defense against counterrevolution – which is at issue in the “military action in defense of Torres” for which Wohlforth condemns Lora. Leninists defend the policy of fighting militarily alongside Stalinist, social-democratic, and even bourgeois forces against fascist or rightest military uprising, while maintaining the complete independence of the working-class movement. That is the whole lesson of the Kornilov affair, and of the policy Trotsky urged to save the German workers from Nazism. But Wohlforth apparently cannot understand the difference between a policy of unified military defense with political independence and military defense with political capitulation to alien classes and class collaborators.
Further, Wohlforth’s acknowledgement of Lenin’s policy of critical political support to reformist working-class parties-which is not the issue in the case of military defense of the bourgeois Torres regime against the right – is peculiar in its own way, since Wohlforth (in sharp contrast to his past positions) is recently on record as refusing to engage in united front political action with Stalinists, particularly Maoists. Are the Stalinists worse than the social democrats, Cde. Wohlforth? If you claim they are, you are in your haste to score cynical factional points embracing a “method” which Trotsky ceaselessly fought against: Stalinophobia. Wohlforth’s position against any common action with Stalinists is blind sectarianism, the obverse of the U. Sec. capitulation to such currents, reminiscent of Stalin’s own “Theory of Social Fascism” according to which the Communists were ordered to avoid any common action with the Social Democrats, who were held to be as bad as the Nazis. When will the Healyites openly label their current position the “Theory of Social Stalinism” or “Third Period Healyism”?
The POR must, through unsparing criticism of their own history and scrapping the centrist program leadership which led to the defeats in 1953 and 1971, discover the Leninist road to power (see article on page 3, “Centrist Debacle in Bolivia”), They can expect no help from the Healyites shouting their Leninist orthodoxy and “continuity” to cover their limitless opportunism, blind sectarianism and ignorance.
[NOTA: A seguir está uma transcrição em linhas gerais, não-corrigida, de uma discussão realizada em abril de 1939 entre Trotsky e um membro inglês da Quarta Internacional que levantou uma série de questões a respeito do desenvolvimento da Quarta Internacional na França, Espanha, Grã-Bretanha e Estados Unidos. Em suas respostas, Trotsky esboçou as principais razões para o isolamento e lento progresso da Quarta Internacional nas primeiras etapas do seu desenvolvimento e mostrou como um novo rumo na situação mundial, como a presente guerra, iria inevitavelmente levar a uma mudança radical no ritmo do desenvolvimento, composição social e ligações da Quarta Internacional com as massas].
[First printed in Spartacist #4, May-June 1965]
Of all the national Negro leaders in this country, the one who was known uniquely for his militancy, intransigence, and refusal to be the libberals’ frontman has been shot down. This new political assassination is another indicator of the rising current of irrationality and individual terrorism which the decay of our society begets. Liberal reaction is predictable, and predictably disgusting. They are, of course, opposed to assassination, and some may even contribute to the fund for the education of Malcolm’s children, but their mourning at the death of the head of world imperialism had a considerably greater ring of sincerity than their regret at the murder of a black militant who wouldn’t play their game.
The official story is that Black Muslims killed Malcolm. But we should not hasten to accept this to date unproved hypothesis. The New York Police, for example, had good cause to be afraid of Malcolm, and with the vast resources of blackmail and coercion which are at their disposal, they also had ample opportunity, and of course would have litle reason to fear exposure were they involved. At the same time, the Muslim theory cannot be discounted out of hand because the Muslims are not a political group, and in substituting religion for science, and color mysticism for rational analysis, they have a world view which could encompass the efficacy and morality of assassination.
The main point, however, is not who killed Malcolm, but why could he be killed? In the literal sense, of course, any man can be killed, but why was Malcolm particularly vulnerable? The answer to this question makes of Malcolm’s death tragedy of the sharpest kind, and in the literal Greek sense. Liberals and Elijah have tried to make Malcolm a victim of his own (non-existent) doctrines of violence. This is totally wrong and totally hypocritical. Malcolm was the most dynamic ntional leader to have appeared in America in the last decade. Compared with him the famous Kennedy personality was a flimsy cardboard creation of money, publicity, makeup, and the media. Malcolm had none of these, but a righteous cause and iron character forged by white America in the fire of discrimination, addiction, prison, and incredible calumny. He had a difficult to define but almost tangible attribute called charisma. When you heard Malcolm speak, even when you heard him say things that were wrong and confusing, you wanted to believe. Malcolm could move men deeply. He was the stuff of which mass leaders are made. Commencing his public life in the context of the apolitical, irrational religiosity and racial mysticism of the Muslim movement, his break toward politicalness and rationality was slow, painful, and terribly incomplete. It is useless to speculate on how far it would have gone had he lived. He had entered prison a burglar, an addict, and a victim. He emerged a Muslim and a free man forever. Elijah Muhammad and the Lost-Found Nation of Islam were thus inextricably bound up with his personal emnacipation. In any event, at the time of his death he had not yet developed a clear, explicit, and rational social program. Nor had he led his followers in the kind of transitional struggle necessary to the creation of a successful mass movement. Lacking such a program, he could not develop cadres based on program. What cadre he had was based on Malcolm X instead. Hated and feared by the power structure, and the focus of the paranoid feelings of his former colleagues, his charisma made him dangerous, and his lack of developed program and cadre made him vulnerable. His death by violence had a high order of probability, as he himself clearly felt.
Heroic and Tragic Figure
The murder of Malcolm, and the disastrous consequences flowing from that murder for Malcolm’s organization and black militancy in general, does not mean that the militant black movement can always be decapitated with a shotgun. True, there is an agonizing gap in black leadership today. One the one hand.there are the respectable servants of the liberal establishment; men like James Farmer whose contemptible effort to blame Malcolm’s murder on “Chinese Communists” will only hasten his eclipse as a leader, and on the oher hand the ranks of the militants have yet to produce a man with the leadership potential of Malcolm. But such leadership will eventually be forthcoming. This is a statistical as well as a social certainty. This leadership, building on the experience of others such as Malcolm, and emancipated from his religiosity, will build a movement in which the black masses and their allies can lead the third great American revolution. Then Malcolm X will be remembered by black and white alike as a heroic and tragic figure in a dark period of our common history.
Bay Area Spartacist Committee
2 March 1965
The Causes of the Victory of the Chinese Communist Party over Chiang Kai-Shek, and the CCP’s Perspectives
From International Information Bulletin, Socialist Workers Party, February, 1952, from Tamiment Library microfilm archives
Transcribed & marked up by Andrew Pollack.
[Report given to the Third World Congress of the Fourth International, August-September 1951.]
The victory of the Chinese Communist Party over the reactionary power of Chiang Kai-shek, its occupation of the entire Chinese mainland, and the establishment of the “People’s Republic” (or the “People’s Democratic Dictatorship”) has marked a great and even a monumental change in modern Chinese history, and has also caused profound changes in the Far East and in international relations.
These events were unexpected both among bourgeois ruling circles and the petty-bourgeois politicians, the former being stunned and panic-stricken; the latter, perplexed or dazzled. But these events were likewise far from being anticipated by us Trotskyists (including Trotsky himself), owing to the fact that the CCP came to its current victory through its extremely reactionary Menshevik program of “revolution by stages,” coupled with the fact that the peasant armed forces were completely isolated from the urban working class.
As a result, a considerable amount of confusion has been raised in our ranks regarding Mao’s victory, and serious differences of opinion have occurred over its causes and significance, the nature of the new power and its perspectives. A few comrades have even begun to doubt the correctness of the theory of permanent revolution. If these differences are not clarified and resolved in time, the most serious consequences would ensue, especially in our Chinese section. Some of the comrades would proceed from doubting the permanent revolution to capitulating to Stalinism (some comrades in Shanghai have already shown signs of this tendency). Others would arrive at ultrasectarianism and complete demoralization in their revulsion against Mao Tse-tung’s opportunist victory, which is the result of a complete violation of the permanent revolution. (The Chinese minority has already clearly demonstrated this tendency.) We must, therefore, very prudently and seriously examine Mao’s victory and the extraordinary situation emerging from it.
First of all, we should not overlook the reactionary role of Stalinism independently of the CCP victory, and not reconcile ourselves or, even worse, surrender to it. We must still insist on the basic position of the permanent revolution, which is the only compass to guide China and all backward countries to genuine liberation; we must judge any further events from this position. But, in proceeding with the discussion, it is necessary not only to discard all subjective prejudices, desires, or mechanical analogies, but to free ourselves from traditional formulas (not, of course, principles). We must face the concrete living facts, whether desirable or undesirable, particularly the decisive influence of the situation created after the Second World War on the Chinese events. We must also take note of the specific function Stalinism played in these events, the distortion or deformation imposed by its rule on the events and their consequences. In a word, we should seriously and flexibly apply the dialectic method of Marxism to observe the facts, analyze the facts, and by analysis of the causes and effects of the realities, obtain a correct understanding, and thus form a correct appraisal of possible developments.
In other words, on the Chinese problem we must adopt the same spirit and method as our International has done in the study of the Yugoslav events and the question of Eastern Europe. Only in this way can we extricate ourselves from perplexity and extremely dangerous deviations to reach a decision on what the fundamental attitude and orientation of our party should be in respect to the CCP leadership. Thus this report is not aimed at supplying a great deal of data; it intends to provide necessary and essential facts in the course of the logical development of the events, and to explain certain opinions which have already caused serious disputes, as references for the International so that it can achieve a correct solution of the Chinese question.
The diverse causes of the CCP victory over the Kuomintang
One of the traditional concepts that Trotsky repeatedly put forward, and that the Chinese Trotskyists upheld for the past twenty years, was a strategy that ran counter to the Stalinist strategy of conquering the cities through the peasant armed forces alone. The Trotskyists maintained that the overthrow of the bourgeois Kuomintang regime was possible only if the urban working class stood up and led all the oppressed and exploited in the country, especially the peasant masses, carried forward a persistent struggle, and eventually brought about an armed insurrection. It was not possible to overthrow the bourgeois regime by relying exclusively on the peasant armed forces because, under the present conditions of society, the countryside is subordinated to the cities and the peasants can play a decisive role only under the leadership of the working class. But the fact now confronting us is exactly the contrary: it was a Stalinist party relying exclusively on the peasant armed forces that destroyed the old regime and seized power.
This extreme contradiction between the “facts” and the “traditional conception” first of all led to confusion and disputes among the Chinese comrades. Meanwhile, some comrades in the International, because of their inadequate understanding of Trotsky’s traditional conception of the Chinese question and the specific causes of Mao’s victory, emphasize the factor of “mass pressure” to account for this victory. So I think that an accurate and detailed explanation of the causes of this victory is necessary, not only in order to overcome the differences of opinion among the Chinese comrades, but also in order to correct the deviations of some comrades in the International. Moreover, the most important thing is this: Only from a correct answer to this question will we be able to go one step further and comprehend the objective significance of Mao’s victory, as well as the twists and turns of all the measures taken by his regime, and the regime’s possible perspectives. In order to best answer this question, I shall start from several aspects of the facts.
A. The complete rottenness and collapse of Chiang’s regime
It is known to everyone that Chiang Kai-shek’s regime was born amid the bloodshed of the defeat of the second Chinese revolution. Naturally it was extremely afraid of and hostile to the people. It oppressed the people and sustained itself on the exploitation of the masses (especially the peasant masses) by the most barbaric Asiatic methods. At the same time, since by its very nature this regime represented the bourgeoisie of the Orient (characterized in the saying that “the farther East the bourgeoisie goes, the more cowardly and the more incompetent it becomes”), Chiang’s regime could only support itself on the imperialist powers (one of them, at least).
It united all reactionary influences, including the feudal survivals, to resist the masses and to suppress them. It was consequently unable to fulfill any of the bourgeois-democratic tasks, not even such a slight reform as a 25 percent reduction in rents. It was mainly characterized by consummate Asiatic despotism, corruption, and inefficiency. These characteristics were completely disclosed during the Resistance War. On one hand, after its policy of “nondefensism” failed and the long period of concessions to the Japanese imperialists ended with the Chiang government forced to fight, it revealed its complete incompetence by losing one city after another. On the other hand, it clamped an iron grip over any spontaneous activity by the masses, while its bureaucrats and warlords, profiting from this rare opportunity, exploited and plundered the blood and flesh of the people by hoarding and smuggling goods and other extortions, and thus enriched themselves through the national disaster. These deeds stirred up great dissatisfaction and bitterness among the common people—which was reflected in the student demonstrations and the peasant unrest in certain regions during the closing period of the war.
After the surrender of Japanese imperialism, Chiang Kai-shek’s tyranny, corruption, and inefficiency reached a climax. First, in the name of taking over the “properties of the enemy and the traitors,” the militarists and bureaucrats stole almost all the public property to fill their own purses, and indulged themselves in extravagant luxury and dissipation. At the same time, using the pretext of proceeding with the civil war, they extracted food from the peasants and imposed conscription upon them, did their best to squeeze and to oppress. (As some enlisted peasants could be exempted from duty by subscribing a sum of money, this became another of the sources of extortion on the part of the bureaucrats.) This further inflamed the fury of the masses, and provoked the eruption of several large-scale protest demonstrations (in which the students played a central part). But the only answer from Chiang Kai-shek to these bitter feelings, protests, and demonstrations was suppression, massacres, and even assassinations and kidnappings by gendarmes, police, and secret agents.
The financial base of Chiang’s government had already been exhausted in the course of the war. Besides compulsory extortions, it could only resort to issuing paper currency to maintain itself. Consequently the rate of inflation climbed in geometric progression. After peace was announced, the pace of inflation advanced from geometric progression to lightning speed, terminating in the collapse of the “gold yuan” and the unprecedented economic chaos at the end of 1948.
All commerce and industry halted and disintegrated, and the living conditions of the various layers among the middle and lower classes (including all the middle and lower functionaries in the government institutions) cast them into the pit of despair. Driven by starvation, the workers rose up in a universal strike wave (there were 200,000 workers on strike in Shanghai alone). Plundering of rice took place everywhere. At that time, the United Press gave a brief description of the situation as follows: “The people below the middle class are not able to go on living; discontent and resentment against the status quo prevail. Everyone wants a change.” Chiang Kai-shek’s regime was tottering. If the CCP had called upon the workers and the masses in the big cities to rise in rebellion and overthrow the regime, it would have been as easy as knocking down rotten wood. But Mao’s party merely gave orders to the people to quietly wait for their “liberation” by the “People’s Liberation Army.”
Chiang’s sole prop was his military force and so he continued the fight to the end and would never compromise with Mao Tse-tung. He hoped to exterminate the CCP’s peasant armed forces through his superior military equipment and prevent his doomed regime from being swept away. In fact, Chiang Kai-shek’s army far surpassed the CCP’s, not only in numbers but also in equipment. A considerable part of his army (about six to seven hundred thousand soldiers) was armed with the most modern American weapons. But this army had two fatal defects: First, most of the soldiers were recruited from the countryside by compulsory conscription, some of them even by kidnapping, so they naturally more or less reflected the dissatisfaction and hatred of the peasants. Second, all the generals and officers of high rank were rotten to the core; they mistreated the soldiers and steadily reduced rations. This oppression inflicted much suffering upon the soldiers and deepened their discontent and hatred. Once this hatred found a suitable outlet, it would be transformed into a deluge of flight and surrender. Mao Tse-tung’s “general counteroffensive” furnished this outlet.
All the above-stated facts demonstrate that Chiang’s government was not only isolated from the people, who were hostile to it, but was also deserted by the majority of the bourgeoisie. Even those who formerly supported it turned bitter against it and were ready to sacrifice it in exchange for their own lives. This situation resulted in the appearance of various kinds of anti-Chiang factions and cliques within the Kuomintang itself, which was thus involved in complete decomposition. One of these factions crystallized into the so-called Kuomintang Revolutionary Committee (led by Li Chi-shen). In view of the inevitability of Chiang Kai-shek’s fall, it anxiously sought an “understanding and reconciliation” with Mao Tse-tung.
Another group prepared to respond to the CCP’s offensive by rebelling against Chiang (such as Ch’eng Ch’ien, the governor of Hunan province, and Lu Han, the governor of Yunnan), while still others were ready to capitulate, as in the case of Fu Tso-yi in Peiping and Liu Hsiang in Szechuan.
The third group—the Kwangsi clique, represented by Li Tsung-jen and Pai Ch’ung-hsi—attempted to replace Chiang Kai-shek. The bourgeois elements outside the Kuomintang gathered more and more around the “Democratic League,” trying to find their way out through this organization. In a word, the structures of the Kuomintang regime were corroded from top to bottom and it could no longer stand up. The only remaining hope for Chiang Kai-shek was imperative aid from Washington. (He had sent Soong Ch’ing-ling on this special mission to bid for a last favor.)
B. Chiang finally deserted by American imperialism
Prior to the Second World War, the most powerful and decisive influences in Chinese economy and politics were the Japanese, British, and American imperialists. With the end of the war, the influence of Japanese imperialism vanished. British imperialism, because of its extreme decline, although still maintaining its rule in Hong Kong, has since completely left the political stage in China. The last one to attempt to control the country was American imperialism. It intended at the beginning to uphold Chiang’s government with all its might in order to monopolize the Chinese market and use this country as a bastion against the Soviet Union. Acting from this motive, it had dispatched a tremendous amount of materiel and military equipment to Chiang’s government at the close of the war. But it soon opened its eyes to the extreme corruption of this government’s administrative and military apparatus and the crisis that created. (For example, most of the materiel given by the U.S. was swallowed by the bureaucrats, and American-made arms often found their way into the CCP’s hands through the lack of combativeness of the Kuomintang officers.)
On the one hand, Washington still tried to “prevail upon” Chiang Kai-shek to make some “reforms,” such as eliminating a few of the most corrupt and incompetent officials and generals, inviting some more able “democratic” figures into the administration, and curtailing some of the more excessive forms of despotic oppression and exploitation. On the other hand, the U.S. maneuvered for a temporary compromise between Chiang and Mao, in order to gain time to destroy Mao. This was the purpose of Gen. Marshall’s special mission in China.
But Chiang not only refused to make any “reforms”; he also obstinately balked at any compromise with Mao’s party. Ultimately, the Marshall mission was a complete failure. The only alternative left for American imperialism was to engage in a direct military offensive against the CCP in Chiang’s place (as one group of Republicans demanded at that time), and to extend its direct control over the administrative and military power of the government. It was very clear, however, that the situation emerging from the Second World War would never permit this headstrong action. Had American imperialism pursued such a course, not only would all of its resources and energy have been drawn into the vast China quagmire, but a new world war would have been precipitated. American imperialism was completely unprepared for such a course of action, and, in face of the expected vehement opposition from its own allies, was not bold enough to run the risk.
The result was that the U.S. was finally compelled to abandon its aid to Chiang’s government and adopt a wait-and-see attitude toward the CCP, pending a more favorable opportunity. This final decision by American imperialism came as a death blow to Chiang Kai-shek’s regime, which was fully expressed in the atmosphere of dejection and despair hovering around Chiang’s group when the news reached China of Truman’s victory in the 1948 election and his refusal of aid to Chiang.
C. The CCP’s subjective strength
The CCP’s basic strength lies in its peasant armed forces. These originated in the successive peasant revolts that exploded in China’s southern provinces after the defeat of the second revolution. While these revolts had no real hope of victory, the armed forces they assembled were able to maintain their existence, develop, and carry on a durable peasant war. This was possible because of the CCP’s deep involvement in organizing and training the peasants, as well as the economic backwardness and other specific geographic conditions (the vastness of the country and the extreme lack of means of communication). Other factors included the utter despair of the peasants and the incompetence of the bourgeois government.
Later, when Chiang Kai-shek obtained enormous quantities of military aid from imperialism, the CCP’s peasant army was forced to flee from South to North China, and even capitulated to Chiang’s government by canceling its agrarian policy and dissolving the “Red Army” and the Soviets.
However, as a result of the outbreak of the war against Japanese imperialism this armed force secured the opportunity for an unusual development. In particular, at the end of the war and right after it, the army made great progress in both numbers and in quality, becoming far stronger than in the Kiangsi period. This army thus grew into a strong military force.
Politically, the CCP always oscillated between adventurism and opportunism: it canceled its agrarian revolution and dissolved the “Red Army” and the Soviets on the eve of the Resistance War; it collaborated servilely with the Kuomintang and supported Chiang Kai-shek’s leadership during the war. But despite all these things, it also carried on a long period of resistance against Chiang’s government. It made certain criticisms of the political, economic, and military measures of the latter during the war, and had put forward a number of demands for democratic reform. It carried out agrarian reform, particularly in some regions of North China. Furthermore it was backed by the prestige of the tradition of the October revolution in the USSR, as well as by the amazing record of the Soviet Union in the recent world war and the powerful position it has held since the war’s end.
On the other hand, the common people had become desperate and deeply resentful under the intolerable oppression and exploitation of Chiang’s utterly despotic, rotten, and inefficient regime. The petty-bourgeois intellectuals and peasant masses in particular, in the absence of a powerful and really revolutionary party to lead them, lodged all their hopes in the CCP. This was the source of the CCP’s political capital. This political capital, plus the peasant armed forces, constituted the party’s subjective strength. But without aid from the Soviet Union, this victory would still not have been assured.
D. The aid from the Soviet Union
Despite the Soviet bureaucracy’s fear of the victory of a genuine revolution of the working class at the head of the peasant masses in China, and despite its foreign policy of seeking a compromise with American imperialism, in order to preserve its own privileges and resist the threat of American imperialism it would not refuse to give the CCP a certain amount of help, within the confines of its attempt to preserve control over the CCP. Therefore, in addition to its support in political agitation, the Soviet Union actually gave the CCP decisive material aid. The Soviet occupation of Manchuria (one of the greatest centers of heavy industry in China, built up during the several decades of Japanese occupation, and the area of the highest rural production), with its population of thirty million, objectively dealt a mortal blow to Chiang’s government.
Despite the fact that the Soviet Union had recognized Chiang’s regime as the official government, and had handed over to it the majority of the cities and mines in Manchuria, the Soviet bureaucracy had destroyed almost all the most important factories and mining machinery. (It also took away a part of them.) Thus industry was brought almost to a complete halt. Meanwhile, through its control over the two ports—Dairen and Port Arthur— it blocked the Chiang government’s main lines of sea communication with Manchuria and barred its trade and commerce, especially its transportation of supplies to the army stationed in Manchuria.
On the other hand, it armed the CCP’s troops with huge amounts of light and heavy weapons taken from the Japanese soldiers. (It is estimated that these weapons could be used to rearm a million soldiers.) This enabled the CCP to occupy the villages, smaller cities, and towns, and to besiege the great cities and mining districts where Chiang’s army was stationed. Thus the cities and mines restored to Chiang Kai-shek did not benefit him, but on the contrary, became an insupportable burden, and finally turned into a trap. To begin with, Chiang had to send a huge army (around a half-million soldiers) with the best equipment, i.e., armed with American weapons, to stand guard. At the same time, the KMT had to provide for the enormous expenditures in the big cities and in the mines. Consequently, this greatly limited and scattered Chiang Kai-shek’s military force and accelerated the financial bankruptcy of his regime.
The weapons taken from the Japanese captives by the Soviet Union served to build up the CCP’s army and produced a decisive effect upon Mao Tse-tung’s military apparatus and strategy. (For example, Lin Piao’s well-known and powerful Fourth Division was armed entirely with these weapons.) We must understand that the CCP’s original peasant army, despite its preponderant size, was not only very backward but also had extremely scanty equipment, especially in heavy weapons. Having obtained this gigantic quantity of light and heavy weapons through the medium of the Soviet Union (in addition to numerous Soviet and Japanese military technicians), part of the originally very backward peasant troops were modernized overnight.
The bravery of the peasants and the military adroitness of the Communist generals, together with these modern weapons, then enabled the Communist army to transform guerrilla warfare into positional warfare. This was fully manifested in the battles where the Communist troops gained complete victory in conquering the great cities and mines in Manchuria during the changing season between autumn and winter of 1948. (These included Changchun, Mukden, Chinchou, and the big mining districts, Tiehling, Fushun, Bencbi, and Anshan.) This victory won for the Communist army an ample economic base. Moreover, in the military field, since the best-equipped of Chiang’s troops (about 80 percent of those with American equipment) were destroyed, that meant that the greatest part of this American equipment was no longer effective.
Since the Communist army had taken possession of modern weapons and technicians, together with the Japanese arms handed over by the Soviet Union, that made it possible for the CCP to transform the former unfavorable relationship of forces toward Chiang’s troops in the sphere of military equipment and technique into an overwhelming superiority. Henceforth the strategic attitude of the Communist army fundamentally changed, shifting over from guerrilla warfare to positional warfare and an offensive toward the big cities. This change was undoubtedly a decisive factor in the victory of the CCP inasmuch as it depended on the peasant army alone to conquer the cities.
From the above facts we can draw a .clear picture as follows: Chiang Kai-shek’s bourgeois-landlord regime collapsed in toto, both on the economic and political planes and in its military organization. Its only supporter, American imperialism, deserted it in the end. The CCP’s peasant army, having won the support of the peasants and the petty bourgeoisie in general, and especially having obtained military aid from the Soviet Union, had become a colossal and more or less modernized army. The combination of all these objective and subjective factors paved the way for this extraordinary victory.
If we give a brief description of the development of this military victory, the truth of these factors as stated above can be made more explicit. Beginning with the “all-out counteroffensive” launched by the Communist army in the autumn of 1948, in the successive battles occurring in the Northeast, except for a violent fight in Chinchou, the other big cities, such as Changchun, Mukden, etc., were occupied without a fight as a result of the capitulation or disintegration of Chiang’s army in their defensive positions. As for the great cities and important military bases north of the Yangtze River, except for an encounter in Chuchao and Paotow, the others, such as Tsinan, Tientsin, Peiping, Kaifeng, Chengshou, Sian, etc., were handed over either because of the rebellion of the army stationed there (Tsinan), or surrender (Peiping), or desertion as in Tientsin, Kaifeng, Chengchou, and Sian. In the Northwest, in the provinces of Kansu and Sinkiang, there was only surrender. In the city of Taiyuan, there was a comparatively longer struggle, but this had no weight at all in the situation as a whole. As for the great cities south of the river, except for token resistance in Shanghai, the others were either given up in advance (Nanking, Hangchow, Hangkow, Nanchang, Fuchow, Kweilin, and Canton), or surrendered upon the arrival of the Communist army (as in the provinces of Hunan, Szechuan, and Yunnan).
Thereupon, after crossing the Yangtze River, Mao Tse-tung’s army marched headlong down to Canton as though through “no man’s land,” while the remnants of Chiang’s troops either surrendered or withdrew and fled. Hence the peculiar situation whereby the “Liberation Army” did not conquer but rather took over the cities. From this concrete military process, one can get a clearer view of the amazing extent of the Chiang Kai-shek regime’s disintegration and the exceptional conditions under which the victory of the CCP’s peasant army unfolded.
Now we can comprehend that it was under the specific conditions of a definite historical stage that the CCP, relying on a peasant army isolated from the urban working class, could win power from the bourgeois-landlord rule of Chiang Kai-shek. This was a combination of various intricate and exceptional conditions emerging from the Second World War. The essential features of this set of circumstances are as follows:
The whole capitalist world—of which China is the weakest link—tended to an unparalleled decline and decay. The internal disintegration of the bourgeois Chiang Kai-shek regime was only the most consummate manifestation of the deterioration of the whole capitalist system. On the other hand, the Soviet bureaucracy, resting on the socialized property relations of the October revolution and exploiting the contradictions among the imperialist powers, was able to achieve an unprecedented expansion of its influence during the Second World War. This expansion greatly attracted the masses, especially of the backward Asian countries, who were deprived of hope under the extreme decline and decomposition of the capitalist system. This facilitated the explosive growth of the Stalinist parties in these countries. The CCP is precisely a perfected model of these Stalinist parties.
Meanwhile, placed in an unfavorable position in the international situation created by the Second World War, American imperialism was obliged to abandon its aid to Chiang and its interference with Mao. At the same time, the Soviet Union, which had secured a superior position in Manchuria at the end of the war, inflicted serious damage to Chiang’s government and offered direct aid to the CCP. This enabled the latter to modernize its backward peasant army. Without this combination of circumstances, the victory of a party like the CCP, which relied purely on peasant forces, would be inconceivable.
For example, if Manchuria had not been occupied by the Soviet Union but had fallen entirely under Chiang’s control, Chiang Kai-shek would have utilized the economic resources and the Japanese arms in Manchuria to cut off direct connection between the CCP and the Soviet Union. This would have blocked the USSR’s armed support to the CCP. Similarly, the situation would have been quite different if direct intervention against the CCP by American imperialism had been possible. Under either of these two circumstances the victory of Mao Tse-tung would have been very doubtful.
To approach this from another direction, we could recall the defeat of the CCP’s peasant army in the Kiangsi period, 1930-35, when the bourgeois KMT’s power was considerably stabilized as a result of continual aid from imperialism, while the CCP was isolated from the Soviet Union. From this we can also derive sufficient reason to justify the conclusion that today’s victory of the CCP is entirely the result of the specific conditions created by the Second World War.
Trotsky and the Chinese Trotskyists insisted that the overturn of the Kuomintang regime could not be achieved by relying solely on the peasant armed forces, but could only be accomplished by the urban working class leading the peasant masses in a series of revolts. Even today, this conception is still entirely valid. It is derived from the fundamental Marxist theory that under the modern capitalist system—including that in the backward countries—it is the urban class that leads the rural masses. This is also the conclusion drawn from numerous experiences, especially that of the October revolution. This is precisely one of the fundamental conceptions of the permanent revolution, which we must firmly hold onto despite the present CCP victory.
Let us take India, for example. There we should insist on the perspective that the Indian working class lead the peasant masses in the overthrow of the bourgeois power dominated by the Congress Party. Only this process can guarantee that this backward country will take the direction of genuine emancipation and development, i.e., the permanent transformation from the democratic revolution to the socialist revolution.
We were unable to foresee the current victory of the CCP for the same reason that Trotsky and we Trotskyists were unable to predict in advance the unusual expansion that Stalinism underwent after the Second World War. In both cases our mistake was not one of principle. Rather, because we concentrated so much on principle, we more or less ignored the specific conditions involved in the unfolding of events and were unable to modify our tactics in time. Of course there is a lesson in this, a lesson we should assimilate and apply to the analysis of future developments in those Asian countries where the Stalinist parties maintain strong influence (such as Vietnam, Burma, etc.). That should help us to formulate a correct strategy in advance.
At the same time, we must understand that the victory gained by a party such as the CCP, which detached itself from the working class and relied entirely on the peasant armed forces, is not only abnormal in itself. It has also laid down many obstacles in the path of the future development of the Chinese revolutionary movement. To understand this is, in my opinion, of great importance in our judgment and estimation of the whole movement led by the CCP as well as in determining our strategy and tactics.
Is the CCP’s seizure of power the result of “mass pressure,” and in opposition to the Kremlin’s objectives?
Some comrades of the International, not being very familiar with the concrete process and specific conditions of the events in China, have particularly stressed the factor of “mass pressure,” or interpreted the victory of the CCP by making an analogy with the Yugoslav events. For example, Comrade Germain says:
Our movement has traditionally conceived the outstripping of Stalinism by the masses as involving profound splits inside the Communist parties. The Yugoslav and Chinese examples have demonstrated that, placed in certain exceptional conditions, entire Communist parties can modify their political line and lead the struggle of the masses up to the conquest of power, while passing beyond the objectives of the Kremlin. Under such conditions, these parties cease being Stalinist parties in the classical sense of the word.
The ideas contained in this passage are obviously as follows: The CCP succeeded in conquering power, like the Yugoslav CP, under pressure from the masses, and in conflict with the objectives of the Kremlin. Unfortunately, this “traditionally conceived” analogy can hardly be justified by the facts of the Chinese events. Let us first of all begin with these facts.
Regarding the relationship between the CCP and the masses—including its relationship to “mass pressure”—I am not going to trace the facts prior to and during the war against Japan. To do so would, however, also fully demonstrate how often the CCP violated the aspirations of the masses and ignored “mass pressure.” I shall start with the period at the end of the war.
The first period immediately after the war, from September 1945 to the end of 1946, marked a considerable revival and growth of the mass movement in China. In this period the working masses in all the great cities, with Shanghai in the forefront, first brought forward their demands for a sliding-scale increase in wages, for the right to organize trade unions, against freezing of wages, etc. They universally and continuously engaged in strikes and demonstrations. This struggle in the main did not pass beyond the economic framework, or reach a nationwide level. But it did at least prove that after the war the workers had raised their heads and were waging a resolute fight to improve their living conditions and general position against the bourgeoisie and its reactionary government. This movement actually won considerable successes. Undoubtedly this was the expression of a new awakening of the Chinese workers’ movement.
Meanwhile, among the peasant masses, under the unbearable weight of compulsory contributions, taxes in kind, conscription, and the threat of starvation, the ferment of resentment was boiling. Some disturbances had already occurred in the regions controlled by Chiang’s government.
The students played a notable role, representing the petty bourgeoisie in general, in large-scale protests, strikes, and demonstrations in the big cities. These took place in Chungking, Kunming, Nanking, Shanghai, Canton, Peiping, etc., under banners and slogans demanding democracy and peace, against the Kuomintang dictatorship, against mobilization for the civil war, and against the persecutions conducted by the KMT agents.
On the other hand, when Chiang’s government returned to the “recovered areas,” it revealed its own extreme corruption and inefficiency in administration and stirred up strong resentment among the people. It already appeared to be tottering. Its power did not extend into North China for a certain period of time, especially Manchuria. (It was not until the beginning of March 1946 that the Soviet Union began gradually to transfer such great cities as Mukden and Changchun and the important mines to Chiang’s government.)
During this same period the CCP’s military strength and its political influence among the masses were growing rapidly. The workers’ struggles, the ferment of resentment and rebellion among the peasants, and widespread demonstrations by the students, accompanied by the corruption and insecurity of Chiang’s regime and the strengthening of the CCP, plainly created a prerevolutionary situation.
If the CCP had then been able to stay in step with the situation, that is, to accept the “pressure of the masses,” it would have raised slogans for the overthrow of the Chiang Kai-shek government (i.e., the slogan for the seizure of power). It would have joined this slogan to other demands for democratic reforms, especially the demand for agrarian revolution. And it would have been able to swiftly transform this prerevolutionary situation, to carry through the insurrection, and thereby arrive at the conquest of power in the most propitious way.
Unfortunately, however, the fundamental political line adopted by the CCP in this period was quite different. Contrary to what it should have done—mobilize the masses in the struggle for power under the slogans of overthrowing Chiang’s government and agrarian reform—it kowtowed to Chiang Kai-shek and pleaded for the establishment of a “coalition government.” (For this purpose Mao flew to Chungking to negotiate directly with Chiang, and even openly expressed his support to the latter in mass meetings.) The CCP tried its best to pull together the politicians of the upper layers of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie in order to proceed with peace talks under the sponsorship of American imperialism.
As for the workers’ economic struggles, not only did the CCP not offer any positive lead to transform them into political struggles, which was quite possible at that time, but on the contrary, in order to effect a “.united front” with the “national bourgeoisie,” it persuaded the working masses not to go to “extremes” in their conflicts. Moreover, it dealt obsequiously with the leaders of the “yellow trade unions” in order to check the “excessive” demands of the workers.
The CCP’s activities in the countryside were limited solely to organizing the guerrillas, while it avoided by all means broad mass movements which would have encouraged and unified the peasant masses. The great student movement in the cities was handled as a simple instrument for exerting pressure on the Kuomintang government to accept peace talks. It was never linked with the workers’ strikes in a common struggle against Chiang Kai-shek’s rule.
However, in May 1946, in response to the KMT’s continuing military offensive, the CCP announced that it had begun agrarian reform in certain areas under its control. This served to strengthen the CCP’s military position. Even then, this land reform was by no means thoroughgoing. It consisted largely of a compromise with the landlords and rich peasants, preserving all of their “industrial and commercial properties” and allowing them to get the best and most of the land. It was also quite limited in its scope. No land reform was allowed, for example, in the CCP-controlled areas of the provinces of Shantung, Kiangsu, Hopeh, and Honan.
Moreover, in its anxiety to accomplish its reconciliation with Chiang Kai-shek, the CCP dissolved the peasant army in Kwangtung and Shekiang, and removed only a part of it to North China. This caused great dissatisfaction among rank-and-file members within the party itself.
These facts should show that the CCP’s policy not only did not bow to “mass pressure,” but proceeded arbitrarily in direct opposition to the will and demands of the masses.
Chiang Kai-shek, for his part, made full use of the time during the peace conference to transport his army, with the aid of American planes and warships, from the interior to the great cities and the strategic bases in the “recovered areas.” He solidified his position and prepared for armed attack on the CCP. In the meantime, he suppressed all the newly arising mass movements, especially the student movement. At the end of 1946; when all preparations were completed, Chiang’s government openly barred all doors to compromise and peace talks by holding its own “national assembly” and organizing its own “constituent government,” which showed its determination to reject the establishment of any coalition government with the CCP.
Following these steps, the KMT mobilized a great military offensive—such as the seizure of Chang-chia-k’ou [in Hopeh] and some small cities and towns in north Kiangsu. Yet up to this moment the CCP had not given up its efforts at conciliation. Its delegates to the peace conference still lingered in Shanghai and Nanking, trying to reopen peace talks with the KMT through the mediation of the so-called third force—the Democratic League.
Not until later, when Chiang Kai-shek drove away the CCP’s peace delegation (March 1947) and succeeded in occupying Yenan, its capital and stronghold (April 1947), did the CCP begin to realize the hopelessness of this attempt and only then did it muster its forces to engage in a military defense. But even at that time, it still did not dare to raise the slogan of the overthrow of the Kuomintang government. Nor did it offer a program of agrarian reform to mobilize the masses.
Even when Chiang’s government published its “warrant” for Mao Tse-tung’s arrest (June 25, 1947) and promulgated its “mobilization decree for suppressing revolts” (July 4), the CCP responded with several months of hesitation (during which it seemed to be waiting for instructions from Moscow). Finally on October 10, it published its manifesto in the name of the “People’s Liberation Army” that openly called for Chiang Kai-shek’s overthrow and the building of a “New China.” It was also at this time that it once again revived its “agrarian law,” ordering the expropriation of the land of landlords and rich peasants and its redistribution to peasants with no land or whose land was inadequate. (“Industrial and commercial enterprises,” however, remained untouched.)
This was a remarkable change in the CCP’s policy from the whole period since it declared its support to Chiang’s regime and abandoned land reform in 1937. This policy shift marked a fundamental change in the CCP’s relations with Chiang’s government.
Was this change, then, the result of mass pressure? No, obviously not. The mass movement had already been brutally trampled by Chiang’s regime and was actually at a very low ebb. With KMT agents active everywhere, thousands of young students were arrested, tortured, and even assassinated, and worker militants were constantly being arrested or hunted. The indisputable facts indicate that the CCP was compelled to make this change solely because Chiang had burned all bridges leading toward compromise and because it was confronted with the mortal threat of a violent attack designed to annihilate its influence once and for all. So we might rather say that this shift was the result of Chiang’s pressure than of mass pressure.
In order to arm itself for a counteroffensive; the CCP began to make a “left turn” on the political plane. Only then did it begin to make concessions to the demands of the masses, or to bend before “mass pressure.” In particular it gave in to the demands of the peasant masses in areas it controlled, with the aim of regaining and strengthening its military power.
Hence, from November 1947 to the next spring, it initiated a universal struggle to “correct the Right deviation” in areas where land reform was set into motion. In the course of this struggle, the CCP liquidated all the privileges previously granted to the landlords and kulaks, and reexpropriated and distributed the land among the poor peasants. It also deprived the landlords and kulaks of the posts they held in the local administration, the party, and the army. (As a result of the previous compromising policy, a great number of landlords and kulaks had joined the party and its army, and even occupied certain important positions.)
“Poor Peasants’ Committees” were created and given a few democratic rights, to allow them to directly fight the landlords and kulaks. They were even permitted to criticize lower-ranking party cadres, some of whom were removed from their posts and punished. These actions as a whole were quite successful in winning considerable support from the peasant masses and greatly strengthened the CCP’s anti-Chiang military forces. But we should not forget that all these “leftward” policies were taken in reaction to pressure from Chiang.
As regards the CCP’s relations with the Kremlin, I can only offer as illustrations some important historical turns. After the disastrous defeat of the second Chinese revolution, when the Kremlin switched its policy from ultraright opportunism to ultraleft adventurism (the so-called third period in its general international line), the CCP leadership followed at the Kremlin’s heels without hesitation. Closing their eyes to the most grave injuries the party suffered because of this turn, and deaf to the unremitting and sharp criticisms from Trotsky and the Chinese Left Opposition, the leading bodies carried out these adventurist policies and engaged in a desperate struggle to “build up Soviets and the Red Army” in the desolate and isolated villages. This was done without any connection with the urban workers’ movement, and in the general counterrevolutionary climate of bourgeois victory and relative stability.
At the time the “Red Army” in China was driven out of the South and fled to Yenan in the North, the Kremlin, threatened by Hitler’s triumph, turned away from the “third period” and back toward ultraright opportunism. This opened the period of building up the so-called Democratic Front and the Peace Front. Just as before, adjusting itself to this turn of the Kremlin, the CCP likewise unreservedly advocated the People’s Front or the Front of National Defense, and renewed its appeal to the Kuomintang for collaboration.
A case in point was the CCP’s reaction when Chang Hsueh-liang, commander in chief of the Kuomintang expedition at the time, detained Chiang Kai-shek in Sian under “pressure of the masses,” particularly pressure from his own soldiers and lower officers, all of whom were Manchurians who nourished a bitter hatred against Chiang because his “nondefensism” during the Japanese attack on Manchuria had rendered them homeless.7 This incident aroused delight and hope in the whole country, especially among the members of the CCP. As the news spread the whole nation was at a peak of excitement and passion, thinking that this counterrevolutionary butcher was doomed at last and that a new era was dawning.
But to everyone’s astonishment, without resistance the CCP complied with the Kremlin’s directives, calling on and compelling Chang Hsueh-liang to release Chiang Kai-shek, the chief butcher of the second revolution and Mao’s mortal enemy during eight years of civil war. This was the price paid to get from Chiang his agreement for a new collaboration in order to “fight together against Japan”! (And this was on the condition that the CCP cancel the agrarian reform and dissolve the “soviets” and the “Red Army.”)
This amazing servile obedience of the Communist leadership toward the Kremlin not only stirred up discontent among the people in general, but also caused great disappointment and disturbances among its own members and followers. After the war, the CCP’s desperate efforts to submissively follow the policy of compromise and peace with Chiang, in complete disregard of the aspirations of the masses, was the latest fact to show that it was entirely under the direction of the Kremlin. Its policy was completely subordinated to Moscow’s foreign policy, which was aimed at seeking compromise with American imperialism.
Later, the “big turn” in the CCP’s policy, from compromise with Chiang to urging his overthrow, was also in line with the turn in the Kremlin’s foreign policy. Having failed in its attempt to achieve a compromise with American imperialism, Moscow turned to a defensive strategy as a result of the cold war. The timing of the CCP’s “big turn” in October 1947 followed immediately the formation of the Cominform at the Kremlin’s orders in September of that year. This was not merely a coincidence and should suffice to prove that the CCP’s turn, far from violating the Kremlin’s objectives, was completed precisely under Moscow’s direction.
Some comrades of the International have cited certain facts regarding the isolation of the CCP from Moscow during the Resistance War, in order to justify the theory that the latest turn in CCP policy was a result of violating the Kremlin’s objectives. But these “facts” are just the opposite of the real facts. Before the war, the Kremlin’s agents stayed permanently at Yenan (not openly), and there was regular radio communication between Yenan and Moscow. After the war, the Soviet Union sent its ambassador to Chungking, accompanied by its secret agents, so that it could openly and legally establish regular contact with the Chinese Communist delegation and its special agents in Chung-king, to dispatch news and instructions. Therefore we have sufficient reason to say that during the war the relations between the CCP and the Kremlin not only were not cut off, but on the contrary became closer than ever. This fact is clearly revealed in all CCP newspapers and documents of that period, which quickly echoed all of Moscow’s propaganda and strategic positions. As for the postwar period, since the Soviet occupation of Manchuria, and with so many Soviet representatives working in the CCP and the army, the intimacy between Moscow and the CCP has been too evident to need further clarification.
In view of the above-mentioned facts, it is perfectly clear that to place the Chinese and Yugoslav parties on the same plane and to consider the former’s conquest of power as the result of similar “mass pressure” and as overstepping the Kremlin’s objectives is both mechanical and misleading. If we make a comparison of the policies and measures adopted by the YCP and those of the CCP in the course of the events, the distance between them would be even more apparent.
In the course of the anti-imperialist national liberation movement during 1941-45, the YCP already destroyed the bourgeois-landlord regime, step by step, and consummated its proletarian dictatorship in the first period after the war (October 1945), despite its somewhat abnormal character. Simultaneous with or a little later than the creation of the proletarian dictatorship (1945-46), it succeeded in carrying out agrarian reform and the statization of industry and banking, and expropriated private property by law. Meanwhile, on many important problems, the YCP had already formulated its own views, which were different from and independent of the Kremlin. It pursued its course according to its own experiences, that is, it submitted empirically to mass pressure against the Kremlin’s objectives.
But the CCP not only closely followed the Kremlin’s foreign policy during the national liberation movement against Japanese imperialism, and devoted itself to seeking a compromise with the bourgeois-landlord regime regardless of mass pressure; but even after it conquered full power, it persisted in forming a “coalition government” with the national bourgeoisie and guaranteed them protection of their properties. It even tried to postpone carrying out the land reform to the latest possible date. Here we must note that the differences in attitude expressed by the YCP and the CCP in the course of the events are not quantitative, but qualitative. To assume therefore that the CCP has completed the same process of development as the YCP and ceased to be a Stalinist party in the classical sense of the word is to go entirely beyond the facts.
But what explanation should be given for these differences? First, since the CCP withdrew from the cities to the countryside in 1928, it established a quite solid apparatus and army (the peasant army). For these twenty years it used this army and power to rule over the peasant masses—as we know, the backward and scattered peasants are the easiest to control—and hence a stubborn and self-willed bureaucracy took shape, especially in its manner of treating the masses. Even toward the workers and students in the KMT areas, it employed either ultimatistic or deceitful methods instead of persuasion.
Second, in ideology the CCP has further fortified and deepened the theory of Stalinism through its treatment of a series of important events: the defeat of the second revolution, the peasant wars, and the Resistance War against Japan, etc. This was especially true in its rejection of the criticism of its concepts and policies by Trotsky and the Chinese Trotskyists. (I should call the comrades’ attention to the fact that Trotsky’s critique of Stalinism was more extensive on the Chinese question than for any other country except the Soviet Union.)
Mao Tse-tung’s “systematic” and dogmatic “New Democracy” is nothing but an ideologically and politically deepened and crystallized expression of Stalinism; i.e., it is the expression of obstinately holding onto the “revolution by stages” in direct challenge to the permanent revolution.
Third, over these two decades the CCP has received special attention from the Kremlin, and it follows that its relations with the latter are particularly intimate. After the Soviet Union occupied Manchuria and rearmed the CCP with weapons taken from the Japanese captives, the Kremlin’s control over the CCP became more rigorous than ever.
Because of these three characteristics, the CCP has neither been able to yield to mass pressure and modify its own political line, nor has it been easy for this party to overstep the Kremlin’s objectives and go its own way. The YCP on the other hand has traversed an entirely different course. This party was almost created out of the national anti-imperialist mass movement, and in a comparatively short span of time. It was not able to form a bureaucracy and Stalinist ideology as tenacious as that of the CCP. Since it was actually quite isolated from the Kremlin during its resistance war, it was more disposed to empirically bend to mass pressure. It gradually modified its own political line in accord with the development of events until it finally went against the Kremlin’s objectives. Therefore, we must say that the conquest of power in these two cases has only an apparent resemblance. In respect to the motivating causes (in terms of “pressure”), the manner adopted in taking power, and in the content of the power, the differences are quite great.
From this judgment and explanation, should we deduce a further inference, that the CCP will at all times and under any conditions resist mass pressure and never come into conflict with the Kremlin? No. What we have demonstrated above is that the most important turns the CCP underwent in the past were entirely the result of pressure from the Kremlin, and in violation of the will of the masses. Even the present “turn” toward the seizure of power was not a product of its yielding to mass pressure and going against the Kremlin’s objectives, but, on the contrary, resulted from the mortal pressure of Chiang Kai-shek, and was taken in complete agreement with the Kremlin. However, .in ordinary circumstances, in order to maintain its own existence and continue its development, the CCP is obliged to seek support from certain layers of the masses and to establish a base among them. Accordingly, it would more or less concede to demands of the masses within certain limits and within the possibilities permitted by its own control; i.e., bend to mass pressure.
In the past, the CCP’s policy passed through not a few “leftward” oscillations, such as the limited agrarian reform policy offered in May 1947, the “liquidation of the Right deviation in the land reform” in the period from the end of 1947 to the spring of 1948, and some comparatively leftward measures taken after its conquest of power. These are the solid facts of its yielding to mass pressure. It is possible that this kind of leftward turn will appear more often and to a greater extent in the future. Also, for the same reasons we can believe that in the past certain differences or conflicts must have occurred between the CCP and the Kremlin. But these conflicts have not yet burst to the surface. For example, the dispute between Mao and Li discussed above may be a significant reflection of this existing conflict, which is not only unavoidable in the period ahead but will be further intensified. So I must say that the error made by Comrade Germain, taken up earlier, is not one of principle, but of fact.
Yet I must also point out that the mistake made on such an important question may not only give rise to a series of other mistakes—such as underestimation of the bureaucratism of the CCP, its Stalinist ideology and methods, and overoptimism on perspectives concerning the CCP, etc.—but may also lead to errors in principle. For example, some comrades in our International have already asserted that the CCP regime is a “proletarian dictatorship,” because they consider that events in China are in the same category as the Yugoslav events, and because the YCP regime has already become a proletarian dictatorship. Proceeding by abstract deduction according to formal logic, the CCP regime is doubtlessly also a “proletarian dictatorship.” (There will be further discussion of this question later in this report.)
Because this way of transposing facts to suit certain formulas carries with it the danger of committing mistakes in principle, we should be very cautious in applying “principles,” and especially formulas deduced from principles. We cannot group events which are similar only in appearance under the same principle or the same formula, or force events into accommodation with a given principle or formula.
First of all, we must examine and analyze the concrete facts of the events themselves, particularly taking account of whatever exceptional circumstances have played a decisive role in the events, and judge whether this event conforms to a certain principle or formula, whether it actually is the true expression of this principle or formula. As Lenin said, the facts are forever alive, while formulas often tend to become rigid.
Our movement has assumed and stressed that it is possible for the masses to pass beyond the boundaries of Stalinism, and that hidden, profound contradictions exist between various Communist parties and the Kremlin. Under certain specific conditions an entire Communist party may modify its political line, go beyond the Kremlin’s objectives, and lead the masses to the seizure of power. This principle and this formula is correct in its basic theoretical premise, and has already been justified by the Yugoslav events (or to be more exact, it is rather derived from them). But here we must particularly note one thing, and that is precisely the “certain specific conditions.” Although under certain specific conditions a Communist party could be pushed by mass pressure to seize power in violation of the Kremlin’s aims (as in the case of the, YCP), under certain other specific conditions a Communist party could come to power not necessarily through mass pressure, meanwhile receiving instructions from the Kremlin (or at least not violating its objectives). This is exactly what has happened in China.
We believe that similar events may possibly be repeated in other Asian countries (Vietnam, Burma, etc.). What the Kremlin fears is the victory of a genuine revolutionary movement of the workers, especially in the advanced countries, simply because it will not be able to control this victorious revolution, which will in turn threaten its very existence. If it does not face this kind of threat, and if its action will not involve immediate direct intervention by imperialism, the Kremlin would not give up an opportunity to extend its sphere of influence and would naturally permit a Communist party under its control to take power. This is the lesson that can be drawn from the Chinese events and that we must accept. While this still falls under the heading of the conquest of power by a Communist party, we should at least see it as something supplementary to the lesson of the Yugoslav events. Only in this manner can we avoid falling into the mistake of transforming a principle into a rigid formula, of imposing this formula on every apparently similar event, and thereby producing a series of erroneous conclusions.
We Marxists react toward events by analyzing the concrete facts of their development with our methods and principles, testing and enriching our principles through this analysis, or if necessary, modifying our principles and formulas, for the truth is always concrete.
Is the CCP’s victory the beginning of the third Chinese revolution?
The resolution on the Chinese question of the Seventh Plenum of the International Executive Committee stated, “The victory of Mao Tse-tung over Chiang Kai-shek is the beginning of the third Chinese revolution.” When this resolution first arrived in China (autumn 1949), the leading body of our party—the Political Bureau—agreed with it in general. But because of the Political Bureau’s urgent need to move, it was not able to discuss the resolution in detail and express its opinions in written form. Then doubts arose among some comrades regarding the International’s resolution, and the most acute controversy of recent years began.
Some of the responsible comrades are in complete agreement with the views of the International (comrades Chiao and Ma, who formerly expressed their disagreement are now becoming the major supporters of the International’s position), while other responsible comrades are in strong opposition. We have selected four of the most representative articles in this controversy and translated them into English for reference. So in this report it is not necessary to recount in detail the points of divergence in their discussion. I am simply going to give my personal criticism and explanation of the essential arguments, particularly those of the comrades with oppositional views.
On the question of the revolutionary situation
The major argument of the comrades in opposition is that the CCP’s ascent to power is not based on the revolutionary actions^ of the masses, especially the workers (i.e., from general strikes to armed insurrection), but has relied entirely on the peasant armed forces and purely military actions. On the basis of our traditional conception of revolution and the experiences of revolutions in modern times—especially the Russian October revolution—they conceive of the revolution only in the sense that huge masses, especially the working class, are mobilized from bottom to top, go beyond the domain of the general democratic struggle to armed rebellion, directly destroy the state apparatus of the ruling class, and proceed to build up a new regime. That we can call the beginning of the victory of a real revolution.
Now, this movement under the CCP’s leadership not only did not at all mobilize the working masses, but even refrained from appealing to the peasant masses to organize, to rise for action, and engage in a revolutionary struggle (ousting the landlords, distributing the land, etc.). As the facts stand, the CCP relied solely on the military action of the peasant army instead of the revolutionary action of the worker and peasant masses. From this, these comrades asserted that this victory is only the victory of a peasant war, and not the beginning of the third Chinese revolution.
We must admit that the traditional conception of revolution held by these comrades is completely correct, and the facts they enumerate are irrefutable. But they have forgotten a small matter. That is, that the epoch in which we live is not that of the victory of the October revolution, the time of Lenin and Trotsky. It is the epoch in which the heritage of the October revolution— the Soviet socialist workers’ state—has been usurped by the bureaucracy of Stalin and has reached the point of extreme degeneration. These are the main features of this epoch:
On the one hand, the capitalist world, having experienced two world wars, is in utter decay, while the objective revolutionary conditions have gone from ripe to overripe. On the other hand, the Stalin bureaucracy, by dint of the prestige inherited from the October revolution and the material resources of the Soviet Union, has done everything it can to retain its grip on the Communist parties of the world, and through them it attempts to subordinate the revolutionary movements of different countries to its own diplomatic interests. These exceptional circumstances have not led universally to the frustration and defeat of revolutionary movements in various countries; in some countries the revolutionary movements have only been deformed. The victory of the movement led by the CCP is a prominent example of this deformation of its revolution.
As we have said, viewed from the aspect of the CCP’s attempt to avoid the mobilization of the masses, particularly the worker masses, and its conquering of power on the basis of peasant armed forces, this event is indeed far from conforming to a classic or normal revolution. But considered from the standpoint of its overthrow of the bourgeois-landlord regime of Chiang Kai-shek, its widespread practice of land reform, and its political resistance against imperialism and its struggle for national independence, it is undeniably not only “progressive,” but revolutionary. Further, it marks a great dividing line in modern Chinese history. The destruction of the bloody twenty-year rule of Chiang Kai-shek and the blow dealt to the imperialist powers who have trodden on the Chinese people for centuries are quite sufficient to prove that this event can stack up with the first Chinese revolution (1911). Inasmuch as a sizable general land reform has been carried out (no matter how incomplete), the feudal remnants that have persisted for thousands of years are for the first time being shoveled away on a wide scale. And since this work is still being carried on, should we still insist that it is not an epoch-making revolutionary movement?
The comrades in opposition contend that they have completely acknowledged the progressive aspects of this movement, but nevertheless, they are by no means identical with the initial triumph of a real revolution, or the beginning of the third revolution, since they have been achieved by military and bureaucratic means.
Though we admit this fact, our conclusion cannot simply be a condemnation of the process and its outcome as “not revolutionary.” The only correct view is to say that this is not a typical or normal revolution, but a distorted, damaged, and hence a deformed revolutionary movement. In order to obtain a more precise understanding of this question of deformed revolution, let us recall the discussions on the nature of the states in the buffer countries of Eastern Europe.
In these buffer countries, with the exception of Yugoslavia, the dispossession of the bourgeoisie from power, the land reform procedures, and the nationalizations of industry, banks, and means of transport and exchange were either not at all or only to a small degree carried out through the revolutionary action of the worker and peasant masses. The statized properties and enterprises of the new regime have never been placed under the supervision and control of the masses, but are, under occupation by the Soviet army, operated and monopolized by the Communist bureaucrats of the Kremlin order. Concentrating on this fact, various minorities among the sections of the International— which are in fact elements already outside of or on the way to quitting our movement if they insist on their views—dogmatize about the nature of these states as “state capitalist” or “bureaucratic collectivist.”
However, the International Secretariat of our International, using the traditional method employed by Trotsky in studying and characterizing the nature of the Soviet state under the rule of the Stalin bureaucracy as a degenerated workers’ state, has held that these buffer states have already become deformed workers’ states assimilated into the Soviet Union. As the property relations in these countries have been fundamentally changed, i.e., statized, and since this statization is an indispensable material premise for the transformation from capitalism to socialism, on the basis of this fundamental change in property relations we can then assert the change in the nature of the state.
But while maintaining this assertion, the International has not overlooked the detestable way the bureaucrats of the Soviet Union and the Communist parties of these countries are monopolizing all economic and administrative power and the way the police and the GPU are strangling the freedom and initiative of the masses. It is precisely in view of these facts that our International calls these states deformed or abnormal workers’ states. This is the only correct way to dialectically comprehend the events, the only way to “call things by their right names.” If our oppositional Chinese comrades would adopt the method used by the International in deciding the character of the state in the buffer countries—the traditional method of Trotskyism—to evaluate the victory of the CCP, it would be very plain that no matter how the CCP succeeded in seizing power, even though it was by purely military or bureaucratic means, the things it has accomplished are revolutionary. The overthrow of Chiang’s regime, the land reform, and the relative political independence now won are goals that have to be achieved in the permanent process going from the democratic revolution to the socialist revolution.
But the CCP has not mobilized the worker masses. It has not pushed the revolution forward through the agency of the working class leading the peasant masses. In other words, because it substituted the military-bureaucratic methods of Stalinism for the Bolshevik revolutionary methods of mobilizing the masses, this revolution has been gravely distorted and injured, and its features are misshapen to such an extent that they are hardly recognizable. However, we Marxists judge all things and events not by their appearance, but by the essence concealed under the appearance. Therefore, no matter how ugly and abhorrent the appearance of the Soviet Union is under the rule of Stalin’s bureaucracy, since it preserves the nationalized property created by the October revolution we still recognize it as a workers’ state—a degenerated workers’ state. And although from their very birth the buffer states in Eastern Europe were already seriously disfigured by Stalin’s bureaucratism, and have revealed such monstrous deformity, we must nevertheless call them workers’ states, although deformed workers’ states.
In the same way, no matter how the movement led by the CCP is distorted and damaged by its bureaucratic methods, because it has overthrown Chiang’s regime, has secured considerable independence, and carried out a certain degree of land reform, we must recognize it as a revolution, although an abnormal revolution.
We must understand that our epoch is a transitional one, lying between capitalism and socialism, the most consequential and complex epoch in the history of humanity. Hence, many of the events and movements, under the influence of diverse factors, develop out of accord with the normal procedures of our logical thinking that are derived from historical experience or principles. Moreover, the extraordinary expansion and interference of Stalinism following the degeneration of the first workers’ state— which in the last analysis is also one of the products of this complex and convulsive epoch—has further pulled these events and movements out of their normal orbit and served to distort them. In this epoch, anyone who demands that all events and movements conform to one’s own ideal or norm, and who would only recognize and participate in those that are considered normal and that conform to one’s ideals, is a perfect Utopian, who either hurls meaningless curses—or “criticisms”—at events and movements, or wages a desperate fight against history. These people have nothing in common with Marxists.
We Trotskyists must bear the responsibility for the coming revolution. We should not only maintain “our own ideal” and understand the “normal development of the movement,” but should particularly understand the abnormal events and imperfect movements produced under exceptional conditions. In other words, we must recognize the situation already coming into existence, acknowledge its reality even though it may be inconsistent with our “norm” or unpleasant. And we must carry on an untiring fight in face of this situation to alter it in the course of the struggle and turn it toward our goal.
The entire Chinese mainland has now fallen into the CCP’s hands. The whole movement has been placed under its .control or leadership. This is an absolute reality, although distorted and contrary to our ideals. But unless we accept the reality of this movement, penetrate it, and actively join in all mass struggles, all our criticisms will be futile as well as harmful. We must seek to influence the masses with our Trotskyist revolutionary program, try patiently to convince and to win the confidence of the masses in the course of the struggle, help them step by step to disentangle themselves, through their own experiences, from the illusions and control of Mao Tse-tung’s opportunism and bureaucratism, and eventually change the orientation of this movement. This task is, of course, extremely difficult and it will not necessarily proceed in tune with our efforts. But at least by participating in this movement we can lay down a basis for future work. Then, when we are faced with a more favorable situation, we shall be able to intervene and even to lead the movement.
If we refuse to recognize the CCP’s victory as the beginning of a deformed revolution, if we do not participate in the movement positively in order to rescue it from deformation, or if we only express some passive criticisms of the CCP, we shall surely fall into the bog of sectarianism—as our Chinese minority has done. We would then quit the movement and the masses and finally, inevitably withdraw from all practical political struggles and be swept away by the historical current.
I must also point out that our oppositional comrades have committed another mechanical error by maintaining that the CCP-led movement was purely a peasant war and for that reason denying the significance of its mass character. The CCP’s peasant army is itself a mass movement—the peasant in uniform—embracing the most active sectors of the rural toilers. But even more, behind it stands the great mass of the peasantry.
Historical experience has shown us that once the peasant movement erupts, it is often involved in armed struggle. In the second Chinese revolution, when the peasant masses in Kwangtung and Hunan were organized into peasants’ associations, their armed forces appeared almost immediately, since it was quite impossible for them to fight the landlords and the country gentry without a substantial force. This has become almost a law of the peasant movement. We must also note that the present army differs greatly from any former peasant army. It has been systematically organized and trained by the Stalinist party, . which is more or less equipped with modern knowledge and techniques. It has been endowed with a nationwide and up-to-date program of democratic reform as the general direction of the struggle, no matter how opportunist this program has been. It is for this reason that we cannot call this movement simply a peasant war but an abnormal revolutionary movement, and only this designation is true to the facts and to dialectic logic.
On the other hand, the Chinese comrades who support the International’s resolution have gone to the opposite extreme in their attempt to demonstrate that the CCP’s victory is the beginning of the third Chinese revolution, that the movement led by the CCP is a mass movement, and that the change in its policy is the result of mass pressure. They exaggerate or even misinterpret the facts. This is just as harmful. For example, Comrade Chiao and Comrade Ma arrive at the conclusion that the CCP’s change in policy was the result of mass pressure and represented a mass movement by means of misdating the “beginning of the third Chinese revolution” from October 1947, when the CCP formally called for the overthrow of Chiang’s regime. This is not only mechanical, but is entirely contradictory to the actual facts, as I have indicated above. Moreover, Comrade Ma says:
From the point of view of the number of masses mobilized, the present revolution is even more normal than the second revolution, because the masses organized in the latter numbered only about ten millions, while even before the “Liberation Army” crossed the Yangtze River, there were already more than one hundred million farmers rising to distribute the land.
This kind of exposition is exaggerated and also fundamentally wrong in its conception of the mass movement. Comrade Chung Yuan has refuted and criticized it fully in his article “The Problem of the So-called ’Revolutionary Situation.’” I think that his refutation is correct and consistent with the historical facts. Here I would like to emphasize one point. In the second Chinese revolution, the majority of the working class was organized in such groups as the Canton-Hong Kong Strike Committee and the Shanghai General Labor Union (which were then functioning practically as Soviets). The workers were mobilized, and occupied the leading position in the nationwide movement, launching a number of general strikes and giant demonstrations. In addition, the working class engaged in several victorious armed revolts, such as the case of the worker masses in Hangkow and Chiuchiang, who seized the British settlements, and in Shanghai where they occupied the entire city with the exception of the foreign concessions.
But in this movement of the CCP, from its beginning to the conquest of power, there has neither been the rising of the working masses in any city to the point of general strikes or insurrections, nor even a small-scale strike or demonstration. Most of the workers were passive and inert, or at most showed a certain hopeful, attitude toward this movement. This is an indisputable fact. How can we compare this present movement with the revolutionary movement of the second Chinese revolution? The International’s resolution has clearly asserted: “The victory of Mao Tse-tung over Chiang Kai-shek is the military victory of a peasant revolt over a thoroughly collapsed regime.” That is to say, this victory of the CCP is not the political victory of a real revolutionary movement of the worker and peasant masses over the bourgeois power. So this only helps to prove that Comrade Ma, who ardently supports the International’s resolution, has gone too far, has idealized the Communist-led movement. This idealization of events will not only foster illusions but will objectively lead to wrong judgments. Both will be dangerous, because illusions are always the origin of disappointment or discouragement, while wrong judgments will inevitably become the root of erroneous policies.
We should never overlook the extremely serious dangers implicit in the deformation of the third Chinese revolution fostered by the CCP: the tenacious opportunism, the imperious bureaucracy, the severe control over the masses, the hostility toward revolutionary ideas, and the brutal persecution of the revolutionary elements, especially the Trotskyists. (Our organization has been disrupted in many places on/the mainland; many comrades have been arrested, imprisoned, forced to “repent,” and a few of our most responsible comrades have already been executed.)
All these dangerous factors combined preclude any overoptimism in regard to the development and perspective of the third Chinese revolution that is now underway. They will make it extremely difficult for Trotskyists to work in this movement.
Despite all these circumstances we should never adopt a sectarian or pessimistic attitude, nor give up our efforts and our revolutionary responsibility to try to push this movement forward or transform it.
At the same time we must also reject all naive ultraoptimism, which always tends to disregard the difficulties in the movement and the hardships in our work. At the beginning, ultraoptimists might throw themselves into the movement with great zeal. But when they encounter the severe difficulties in the course of their work, they will become disheartened and shrink back. However, with the entire perspective of our movement in sight, we Trotskyists always hold firm to our unbending faith and revolutionary optimism. In other words, we profoundly believe that the victory of the proletarian revolution in the whole world and the reconstruction of human society can be accomplished only under the banner and the program of Trotskyism, the most enriched and deepened Marxism-Leninism of modern times. Yet we should not overlook the formidable roadblocks on the way from the present period to the eventual victory, particularly the obstacles laid down by Stalinism.
We must first of all bring to light these obstacles, then overcome them with the most precise program, correct methods, and utmost patience and perseverance.
The sectarians find their excuses in the fact that the movement does not conform to their preconceived norms and they attempt to flee from it in advance. The naive optimists idealize the movement. But as soon as they discover that the movement does not follow the track of their idealization, they leave it. Revolutionary optimists have nothing in common with these two sorts of people. Since we have the strongest faith in the victory of the revolution, since we understand the enormous difficulties lying on the road to this victory, we cut our path through the thorniest thickets only with revolutionary methods and absolute persistence to reach the ultimate goal.
Confronted with Mao’s victory, serious controversies have been raised in the Chinese organization through the discussion of the party’s past policy. These controversies have produced certain unhealthy effects on the party. Though it is not possible for me to dwell in detail on a description and criticism of these controversial opinions, I should express my fundamental attitude toward this discussion (especially since many Chinese comrades have asked me to do so).
It is altogether reasonable that a political organization, on the morrow of a great event, should examine and discuss its past policy carefully in order to readjust its political line. Therefore I do not agree with some comrades who object to this discussion. But I should also insist that we must proceed with the discussion in a fully responsible way, both for the revolutionary tasks and for our party, and in a circumspect, exact, and precise manner. It is absolutely wrong to criticize at will the party’s past policy with giddy and bombastic gestures which create confusion and centrifugal tendencies in the party. The experience of history has already taught us that a political party is most susceptible to centrifugal tendencies under the pressure of a great event, especially in face of growing difficulties in its conditions of work.
If at this moment criticism of the party’s past policy assumes an indiscreet, exaggerated, or unjust attitude, it will be most apt to cause the rank and file of the party to falter in their convictions, encourage the development of centrifugal tendencies, and finally lead to a terrible split.
Unfortunately, some of our comrades are not prudent enough in their criticisms of the policy we adopted in the past period. The article written by Comrade Chiao, “Thesis on the Ideological Rearmament,” is a notable example. Though this article is aimed at correcting the “sectarian tendency,” its criticism of the party’s past policy is not only exaggerated but misleading. In his view, or at least according to his way of writing, it seems that the party’s whole past political line was fundamentally wrong and therefore, following the example of Lenin in posing the April Theses, “the party must be ideologically rearmed.”
However, as a result, this attitude only stimulated strong protests and criticisms from another group of comrades. These criticisms found their first expression in “Rearmament or Revisionism?” written by Comrade Ming.
In reality, our party has maintained and struggled over long years for the traditional line of Trotskyism, the line of the permanent revolution. The great events—the Sino-Japanese War and China’s involvement in the Second World War, as well as the party’s internal struggles during the critical periods of these two events, first the struggle against Ch’en Tu-hsiu’s right opportunism and then the fight against the ultraleft sectarianism of the minority group led by Cheng Chao-lin—have justified the political line we upheld in the past.
During the civil war between the Kuomintang and the CCP, our basic line and our position toward the CCP have also been correct and coincide with the fundamental attitude of the International’s resolution on the Chinese civil war.
After the CCP set out toward the seizure of power, the program put forward by our party—contained in “An Open Letter to the Members of the CCP” adopted by the plenum of the Central Executive Committee of our party—corresponded almost entirely to the program adopted by the Seventh Plenum of the International. Comrade Chiao’s appeal for an “ideological rearmament of our party” is tantamount to saying that the party in the past, or at least in the course of the CCP’s conquest of power, “deserted Trotskyist ideology” and needs to be “rearmed” by returning to Trotskyist ideas. This presentation is not only exaggerated and a distortion of the facts, but it is actually an insult to the party. Therefore it naturally has stirred up vehement indignation, outrage, and protests, and even, to a certain extent, confusion and vacillations among the comrades. It was with the premonition of such consequences that I forewarned our comrades not to be too hasty in making a 180-degree turn.
Nevertheless, I do not mean to say that our party has never made any mistakes in the past, especially in the recent events of the CCP’s conquest of power. I have already pointed out that our party did not envisage the victorious conquest of power by the CCP. From this major error in estimating the whole event flows a series of mistakes on the evaluation of events in the course of their development, and certain tactical errors in our propaganda to the outside world. These errors in estimation have affected our attitude to the entire event, which more or less tended to passive criticism and an underestimation of its objective revolutionary significance. This is what we seriously admit and must correct. But, as I have said above, these are mistakes in estimating the events rather than mistakes of principles, and therefore can be easily redressed.
As we know, the best Marxists—Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, etc.—were able to maintain correctness in principle and in method, but could not guarantee accuracy in every estimate of the development of events. Marxism is the most effective scientific method of predicting social phenomena. But it has not yet reached such exactness as meteorology in foretelling the weather or astronomy in astral phenomena, since social phenomena are far more complicated than those of nature. So Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky also made mistakes in their evaluation of events. Examples of this sort include the estimation made by Marx and Engels on the development of the situation after the failure of the 1848 revolution; Lenin and Trotsky’s optimistic anticipation of revolutionary possibilities in Europe after the October revolution; and Trotsky’s appraisal of the prospects for Stalinism during the Second World War. What distinguished them was not infallibility in estimating any and all events, but their constant, cautious, and exact observation of the objective process of events. And once they realized that the development of events did not conform to their original estimates or that their estimates were wrong, they immediately readjusted or reestimated them. This is the attitude of a real Marxist, and is the example we should try to follow.
The class nature of the CCP and the new regime
Though there has not been much discussion among the Chinese comrades on this question, some opinions exist among the comrades of the International that tend to deviate from the Marxist line. I therefore consider it necessary to raise this question for serious discussion and to make a definite appraisal that can serve as the premise in determining our position in relation to the CCP and its new regime.
About the nature of the CCP, virtually all the Chinese comrades have declared it to be a petty-bourgeois party based on the peasantry. This has been a traditional conception of the Chinese Trotskyists for the past twenty years, and is one defined by Trotsky himself.
Beginning with 1930, Trotsky repeatedly pointed out that the CCP had gradually degenerated from a workers’ party into a peasant party. Once in a letter to the Chinese comrades he even said that the CCP was following the same path as the Social Revolutionary Party in Russia. The main reason for this judgment was as follows: After the defeat of the second revolution, the CCP gave up the urban workers’ movement, left the urban proletariat, and turned entirely toward the countryside. It threw its whole strength into village guerrilla fighting and therefore absorbed into the party a great number of peasants. As a result, the party’s composition became purely peasant. Despite the participation of some worker elements who retreated from the cities, the tiny number of these workers was not enough to determine the party’s composition. Furthermore during the prolonged period of living in the countryside they also assimilated the peasant outlook into their ideology, little by little.
As we know, Trotsky’s assessment of the nature of the CCP was never revised up to his death. The composition of the CCP and its nature as described in the last part of Isaacs’s The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution clearly reflected this conception because his book was read and corrected by Trotsky himself before publication.
Has there been any alteration in the CCP’s composition in the direction of the working class since Trotsky’s death? Not only has there been no fundamental change, but the petty-bourgeois composition represented by peasants and intellectuals has, on the contrary, been strengthened. The unprecedented growth of the CCP during and after the Resistance War was almost completely due to an influx of peasants and petty-bourgeois intellectuals. Before its conquest of power, the party claimed about 3.5 million members. Of this total number, the worker element was very weak and at most was not more than 5 percent (including manual laborers). We can therefore confirm that up to the time it came to power the CCP still remained petty bourgeois in composition.
Despite all this, some of our International comrades consider that the CCP has already become a workers’ party. Comrade Germain, for example, is of this opinion. When we referred to Trotsky’s characterization of the CCP as a petty-bourgeois peasant party, he replied: “I know, I admit that was true before. But since the CCP seized power and came into the cities, it has become transformed into a workers’ party.”
This assertion is based on the argument that the nature of a party is not determined simply by the criterion of composition, but also by the role it plays. From the fact that the CCP has overthrown the Kuomintang bourgeois system and set up its own power, it is quite evident that the nature of the party has changed. Unfortunately, this kind of reasoning leads to only a superficial resemblance to the truth, because the CCP overthrew the Chiang Kai-shek regime not through the revolutionary action of the working class leading the peasant masses, but by relying exclusively on the peasant armed forces. Therefore the newly established regime still remains bourgeois. (We will return to the characterization of this regime.) So how can this fact be used as a criterion to judge the change in the nature of the party? On the contrary, we could say that the very fact that the CCP did not mobilize the working masses and depended solely on the peasant armed forces to conquer power reveals the petty-bourgeois nature of this party.
Has the nature of the party changed, then, after it came into the cities? The answer must again be in the negative. A political party can never change its composition in twenty-four hours, especially in the case of the CCP, which has an unusually large peasant base. We can be assured that up to now the CCP is still a party in which peasant members are predominant, and hence is still largely petty bourgeois in nature. But .this does not mean that the peasant character of the party is now fixed and invariable. In fact, since this party has seized power and occupied the great cities, in its eagerness to seek support among the working class it has empirically stressed recruiting its members from the workers. At the same time, it has temporarily ceased to recruit peasants into the party. Following this bent, it is possible in the future for the CCP to gradually change its composition from a petty-bourgeois peasant party into a more or less workers’ party. However, this is a future possibility and cannot replace the reality for today.
The resolution of the Seventh Plenum of the IS has pointed out: “Socially, the Chinese Communist Party is … a bi-partite party which even to this day has only an insignificant base in the urban proletariat.”
This is really a very cautious characterization of the nature of the party. If this appraisal is considered as a summary formula for this transitional period in which the CCP is attempting to transform itself from a peasant party into a workers’ party (purely from the viewpoint of social composition), it is quite acceptable. But we must not forget the serious lesson disclosed in Trotsky’s criticism of the “worker-peasant party”: Any attempt to organize a worker-peasant party under the conditions of present-day society (including in the backward countries) is reactionary, petty-bourgeois, and extremely dangerous to the proletarian revolution. Because in a “worker-peasant party” it is not the proletarian elements who assimilate the peasant but quite the reverse, the peasant members overwhelm the former. Therefore, from the revolutionary point of view, it is never possible for two classes to establish an equal weight in a common party. Accordingly, a so-called two-class “worker-peasant party” is always a reactionary tool of petty-bourgeois politicians to deceive the working class.
In the documents on China, the International has not yet specifically clarified the class nature of the new regime (the so-called People’s Democratic Dictatorship). Despite some differences in interpretation among the Chinese comrades, the general opinion is that this regime rests on a petty-bourgeois social foundation with the peasantry as its main element, and is a Bonapartist military dictatorship. (The Chinese minority is an exception, since it has already asserted that the CCP regime represents “state capitalism” or “bureaucratic collectivism.”)
In the last analysis, therefore, in view of its fundamental stand on property relations, it is a bourgeois regime. Here, however, some of our comrades hold a completely opposite view. I was told by one comrade that the CCP regime is a proletarian dictatorship. Though he did not offer any reasons, I surmise that he very likely deduced this conclusion from the formula given for the YCP regime in Yugoslavia. We can find another view in the formal document which regards the CCP regime as one characterized by “dual power.”
Since such diverse ideas prevail among our International comrades, especially among leading comrades, it is necessary, in my opinion, to undertake a thorough clarification. First of all, let us start with the notion of “proletarian dictatorship.”
To determine the nature of any regime, we Marxists must check on two essential conditions: the class relations and the property relations, the latter being more decisive. We call the regime established by the Bolsheviks after the October revolution in Russia a proletarian dictatorship because power was completely in the hands of the proletariat supported by the peasant masses even though there was not yet a fundamental change in the property relations at that time. The change in the class relations sufficed for us to call it a proletarian dictatorship. We can also call the YCP regime after 1947 a proletarian dictatorship mainly because the property relationships have been basically altered, i.e., from private ownership to statization of property. Despite the fact that the YCP’s power is not entirely controlled by the proletariat, and is still marked by certain bureaucratic deformations, the fundamental change in property ownership suffices to qualify this regime as a deformed proletarian dictatorship.
But what is the real situation with the regime established by the CCP? In class relations, this regime claims to be a coalition government of four classes (workers, peasants, the petty bourgeoisie, and the national bourgeoisie). It is therefore very clear that this regime is not controlled or “dictated” by the proletariat. In fact, the social basis of this regime is constituted by the petty bourgeoisie, of which the peasants form the major part. Though the bourgeoisie does not have a decisive role in the government, yet in comparison with the proletariat it is still prominent (at least in appearance). In property relations, this regime not only has not abolished the private-property system, but on the contrary has deliberately enacted laws and constitutions to protect private ownership; to develop the economy of so-called New Democracy, i.e., a nonsocialist economy. It must, therefore, be asked: on what ground can we characterize this regime as a “proletarian dictatorship”? The argument brought forth by Comrade Germain on the “dual character” of this new regime is in the following passage: “Whether it wished to or not, the government found itself compelled to institute a genuine dual power in Southern China. On the provincial and district level, the majority of the old cadres remain in place; on the local level, their class enemies, the poor peasants of the Peasants’ Associations bid fair to seize all the actual power in carrying out the agrarian reform.”
Despite the obscurity in this passage, it seems to mean that power at the provincial and county level is bourgeois in character, whereas in the countryside the power is in the hands of the poor peasants. Let us assume that this is true. But we cannot conclude from this that the CCP regime in the South has a dual character, because the power of the poor peasants is not identical with proletarian power. At most it can only be considered as the most thoroughgoing petty-bourgeois peasant power. The change in the petty-bourgeois character of poor peasant power is possible only when it is under the leadership of the urban proletariat. This is precisely the condition that is lacking in the present regime, so this idea of a dual character is too inadequate to stand criticism.
To enable our comrades to recognize more concretely and more precisely the nature of this new regime, I will point out several of its important characteristics:
a. The major support of this regime is the enormous peasant army, which is entirely under the control of the already Stalinized (or bureaucratized) CCP. Hence the CCP has absolute control and decision-making power over the regime.
b. Representatives of the bourgeoisie and the top layers of the petty bourgeoisie occupy honored positions in this regime, but they have no direct decisive function. They can only indirectly affect the regime through their economic and social influence.
c. Though a handful of individuals among the workers have been appointed to participate in the government (very few in important posts), the working class as a whole remains in a subordinate position. The working masses are deprived of the fundamental right to freely elect their own representatives—such as Soviets or other similar workers’ representative committees, etc.—to participate in and supervise this regime. General political rights—freedom of speech, assembly and association, publication, belief, etc.—are considerably limited, and even completely forbid den (such as strikes). Consequently, though the workers are hailed as the “master” by this regime, in reality they only have the right to petition within the “bounds of law” for an improvement of their living conditions.
d. On the social and economic plane, the regime has carried out land reform on a considerable scale, and is prepared to complete it and wipe out the feudal remnants “step by step”—in line with the CCP’s bureaucratic methods. This is an indeed unprecedented and great reform. But it is confined within the framework of preserving the “industrial and commercial properties” of the landlords and rich peasants, and free purchase of land, i.e., nonviolation of capitalist property relations.
e. In relation to the capitalist properties, with the exception of those properties nationalized at the outset (the so-called bureaucratic capital), which the new regime took over and transformed into nationalized properties, all other kinds of private property is being left untouched and offered protection by new laws. Despite this, through its regulations the new regime imposes relatively strict restrictions on the interests of private capital. As a result, the workers under this regime, though still remaining in the position of hired laborers, can at the same time avoid overly severe exploitation.
From these characteristics, we can clearly see that the nature of this regime is by no means very simple and normal. Since this regime is a product of the combination of exceptional historical conditions, its nature and the forms it takes are both complex and abnormal. It is scarcely possible to find another regime in modern history analogous to it. If we compare this regime to that of the Jacobins during the French Revolution, its features may be made more distinct.
The social base of the Jacobin Party was the then-urban toiling masses in general—the “sansculottes.” It carried out a thorough land reform and eliminated feudal influences. The CCP regime is founded on the petty-bourgeois social base of the rural population and it is also carrying out the land reform and eliminating the feudal remnants. Both of these regimes are consummate dictatorships. From these essential aspects, these two regimes bear great resemblances to one another. But the time of the Jacobins was a period when capitalism was still in its embryonic stage. Its land reform and uprooting of feudal influences fulfilled a great historical task for the bourgeoisie, and opened the broad highway for later capitalist development. This regime was thus thoroughly revolutionary, and only the regime established by the Russian Bolsheviks has been able to match it in significance. The epoch in which the CCP exists is entirely different: it is the period of the utter decline and approaching fall of capitalism.
In this epoch, genuine revolutionary power must be founded on the social base of the proletariat (the modern “sansculottes”), even in backward countries. The realization of land reform should not and cannot clear the way for capitalist development but must immediately open the prospects for socialism. Hence it must proceed in line with the expropriation of the landlords and the private properties of the bourgeoisie. This is just what was carried out by the regime of the Russian Bolshevik Party under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky. Since the CCP regime is proceeding in the opposite way, in the last analysis it will eventually be a stumbling block in the course of historical development, and is in essence reactionary.
In conclusion, in class relations, this new regime bases itself on the petty-bourgeois peasants and attempts to “arbitrate” between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. In property relations, it has abolished feudal land ownership, built up the capitalist land system, and nationalized the greater part of the factories. On the other hand, it is conferring protection on capitalist private property, and seeks to “coordinate” the relationship between nationalized property and private property in order in the long run to construct a “New Democratic” economy. Therefore the regime is in itself fully charged with incompatible contradictions and high explosives. From the historical point of view, it can only be very short-lived and transitional. In the development of future events, it will be obliged to choose its social base between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, to decide its destiny between socialism and capitalism. Otherwise, it will either be overthrown by one of these two classes, or will be crushed by both, and become only an episode in history.
The evolution of the measures taken by the new regime
To give an adequate account and criticism of the measures taken by the new regime on all economic, social, and political planes over the past two years—beginning with October 1949 when this government was formally announced—would necessitate the writing of a special document for this purpose. This report, being limited in space, and lacking sufficient data on hand, can only offer a brief description of some essential features of these measures and the most important changes that have taken place in the regime’s orientation. On this count, we are prepared to supply further materials for supplementary reference.
In respect to the evolution of the regime’s measures, looking at its characteristic policies and their modification over time, we can take the outbreak of the Korean War as the line of demarcation and divide the whole into two periods. During the initial months of the first period (October 1949 to June 1950), under the slogan of “Military matters first!” i.e., clearing away the remaining military influence of the KMT on the mainland, the CCP threw its whole effort on the economic plane into extracting money and food from the people to support the front and to cover the expenses of administration. The noteworthy aspects of these measures are as follows:
They levied heavy taxes on all industry and commerce; forced the buying of bonds, such as “Victory Bonds,” “Front-support Bonds,” “Patriotic Bonds,” etc.; and appropriated foodstuffs from the countryside (the so-called voluntary contributions). The deficit in the budget was made up by issuing enormous quantities of paper currency. Land reform was suspended, and wages lowered, etc. On the political plane, the CCP assiduously conciliated the bourgeoisie, landlords, and rich peasants; and pulled toward itself all kinds of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois politicians and military men, including some of the Kuomintang bureaucrats and agents, in an attempt to disintegrate the enemy and strengthen its own; power. But the regime did its best to suppress the activities of the workers and peasants. Cases were often heard of workers being arrested or even killed on account of protests and strikes.
All of these measures resulted in inflation, the lowering of the standard of living, pauperization of the whole society, and the precipitation of industrial and commercial collapse. Most factories and shops were utterly unable to sustain themselves and asked for official permission to close down, or simply closed by themselves. Even those that remained in operation could not pay salaries and wages to. their employees. Consequently great anxiety and resentment were aroused among the bourgeoisie. With the lowering of wages—compared with the level during KMT rule—and the compulsory reduction of wages through buying bonds, the living conditions of the worker masses became more and more miserable. Yet they had no way to express their opinions or to demand improvements, and were universally discontented with the new regime, even complaining openly against it.
The most serious consequences, however, occurred in the countryside. As a result of the interruption of land reform, the broad peasant masses were not in the least benefitted but on the contrary were forced to contribute endless taxes and food. At the same time, the landlords and rich peasants transferred the greater part of their own burdens onto the shoulders of the peasant masses and even “contributed” the last handfuls of grain used for seed crop, required for their livelihood.
Robbed of their means of living, filled with fury, and further provoked by the landlords, rich peasants, and KMT agents, a segment of the peasants were driven to acts of open rebellion. These included refusal to “contribute,” forming groups to plunder “public” foodstuffs, and even rallying to the anticommunist guerrilla bands. This reaction objectively revived the influence of the Kuomintang anticommunist guerrillas.
In the spring of 1950 this situation reached a crisis point. At that time the CCP’s leading organ was compelled to admit:
At present the feudal system of the vast countryside has still not been eliminated, the wounds of war are not yet healed, and in addition to the unbalanced and unfair appropriation of state foodstuffs last year, the lawless landlords exploit this opportunity to transfer their own burdens. As a result the peasants in many regions are destitute of food and seeds, and can hardly proceed with the spring farming. In the regions ravaged by drought and flood, conditions are much more grave. At the same time there are a few special agents of the enemy, the bandits, who use threats to make people organize revolts, plunder state food, attack revolutionary groups and individuals, create social confusion, and sabotage the orders of production … to throw productive relations and the social order into a chaotic and dangerous state. 
The Yangtze (Ch’ang-chiang) Daily, the official paper published in Hangkow, summarized this critical situation in the following conclusion: “The essence of the immediate crisis lies in this: whether the peasants follow the Communist Party and the People’s Government, or the country autocrats and the Kuomintang agents.”
Faced with this crisis and pressure from all sides, especially from the peasant masses, the industrialists, and the merchants, the regime was obliged to make a turn in its policy. This turn first appeared with the announcement of the resumption of land reform, at the beginning of March 1950. This was the so-called land reform by stages. It was proposed to begin with the redistribution of land north of the Yangtze, while in the South (not including the Northwest and Southwest) to proceed first of all with the struggle “against the vicious autocrats” and with the “reduction of rents and interest.” The regime also revised the Food Appropriation Act. These measures served as palliatives to appease the peasants’ resistance. At about the same time, it proclaimed the Financial Coordination Act, which has more or less alleviated the weight of taxes while unifying and standardizing taxation on a national level. This has to a certain extent pacified the resentment of the tax contributors and comparatively stabilized finances. Inflation has also slackened.
The principal measure taken to maintain industry and commerce was the universal organizing of “Labor and Capital Consultative Conferences.” Under the government’s supervision and arbitration, the outcome of these “consultations” was always unfavorable to the workers. In order to maintain the factories and shops, the workers and employees were obliged to lower or even forfeit their wages, or else to resign “voluntarily” in order to take part in “farm labor in their native counties.” Sometimes they were called on to “voluntarily” prolong their worktime with the aim of reducing production costs. The industrialists and merchants, of course, were quite pleased with these results, while the workers became more and more resentful.
All of these urgent measures were then discussed, amended at the meeting of the Political Consultative Conference in May 1950, and concretized into various laws and acts—such as the Land Reform Law, the Trade Union Law, etc.—which were ratified by the government and became decrees. In addition, there was a Report on Financial and Economic Coordination also adopted by the conference, ratified by the government, and put into practice. The following points in the new acts deserve Our attention:
First the new Land Reform Law is generally in the same vein as the former Land Law, except that it emphasizes the “necessity of preserving landlords and rich peasants’ industrial and commercial properties” (according to Liu Shao-ch’i’s report), and strictly forbids all violence: beatings, killings, arrests, and the parading of criminals in high hats (contained in the Ministry of Public Affairs directives). This is obviously designed to prohibit the spontaneous organization by the masses to use their own revolutionary methods to punish the landlords, the country gentry, and the autocrats. It aims to submit all kinds of struggle to the procedure of law and appeal to law, this being termed by the regime “rational struggles.”
Second, in the economic field, it supported the industrialists by means of low-interest loans; or by allotting what is called extra works, whereby the administrators of the state enterprises offer raw materials, consign extra labor, and allocate a certain amount of profits to the private enterprises; or by buying the commodities of the private enterprises; or by giving extra facilities in buying raw materials, fuel, and transportation. With this aim it also reduced state commerce to oblige private business. In the Trade Union Act, it recognizes the workers’ right to demand improvements in their living conditions within the limits of the law. So the workers remain helpless if the “law does not consent.” In addition, the compulsory buying of bonds was stopped.
In brief we can say that this turn in the OOP’s policy springs from its feeling the danger of the pressure from the peasant masses and the bourgeoisie, who have become the main beneficiaries of the turn and gained certain concessions from the regime. The working class, especially the workers in private enterprises, have not only scarcely benefitted but in many respects have been its victims.
In the second period, from the outbreak of the Korean War up to the present, the regime’s measures have generally proceeded according to the orientation fixed in May by the Political Consultative Conference. However, during the “Aid Korea, Resist America” campaign, and particularly under compulsion to undertake a broad mass mobilization for participation in the Korean War, the CCP has once again had to modify its policy, or make another turn.
On the economic plane, following the blockade by American imperialism, the supply of certain industrial raw materials and machines has declined day by day. And since its own finances have faced greater and greater difficulties, aid to private enterprises has also been decreased and limited. Consequently, the relative revival of private enterprise has relapsed into stagnation and decline. The government attempts to concentrate its energy on the development of the state sector of industry and stresses the building up of a “self-sufficient heavy industry.” But owing to the extreme lack of capital and equipment, it has made very little progress. In the field of commerce, particularly in foreign trade, it has more or less resumed control over private business, and hence causes a stagnation of commerce.
Since the regime has won support from the huge peasant masses for the “Aid Korea” campaign, it has certainly accelerated the pace and enlarged the scope of agrarian reform. To a certain extent it has even relaxed its control over the peasants and strengthened its support among the poor peasants. The obvious examples in recent months have been its emphasis on the role of the peasants, especially the importance of the poor-peasant movement; its attempt to correct right-opportunist deviations in the land reform movement; and the penalties inflicted on some cadres who are directly responsible for the execution of land reform, when they violate the “will of the masses,” employ “bureaucratic methods,” or are corrupted. But this does not signify that the CCP has full confidence in the peasant masses and will permit them to freely exercise their revolutionary initiative, to spontaneously organize the distribution of the land and carry out the revolutionary struggle against the landlords and rich peasants. In fact, the fundamental line of “protecting the industrial and commercial properties of the landlords and rich peasants,” or “the gradual execution of land reform,” and of “rational struggle” still holds sway. It is only in the practical execution of these policies that control is less strict than before.
Because of its need for support in the Korean War, the regime has made some improvements in the workers’ living conditions. Recently it has gradually raised the wages of workers in the state enterprises and is more inclined than before to listen to the workers’ opinions about technical production. But the executive power of production is still in the hands of the manager or the committee appointed by the higher echelons. Under the slogan of competition to increase production, on the one hand the labor of the already overburdened average worker is further intensified, while on the other hand a group of labor aristocrats (the Stakhanovists) is created and weighs upon the general working masses, dividing the workers’ ranks.
The regime is much more tolerant than before in its attitude toward workers’ struggles in private enterprises. It permits the trade unions, “on the condition of not fundamentally hampering production,” to engage in a “legal struggle” with capital for improving living conditions. Henceforth, the lowering of wages and the firing of workers at will is more tightly controlled than in former times. Although the recently adopted Labor Assurance Law is still a half-measure, generally speaking it has indeed resulted in a considerable improvement in the position and life of the working masses. But the essential rights of the working class in politics and in production—namely the rights of participation and control in government and factory administration—are still denied.
Since the outbreak of the Korean War, the activities of all the reactionary elements have revived. This has forced the CCP to more or less modify its former political line of conciliation. This new turn is manifested in the tempestuous drive to “suppress the counterrevolutionaries.” In this campaign thousands of reactionary landlords and rich peasants (the “vicious local autocrats,” as they are labeled), labor traitors, and KMT bureaucrats and agents have been imprisoned, exiled, and executed. In addition a great number of “affiliated” elements and followers of Li Chi-shen and the “Democratic League” have suffered the same fate. This, however, marks a considerable’ progress within certain limits. But this drive has not touched a single hair of the real spokesmen of the bourgeoisie, such as the actual leaders of the Kuomintang Revolutionary Committee, represented by Li Chi-shen, and the heads of the Democratic League.
On the other hand, under the same pretext of suppressing “counterrevolutionaries,” the more advanced and discontented elements among the workers and peasants, especially the Trotskyists, are repressed, imprisoned, and killed. This only demonstrates that, even while carrying out certain limited progressive measures, this regime still drags behind it the reactionary specter of Stalinism.
In its international relations, the regime has really made important progress. After its establishment, it won a large measure of political independence from imperialism—such as taking back the customs houses and canceling the stationing of foreign armies in China. We must say that this has opened a new phase in modern Chinese diplomatic history. But in the economic sphere, it still assures “protection to the properties of all foreigners in China,” and attempts to engage in conciliation with imperialism by its implicit consent to the preservation of the concessions of Hong Kong, Kowloon, and Macao. With the outbreak of the Korean War the CCP’s foreign policy has shown certain further developments.
In retaliation against the economic blockade and freezing of Chinese property in the United States, the CCP regime has taken over American banks and enterprises, and seized all the schools, hospitals, and similar institutions formerly operated by foreigners. Moreover, as a countermeasure against the appropriation of a “rebellious” oil ship by the Hong Kong government, the People’s Government declared its “appropriation” of all the capital of the Asia Oil Company in China. Although these progressive measures have not altered the fundamental line of “protecting all foreign properties in China,” they have at least driven the regime to encroach more or less on the inviolable foreign properties.
Another result of the CCP’s direct intervention in the Korean War and the measures that flowed from that is a great decline in the possibility of compromise with American imperialism—the chieftain of the capitalist world. Mao’s regime, in fact, has become the government most hated by the American imperialists in Asia.
From the very beginning, because of its historical origins and its geographical and economic ties, this regime has tended to be dependent and submissive in its relations with the Soviet Union. This attitude was clearly reflected in the Sino-Soviet Mutual Aid Agreement signed in February 1950. This agreement was first of all aimed at pacifying the Chinese people’s indignation toward the Soviet Union. (There have been very strong and hostile reactions among broad layers of the Chinese people, especially among the workers of Manchuria, ever since the USSR seized Port Arthur and Dairen under the provisions of the Yalta Agreement, and after it acquired many other privileges, such as joint control of the Chungtung and Ch’ang-ch’un railways, and especially after it destroyed or moved away the majority of the industrial and mining installations in Manchuria.)
Also, made wiser by the bitter lessons of the Yugoslav events, the Soviet bureaucracy has learned to pay its “respects to the sovereignty and independence of the Chinese People’s Government,” and has promised to restore the two ports and control over the railroads in Manchuria no later than 1952. Whether this promise will be kept, or carried out by that date, is still an open question.
On the economic plane, the trade agreements and the so-called Sino-Soviet partnership mostly favor the Soviet Union. They are quite similar to the treaties signed with the Eastern European countries. Especially after the outbreak of the Korean War, the new regime’s dependence on the Soviet Union has become deeper and more unshakable. That is to say, the Soviet Union’s actual control over the Chinese government has become more solid and irremovable. Viewed simply from this angle, the Korean War is like a set of chains binding the CCP regime to the Soviet Union’s war chariot and dragging it along independent of its will.
It is true that the regime’s intervention in the Korean War has greatly increased its weight on the international arena, as well as raising its standing and prestige among the people in the country. But the grievous damage incurred in this war, in both men and material resources, has strewn more difficulties in the path of social and economic construction in China, even for the limited goals set by the CCP, inasmuch as such construction was already overwhelmed by difficulties. Meanwhile, these sacrifices have also stirred up discontent and complaints among the masses. If the war should continue, future evils can scarcely be calculated. From the standpoint of these considerations taken alone, the government would probably have to withdraw from the war or scale down its participation. But if the Kremlin should persist in its intention to use the war to weaken the CCP, the war might be further prolonged.
Over the past two years, pushed and pulled by powerful and complex influences at home and abroad, the new regime’s policies, both domestic and foreign, have been constantly and empirically changing. In general, it is moving in a “leftward” direction. But its fundamental opportunist orientation and bureaucratic administrative methods—the “revolution by stages” line, New Democracy, and class collaboration—and the systematic and well-planned control over all mass activities from above are still completely preserved. Therefore the basic contradictions and explosiveness contained in the regime—indicated in the previous section—are far from attenuated or diminished by the measures taken. They have even become more acute with the logical development of events.
The perspectives for China
With the CCP’s victory, a brand-new situation has unfolded in China—the beginning of a deformed third Chinese revolution. But having absorbed into itself all the profound and sharp contradictions in social and economic relations, class relations, and international relations, this situation can only be transitory. It will be channeled into one or the other of the following perspectives.
A. Relapse into the reactionary rule of the bourgeoisie
Given all the objective factors and conditions—the protection of capitalist property relations in the cities and countryside, maintenance of a certain political power and influence by the bourgeoisie, the frustration and repression of the proletariat in political and economic life, and the despotic state apparatus built on a petty-bourgeois social basis, inclining to corruption—we cannot exclude the possibility of retrogression to the reactionary rule of the bourgeoisie. But this could only be achieved through a most brutal counterrevolutionary bloodbath. However, as long as the GCP has full authority over a potent peasant armed force, this perspective is out of the question.
But in the event that both internal and international events were to develop unfavorably at the same time, the possible structural disintegration of the CCP regime would favor restoration of bourgeois rule. Particularly if a future world war were to break out and the proletarian revolution in other countries was unable to rise in time to intervene energetically in Chinese events, American imperialism, after striking a military death-blow to the Soviet Union, could turn around and lead the armies of Japan and Taiwan to attack the Chinese mainland. This would bring about the inevitable ruin or split of the CCP regime, with some of the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois elements surrendering to American imperialism. Then a reactionary bourgeois reign would reappear on the political stage of China.
Of course, this is the worst perspective and it is merely a possibility. But it is not wise to absolutely exclude this worst variant. Only by recognizing and comprehending this worst of perspectives, by our precaution and alertness, and through our subjective revolutionary efforts, can we prevent its appearance and development.
B. To the road of revolutionary proletarian dictatorship
The progressive measures already instituted have objectively laid a favorable basis for a revolutionary development. These include the gradual extension of the land reform; the widespread purge of feudal remnants; the nationalization of a great part of the enterprises and properties, such as the main industries and mines, means of transport, big banks, etc.; the liquidation of the reactionary forces represented by Chiang’s groups; the considerable rise of broad peasant masses; the regrouping of the urban working class, in the national trade union organization; and a gradual lifting of the general cultural level and political consciousness of the worker and peasant masses (indicated by the universal literacy campaign and the legalization of reading the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin).
The chief obstacle on the revolutionary path is the tenacious opportunism and tyrannical bureaucratism of the CCP. But in the favorable unfolding of future events at home and abroad, the worker and peasant masses would be able by their own strength to push the CCP forward. They could deliver blows to the reactionary influences of the bourgeoisie, and by securing certain prerequisites for revolutionary development, such as certain democratic rights, proceed step by step on the road of revolution. Even in the event of the third world war, if there should be an upsurge of revolutionary movements in the world, the Chinese worker and peasant masses, stimulated by the strong impetus of revolutions abroad, could possibly assail the CCP’s opportunism and bureaucratism, bring about a split, and create a revolutionary left wing in this party. They would thus free themselves from the yoke of Stalinism, and then join the current of the Trotskyist movement. This would lead the revolution straight to proletarian dictatorship, which would complete the “third Chinese revolution and open a future of socialist construction.
Yet I must point out that this perspective would not be a reproduction of the Yugoslav events, but a more advanced and deeper revolutionary development. There is very little possibility for such a repetition, simply because China is a very different country from Yugoslavia, both in its internal and external conditions, particularly after the outbreak of the Korean War. (On this point, I could offer further explanations, if need be.)
C. Assimilation into the Soviet Union
The two perspectives set forth above deal with only the most fundamental outcomes of the possible developments in the Chinese situation. But, in view of the opportunist bureaucratic deformations of the CCP leadership and its present intimate relations with the Kremlin, these two perspectives will meet frantic resistance, since either one of them would be fatal for this leadership. Consequently, it will consciously or unconsciously choose a third road—the road of gradual assimilation into the Soviet Union. That is to say, under the ever-increasing menace from bourgeois reactionary forces allied with imperialism and the ever-growing dissatisfaction and pressure of the masses, the CCP would empirically by gradual steps exclude the bourgeois parties and cliques from the political field.
Through purges and fusions it would annihilate these factions, and with them, the coalition government. It would then form a one-party dictatorship in name and in content, which would conform to what they would call the “transformation from people’s democratic dictatorship to proletarian dictatorship.”
On the economic plane, it would carry out a gradual process of expropriation of bourgeois private property and the concomitant expansion of nationalized property, in keeping with the formula, “progression from the New Democratic economy toward the socialist economy.”
On the other hand, while carrying out these political and economic measures, the CCP would make certain concessions to mass pressure to gain a weapon in the suppression of reactionary influences, But it would never basically loosen its tight bureaucratic grip upon the revolutionary activities of the masses, especially of workers and poor peasants, lest they pass over the permitted boundaries or interfere with its basic line.
This line may be called that of “East Europeanization.” But an essential difference exists between the two processes. The “assimilation” of the buffer states of Eastern Europe was accomplished entirely under the Kremlin’s military control and through its directly designated Stalinist bureaucrats in those countries. In China, because of the vastness of the territory, the huge population, and the powerful influence of the CCP, and in the absence of the Soviet Army, and especially taking into account the experience in Yugoslavia, the Kremlin can rely only on its general economic and military superiority and its control over Manchuria and Sinkiang to threaten and pressure the CCP. However, in appearance, it would still pay certain respects to the “independence and sovereignty” of the CCP regime and allow it to proceed on its own “initiative.”
In the main, this assimilation depends exclusively on the CCP’s own subjective intentions. But we should not overlook the important role that can be played by the subjective will of a party already in power, which holds in its hands immense material forces—including a powerful peasant army—at least under particular circumstances and for a certain period of time. (The role of Stalin and his group in the Soviet Union is a conspicuous example.)
Prior to the outbreak of a new world war, and in the absence of other revolutionary upheavals in the world, the course of GCP assimilation into the Soviet Union is the most probable and realistic. To reject its likelihood would be unwise as well as harmful in the field of practical politics. But as soon as the third world war breaks out or a new revolutionary movement arises in other countries, this process of assimilation of the GCP will immediately be interrupted, and the whole situation in China will be forced to head in one of the two directions indicated above.
We should also point out that this process of assimilation will by no means have a smooth and even course. Parallel with the development of the situation, the profound and acute contradictions inherent in the new regime, and the conflicts between the interests of the Chinese revolution and the diplomatic interests of the Kremlin, would inevitably erupt and gather into fierce billowing disturbances or tragedies.
In general, the development of the Chinese situation will be slow-paced and drawn out, and will hardly undergo decisive change before the explosion of the coming great war. Therefore we may say that the destiny of China will only be ultimately solved in the course of the third world war and a gigantic upsurge of world revolution. There is therefore still time enough for us to prepare before the advent of such a solution.
Our fundamental attitude and orientation
Following the above analyses and appraisals, we must openly admit that a new revolutionary situation has not only begun, but has already attained certain achievements, and will possibly go forward. Hence we reject all sectarian and passive criticisms. We must integrate our organization in the main current of this movement, join in the mass struggles, and make the utmost effort to push this movement onto a really victorious road. At the same time, we must realize that, because the bureaucratic and opportunist leadership of the CCP is distorting this revolution, continuously imposing injuries and obstacles on its course, and leading it to the edge of a precipice, we must reject all naive and overoptimistic illusions.
Our fundamental attitude, confronted with this living reality, is that, with all the perils and hardships, we must point out to the masses the tremendous contradictions and crises imposed on this movement by the bureaucratic and opportunist line of the CCP. With patience and persistence, we shall convince the masses, encourage them, and help them to overcome these contradictions and crises through their own efforts and achieve a victorious outcome.
Our fundamental orientation in pushing this abnormal revolution on to a genuine victory is as follows:
a. Thoroughly carry out the land reform, exterminate all the feudal remnants, and nationalize the land. Meanwhile, expropriate all of the bourgeoisie’s private property, and complete the statization of these properties as a basis for socialist construction.
b. Do away with the class-collaborationist coalition government; end the Bonapartist military dictatorship; establish a dictatorship of the proletariat leading the poor peasants; and in this way achieve genuine national unity under democratic centralism.
c. Declare the abolition of all unequal treaties; take back all settlements and concessions (such as Hong Kong, Kowloon, Macao, etc.); confiscate all imperialist properties in China; and cancel all privileges held in China by the Soviet bureaucracy—in order to attain complete and genuine national independence.
To struggle for carrying out these fundamental points orientation, our party should formulate a concrete and inclusive program of action, in which we must emphasize that we support every progressive measure of the CCP, but criticize any reactionary measure. At all times and places we must wage the best fight we can to win basic democratic rights for workers and peasants— such as freedom of speech, publication, assembly, association, belief, strikes, etc.—and fight for the right of workers’ participation, supervision, and control in administration and production. We must also seek to establish representative committees (soviets) of workers, peasants, and soldiers.
As our organization is at present still very weak and suffering the most brutal persecutions from the new regime, it is far from able to intervene directly in this movement and affect events. But since we know that our Trotskyist line of the permanent revolution is the line most suited to the objective logic of revolutionary developments in China, if we stand resolutely and courageously within this movement, within the struggles of the masses, cautiously and patiently explaining to them in order to convince them, the evolution of events will help us step by step to win the confidence of the masses. With a new conjuncture, in a new rise of the revolutionary tide, we will be lifted to the leading position and direct the masses on the road to victory.
Finally, I should add that the events in China have wrought important effects in the Far East and even in the whole international situation that deserve our special attention—and not simply because of the vast territory and the enormous population. We should further understand that of all the backward countries, China is the most typical in its manifestation of the law of uneven and combined development.
In the past half century a series of great events have broken out in this country—two revolutions, several prolonged civil wars, and foreign wars, and the third revolution still at its beginning.
During these twenty-five years, Trotsky and the Chinese Trotskyists under his leadership have directly participated in the greater part of these events, and have therefore accumulated a rich experience. Therefore, a correct solution of the Chinese question will not only have decisive significance for the future of the Chinese Trotskyist movement, but will be a precious guide for our International in orienting and directing the movements in Asia and in all other backward countries, and even in advanced countries. That is why I repeat once more: I hope that our International comrades, in discussing the Chinese question, will not be constrained by any formalistic analogies and abstract concepts, but will seriously employ the Marxist method in analyzing the objective reality in order to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.
November 8, 1951
Some Supplementary Remarks and Corrections to the ‘Report on the Chinese Situation’
Having analyzed the most recent facts relating to the development of the Chinese situation and after a study of the evolution of Yugoslavia and the Eastern European countries, I feel it is necessary to make some supplementary remarks and corrections to the analysis and appraisal of the character of the CCP and its regime in my previous “Report on the Chinese Situation.” This will provide the next IEC with more concrete material on this question so that it can arrive at correct conclusions.
On the problem of the character of the Chinese CP
On this question, in view of the fact that after the defeat of the second Chinese revolution the CCP completely abandoned the workers’ movement in the cities, turned toward the countryside, absorbed a great number of peasants into the party, and concentrated on the peasant guerrillas, Trotsky and the Chinese Trotskyists declared that this party had gradually degenerated and become a petty-bourgeois party based on the peasantry. But some comrades have their doubts on this point and say that even if Trotsky had expressed this opinion he was wrong. That is why I think it is necessary first to give some explanations in the context of certain facts.
In judging the character of a party, we Marxists base ourselves on two fundamental factors: the party’s composition and its political tendency. If workers comprise the majority of the party, and the party truthfully represents the fundamental interests of the working class, this party can be called a healthy or revolutionary workers’ party. If the workers comprise the majority of the party and its political leadership is of a petty-bourgeois or opportunist reformist type, we still call it a workers’ party, but it is a deformed or degenerated workers’ party. If the petty bourgeoisie predominates in its social composition and if the leadership is also opportunist, even if it pretends to be a workers’ party, we can only designate it a petty-bourgeois party.
Regarding the evolution and the composition of the CCP, in the last period of the second Chinese revolution it had approximately 60,000 members, according to the report to the party’s Fifth Congress, in April 1927 (not including the Communist Youth, which had a larger membership than the party). Industrial workers accounted for 58 percent of the membership. But after the disastrous defeats of this revolution and several adventuristic insurrections, particularly after the great defeat of the Canton uprising, most of the workers were sacrificed or left the party. Proletarian membership declined to 10 percent in 1928 and to 3 percent in 1929 (see “On the Organizational Question” by Chou En-lai). It fell to 2.5 percent in March 1930 (Red Flag, March 26, 1930), and to 1.6 percent in September of the same year (“Report to the Third Plenum of the CC of the Party” by Chou En-lai).
The October 10, 1931, issue of Bolshevik openly admitted that “the percentage of workers had already fallen to less than 1 percent.” After most of the workers’ branches of Shanghai were won over to the Left Opposition “Trotskyist Group,” Red Flag complained on October 23, 1933, that in Shanghai, the largest industrial city of the country, “There is not a single real workers’ branch.” But in the same period they said that the number of members had risen to over 300,000. This is adequate proof that the CCP had an almost exclusively peasant composition. Precisely because of that, Trotsky drew the conclusion:
“The Chinese Stalinists … in the years of the counterrevolution . . . passed over from the proletariat to the peasantry, i.e., they undertook that role which was fulfilled in our country by the SRs [Social Revolutionary Party] when they were still a revolutionary party. . . . The party actually tore itself away from its class. …”
the causes and grounds for conflicts between the army, which is peasant in composition and petty bourgeois in leadership, and the workers not only are not eliminated but, on the contrary, all the circumstances are such as to greatly increase the possibility and even the inevitability of such conflicts. . . .
Consequently our task consists not only in preventing the political-military command over the proletariat by the petty-bourgeois democracy that leans upon the armed peasant, but in preparing and ensuring the proletarian leadership of the peasant movement, its “Red armies” in particular. [Trotsky, in a letter to the Chinese Left Opposition and postscript to this letter, September 22 and 26, 1932.—Peng.”]
When the CCP was obliged to flee from the South to the North, to Yenan, the number of its worker members dropped still further because the conditions there were still more primitive. The only possible recruitment of worker elements came from village artisans. Consequently the petty-bourgeois peasant atmosphere enveloped the entire party and was formally crystallized in the “theory of the revolutionary peasantry.” Mao Tse-tung in the theses “On New Democracy” openly declared:
Stalin has said that “in essence, the national question is a peasant question.” This means that the Chinese revolution is essentially a peasant revolution. . . . Essentially, the politics of New Democracy means giving the peasants their rights. The new and genuine Three People’s Principles [Mao pretends that his New Democracy contains the “real” Three People’s Principles inherited from Sun Yat-sen so as to distinguish them from the “false” principles espoused by Chiang Kai-shek] are essentially the principles of a peasant revolution.
These words of Mao Tse-tung establish that the CCP was a petty-bourgeois party not only because of its peasant composition but also in its ideology. Consequently, during the entire Anti-Japanese War, the CCP, by supporting the KMT’s leadership, not only insisted on class collaboration in its propaganda but showed openly in its practice that “the workers should increase production to aid the government in the common resistance against Japan.” It rejected the “exorbitant demands” presented by the workers to the national bourgeoisie, charging that the Trotskyist policy of class struggle was a “policy of betrayal to aid the enemy,” thus slandering the Trotskyists as “traitors.” Naturally, in the workers’ real struggles the CCP was always on the side of the national bourgeoisie and against the workers’ reasonable demands, even sabotaging these struggles.
At the same time, the CCP did everything possible to encourage the most active elements of the working class to leave the struggle in the cities and join the peasants in the countryside. It was for precisely this reason that while the CCP considerably increased its armed peasant forces during the Resistance War, its influence remained extremely weak among the worker masses of the cities.
After the Anti-Japanese War it is true that the CCP once again joined the workers’ movement in the cities, recruiting cadres among the workers and building an organization. But its main aim was to obtain the workers’ support to pressure Chiang Kai-shek into accepting the CCP’s compromise with him in a “coalition government.” Therefore, in that period the CCP’s policy toward the workers was always to lead the mass of the workers into a compromise with the national bourgeoisie, hoping through the national bourgeoisie to put pressure on Chiang Kai-shek to successfully conclude its negotiations with him. As a result, the CCP’s influence among the workers was very feeble.
Finally, when the CCP was obliged to carry on a general counteroffensive against the Chiang government and to occupy the big cities, not only did it not make any appeal to the mass of the workers to carry on some form of struggle, but it did its best to curb their activities. Its only appeal was to call upon them to “protect production and watch Chiang Kai-shek’s bandits who are sabotaging it.” When the CCP occupied the cities it imposed severe restrictions on all activity or spontaneous organization of the working class.
When the workers went out on strike to demand wage increases or to resist oppressive conditions, it was brutal in its repressions, going to the point of massacres. For example, the strikers in several factories in Tientsin were arrested and executed. The workers of Shen Hsin factory number 9 (which employed 8,000 workers) were attacked with machine guns because they refused to leave the city with the factory; there were more than 300 casualties. At the Ching Hsing coal mines in Hopeh Province, when the workers revolted against the cruelty and arrogance of the Soviet advisers and specialists, the CCP sent a large number of troops to suppress the revolt. There were more than 200 dead or wounded workers and more than a thousand were expelled and exiled to Manchuria or Siberia (this happened in May 1950).
All of this demonstrates this petty-bourgeois party’s attitude toward the working class, an attitude of distrust, hostility, and even murderous rage. That partially confirms the prediction and the warning made by Trotsky nineteen years ago. If the worker masses of the cities had been more united under the leadership of another revolutionary force (the Trotskyists), it is very probable that the CCP would have had recourse to civil war to beat the workers down. As Trotsky said, “they will incite the armed peasants against the advanced workers.”
From these historic facts the question of whether Trotsky and the Chinese Trotskyists were right in their estimation of the nature of the CCP can be left to the reexamination of those comrades who have doubts on the matter. If the comrades have adequate facts and correct theoretical reasons to demonstrate that the estimation of the CCP made by Trotsky and the Chinese Trotskyists was incorrect, we are ready to abandon our estimation and adopt the new one.
* * *
There is one other aspect of this question. It is true that the CCP, through its change in composition, gradually degenerated into a petty-bourgeois party based on the peasantry. It adopted as its ideology Mao Tse-tung’s theory that “the Chinese revolution is essentially a peasant revolution. . . . the politics of New Democracy means giving the peasants their rights.” But I should stress that because of its historic origin as a section of the Communist International, because of some working-class traditions remaining from the second revolution, because of its close relations with the international Stalinist party (which, as degenerated as it is, still .remains a workers’ party), and because of its general support of Marxism-Leninism, of the dictatorship of the proletariat fn and of the perspective of communism, etc., we have to admit that even when it had degenerated into a peasant party there remained a certain inclination in the party toward the workers. But this tendency was curbed and repressed during the long years of peasant guerrilla war.
When this party entered the cities and came into contact with the mass of the workers, and especially when it had an urgent need of the support of the working class to resist the threats of the bourgeoisie and imperialism, the worker tendency, long hidden and repressed, had the opportunity to emerge and to place some pressure on the leadership of the party. It demanded the transfer of the party’s base from the peasantry to the working class and called for certain concessions to the demands of the worker masses. The events of the last two years, and particularly of the last six months, have clearly reflected this tendency.
The CCP decided to stop the recruitment of peasants into the party and emphasized the need for rapid recruitment of workers. The editorial in the July 1, 1950, People’s Daily, on the twenty-ninth anniversary of the founding of the CGP, stressed a reform in party composition, i.e., the absorption of workers into the party. It also said that in the recent period, among the 6,648 new members in Tientsin, 73 percent were workers, and out of 3,350 in Peking, more than 50 percent were workers.
To sum up, according to these concrete facts, there have been quite a considerable number of workers recruited by the CCP in the last two years in the large industrial cities and in the mines in the Northeast, in Shanghai, and in Wuhan. Of course, if consideration is given to the composition of the entire party (according to the same editorial in the People’s Daily, there are some 5 million members in the party), the number of workers is still very small. (Kao Kang, secretary for the Northeast District, admitted in a January 10 speech to party heads that “working-class elements are still not very numerous in our party.” This was given as the principal reason to explain the present crisis over the emergence of a right-wing tendency in the party and widespread party corruption.)
But the CCP’s turn toward insisting on working-class recruitment in order to change its composition has unquestionably had an important effect on the class nature of the party.
This turn is more or less reflected in the process of carrying out the agrarian reform. According to the plan for agrarian reform adopted by the Political Consultative Conference of the CCP and other organizations and parties in May 1950, special emphasis is placed on “the protection of the commercial and industrial property of the landlords and the rich peasants.” The decree of the minister of the interior severely prohibits “excessive actions” by the poor peasants toward the landed proprietors and rich peasants. Consequently, when this project was first implemented, not only were the industrial and commercial properties of the landlords and the rich peasants generally protected, but in numerous areas they obtained the best and the largest share of the land, and even preserved local power (such as head of the Peasants’ Association or of the village, etc.). But then, when the masses of the poor peasantry gradually awakened in the course of the movement, the lower cadres, under the demands and pressure of the poor peasants, considerably altered the agrarian reform project and even upset it. That is to say, a great number of industrial and commercial properties of the landlords and rich peasants were subjected to severe penalties from the poor peasantry. (Recent reports on the agrarian reform in Chinese newspapers often reveal these facts.)
In face of the “left” tendency of, the lower cadres to upset the party’s guidelines and take their places in defense of the interests of the masses, the CCP leadership not only has not retaliated for these expropriations but on the contrary it has in general acquiesced. Although the CCP has not fundamentally changed its policy of protecting the industrial and commercial properties of the landlords and rich peasants, there is nevertheless a tendency to defend the interests of the poor peasants, which manifests itself strongly :in the lower cadres and in the party ranks. This is particularly worthy of our attention.
In the campaign of recent months carried, on against corruption, waste, and bureaucratism, an antibourgeois, working-class tendency is clearly being revealed in the .CCP ranks, .The principal reason for this campaign is that an extremely serious phenomenon of corruption, waste, and bureaucracy, is manifesting itself among the CCP’s responsible cadres .in >,the state apparatus, the army, and mass organizations, and, in particular, in the industrial and commercial section and .the cooperatives dealing with finances and the economy.
These cadres not only fatten themselves by pilfering state funds under their control or wasting .public funds to assure a comfortable life, but in addition they associate with the bourgeois elements “to sell commercial information, state resources, and raw materials, to cut the working force and to raise [production— Tr.] costs in order to assure supplementary profits to the capitalists. The capitalists do not hesitate in providing necessary sums to corrupt these corrupted elements.” (See Kao Kang’s report cited above.)
On the one hand, this situation has caused enormous financial and economic losses to the various state institutions, and on the other hand it has aroused mass discontent, especially of the workers in the ranks of the party. (See Comrade Fang Hsing’s report on this campaign.)
In order to maintain itself, the CCP leadership is obliged to organize this campaign to expel certain rotten cadres and to attack certain bourgeois elements as a means of appeasing the discontent in the party ranks and especially of the mass of the workers.
The corruption and degeneration of the CCP cadres at various levels is due primarily to the opportunist policy of class collaboration and to bureaucratic practice in violation of workers’ democracy. This campaign against corruption, waste, and bureaucratism does not fundamentally alter the CCP’s opportunism and bureaucratism; it is carried out by bureaucratic methods. The tendency toward corruption in the party will of course not be eliminated in this way. Nevertheless, the antibourgeois, working-class tendency within the CCP is strongly fortified in this campaign.
Because of this movement, the main CCP leadership insists, although only verbally, on “the necessity of recognizing the corrosive influence of bourgeois ideology on the party and the harm caused by the right-wing tendency in the party.” They also say that “to base oneself on the bourgeoisie signifies only to abandon the working class, the popular masses, and the role of the party and the country” (see Kao Kang’s report cited above). In fact, they have more or less accepted the appeal and the demands of the working masses.
For example, they now publish in all the newspapers descriptions of the oppression and exploitation of workers in the state enterprises in recent years at the hands of CCP cadres. This is in addition to reports made now under the pretext of showing a “violation of decrees” which expose the various methods of exploitation and oppression used by private capitalists. Such things were rarely mentioned previously and it was prohibited to denounce them openly. CCP public opinion recognizes this and considers it necessary to make certain improvements.
From the facts cited above regarding the social composition of the CCP, we can say that although the peasants and other petty-bourgeois elements still predominate (more than 90 percent of the 5 million members), the worker elements have increased in number in the last two years. The working-class tendency has been strengthened during the agrarian reform and the campaign against corruption, etc. That is why up until now the CCP has had a dual character. From the point of view of the tendency of its composition, keeping in mind the systematic acceleration in the recruitment of workers and the halting of peasant recruitment, the party is in a transitional stage toward a workers’ party.
From the point of view of ideology, we can see three different tendencies in the CCP: the right tendency representing the upper strata of the petty bourgeoisie of the cities and the rich peasants; the left tendency representing the workers and the poor peasants; and the centrist tendency in the middle represented by the top leadership. Naturally, these three tendencies, and in particular the right and left, are still obscure and far from having been crystallized. But in the subsequent development of the class struggle, these tendencies toward the right and the left will gradually crystallize and will lead to an organizational differentiation. Finally, when the international and national situation reaches a serious, decisive stage, this party will tend inevitably toward a split.
On the character of the new regime
If we reevaluate the character of the party as being of a dual nature, this duality naturally affects the character of the new regime which is controlled by the party. In light of the importance of the nationalization of enterprises, the dual character of this regime is even more manifest.
Of course, the new regime under the control of the CGP is quite different from the dual power referred to by Lenin after the Russian February revolution, and the classic form of dual power. It is a special kind of dual power created by exceptional circumstances. This duality is analogous to that of the transition period in Yugoslavia and in the countries of Eastern Europe. Consequently, the new regime established by the CCP can only be a transitory form which will either move in the direction of the dictatorship of the proletariat—normal or not—or will move backward to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. But in the view of the present tendency, it is moving in the direction of a deformed dictatorship of the proletariat. Therefore, so far as its perspectives are concerned, I retain my previous position.
May 10, 1952
1. Chou En-lai was the fully empowered representative sent to Sian by “the CCP to confer with Chang Shueh-liang about freeing Chiang Kai-shek, and to negotiate directly with Chiang on the terms for “collaboration between the Kuomintang and the CCP.”
2. See the “Resolution on the Yugoslav Revolution” adopted by the Ninth Plenum of the IEC, and “On the Class Nature of Yugoslavia” by Comrade Pablo.
3. During the Third Congress of the Fourth International, in my report I shared the position adopted by the leadership on the nature of the YCP. At that time, having just arrived in France, I did not have any recent information on the YCP and, having no time to study the question, I based my position on the information given at the congress. After the Korean War, where the YCP participated on the side of imperialism, I immediately started a serious study of the development of the YCP. My conclusion was that the YCP remained a Stalinist party and that the conflict between Tito and Stalin in 1949, a fight among bureaucrats, did not change the nature of that party.
4. In fact, this control was effected through internal strife. When the Soviet Union started to arm the troops of Lin Piao and other generals, it expressed skepticism regarding Mao Tse-tung and backed Li Li-san, Mao’s old adversary, to be the political leader of the Communist army in Manchuria and the spokesman of the party. Moscow thus calculated to take Mao Tse-tung in tow and tame him. However, this immediately aroused resistance on Mao’s part. On one hand, he ordered Liu Shao-ch’i to make a public statement declaring that Li Li-san was not authorized to speak on behalf of the CCP Central Committee (about the end of 1945). At the same time, he mobilized a big “ideological campaign” within the party against “Li Li-sanism” (or “sectarianism”).
In view of this situation, and apprehensive of untoward consequences, the Kremlin sent a special mission to negotiate with Mao Tse-tung, which consented to place its “full confidence in him” and “help,” provided he would be “loyal in executing the international line.” Of course, Mao agreed to these terms, and in turn won the Kremlin’s trust. Then Li Li-san was deprived of his post and replaced by someone else sent by Mao. Only after the feud between Mao and Li was finally settled did Mao become more cautious and assiduous in showing his obedience and support to the Soviet Union and in carrying out its directives.
5. The first disagreement to appear in writing was “The Significance and the Nature of the Victory of the Chinese Stalinist Movement,” an article written by Comrades Chiao and Ma, published in the Chinese edition of Fourth International, vol. 1, no. 2, April 1950.
6. See “Why Is This Civil War Called a Revolution and the Importance of This Recognition.”
7. See the “Resolution on the Chinese Civil War” adopted by our party in January 1947 and the International’s resolution “Struggles of the Colonial Peoples and the World Revolution,” adopted by the Second World Congress.
8. All these ideas can be found in several articles written by Trotsky on the Chinese question and in his letters to the Chinese comrades.
9. See Comrade Germain’s “The Third Chinese Revolution,” in the January-February 1951 issue of Fourth International.
10. See the announcement of the Military and Political Committee of the Central-South Area, published in the Hong Kong Wen-hui Pao, March 6, 1950.
11. Since this mine produces a better grade of coal which can be used in steel making, the Soviet Union had sent advisers and specialists to control the mine so as to appropriate its production for the USSR. This arrangement has probably been modified by the Sino-Soviet Mutual Aid and Assistance Agreement.