International Committee of the Fourth International
Fourth International (1987): Documents of the Third Plenum of the ICFI

What is Happening in the USSR? Gorbachev and the Crisis of Stalinism

1. The International Committee of the Fourth International salutes the Soviet working class as it approaches the seventieth anniversary of the October Revolution, the greatest conquest of the world proletariat and the greatest event in world history.

The Fourth International unconditionally defends the Soviet Union and the gains of October against imperialism. It unequivocally states that this defense is only possible through the world socialist revolution, which includes as one of its component parts the political revolution to overthrow the counterrevolutionary bureaucracy presently headed by Mikhail Gorbachev.

Gorbachev’s current glasnost reform program hailed by bourgeois public opinion and celebrated by every revisionist renegade from Trotskyism does not alter this historic perspective one iota.

Gorbachev represents not the Soviet workers and the conquests they made in overthrowing czarism and establishing the first workers’ state, but rather the bureaucratic caste which usurped political power from the working class. He is the heir not of Lenin and Trotsky, who led the revolution of 1917, but rather of its gravedigger—Stalin. He is a product of this bureaucracy which he has served his entire life. He rose up through its ranks, insulated from the masses and thoroughly imbued with its petty bourgeois hostility to the working class.

The present policies of Gorbachev have been hailed by the capitalist media which has made the chief of the Kremlin bureaucracy their man of the year. The well-known anticommunist journal, the American Time magazine, praises Gorbachev’s “Charm Offensive,” and declares, “As if by waving a magic wand, Gorbachev has dismissed the Cold War Soviet caricature.” Acting as the conduit for this bourgeois media blitz and beginning with their impressions of Gorbachev’s national policies, various revisionist trends, rejecting the scientific analysis of Stalinism developed by Trotsky, speculate on the potential of the bureaucracy for self-reform.

The Fourth International completely rejects these claims of bourgeois public opinion and develops its own analysis in direct opposition to the anti-Marxist method of the revisionists. It begins neither from Gorbachev’s “charm” nor from one or another national measure aimed at saving his crisis-ridden bureaucratic regime. Our starting point is that of the international proletariat and the world socialist revolution. Gorbachev and the Soviet Union can only be understood from this international perspective and from the standpoint of the origins and development of the Soviet state and its subsequent bureaucratic degeneration.

2. The October Revolution was the opening shot of the world revolution. Under the leadership of Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolshevik Party, the Russian proletariat first showed the international working class how to take power, through the smashing of the capitalist state machine and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, based on soviets (workers’ councils). The nationalization of the means of production and the land and the establishment of the state monopoly of foreign trade have made possible the greatest social transformation in human history.

The enormous development of the Soviet Union is testimony to the superiority of the nationalized property relations established by the October Revolution over the outmoded, bankrupt capitalist system, based on the private ownership of the means of production.

From oppression, ignorance and absolutism, the Soviet masses have achieved extraordinary feats: a planned economy, one of the greatest industrial powers in the world, unprecedented developments in science, the arts and sports.

But socialism has not yet been built. The Soviet Union remains a society in transition—neither capitalist nor socialist. Its transition to socialism can only be achieved through the victory of the world socialist revolution. Alternatively, under the rule of the bureaucracy, the Soviet working class confronts the danger of the overturning of the gains of October and the restoration of capitalism.

3. For the leaders of the October Revolution, the achievement of Soviet power in Russia was inseparable from the building of the Third (Communist) International to extend it on an international scale.

The historic contradiction of the Russian Revolution is that the world development of imperialism first created conditions for the taking of power by the proletariat not in the advanced imperialist countries of Western Europe and North America, but in one marked by extreme economic backwardness. This backwardness, along with the burdens imposed by the first imperialist war (1914-1918), under conditions where the enfeebled bourgeoisie could not carry out the tasks of the democratic revolution, made the taking of power by the working class both possible and necessary.

In Russia, as Lenin said, the chain of imperialism snapped at its weakest link. But, as Lenin and the Bolsheviks also insisted, the only way forward for the Russian Revolution was through the extension of the socialist revolution to the advanced capitalist countries and to the whole world.

But the wave of revolutionary upheavals which followed the end of World War I did not result in the extension of the October Revolution to the advanced capitalist countries, because the working class was betrayed by social democracy which, beginning in 1918 in Germany, handed power back to the bourgeoisie.

4. The Soviet leadership under Lenin based its internal economic policy on the extension of the socialist revolution to the advanced capitalist countries and the prospects of socialist cooperation. It never considered the possibility of constructing a self-sufficient socialist economy within the confines of backward Russia.

With the betrayal and subsiding of the first wave of postwar revolutionary struggles, it introduced what it openly described as a tactical retreat on the domestic front, replacing policies of “war communism”—the direct requisitioning of grain—by the New Economic Policy (NEP), which made limited concessions to the peasantry through the reintroduction of the market in agricultural goods while maintaining the state monopoly of foreign trade and the nationalization of the banks basic industries and the land.

For the Bolshevik leadership, these concessions were directly tied to an overall strategy of world revolution. As Trotsky explained in a speech to the Fourth Congress of the Communist International in 1922:

The New Economic Policy is calculated for certain definite conditions of time and space. It is a maneuver of the workers’ state which exists in capitalist surroundings and definitely calculates on the revolutionary development of Europe.... The New Economic Policy is merely an adaptation to the rate of that development. (Trotsky, The Third International After Lenin, New Park Publications, pp. 32-33)

5. In order to justify his economic policies, Gorbachev has cynically tried to identify them with Lenin’s NEP. This comparison of the bureaucracy’s policies today—70 years after the revolution—with those introduced by the Soviet state in the immediate aftermath of a civil war, which left agriculture and industry in shambles, is a measure of the extreme crisis of the Gorbachev regime.

The policies of Lenin and those of Gorbachev are irreconcilable opposites. Lenin’s policies were based on the Soviet Union holding out while fighting to build the Communist International and extend the October Revolution on a world scale. Gorbachev’s policies are based on the counterrevolutionary perspective of socialism in one country, and are directly bound up with the bureaucracy’s deepening collaboration with imperialism against revolutionary struggles all over the world.

The delay in the world revolution found its inevitable political reaction in the Soviet Union itself. The backward economy of the first workers’ state remained isolated, confronting a hostile imperialist encirclement. Under conditions in which the strength of the Soviet working class had been eroded by the years of civil war and in which the predominant mass of the population was composed of a backward peasantry, there emerged bureaucratic deformations in the state apparatus.

Trotsky explained the objective source of bureaucratism from the standpoint of the contradictions of the backward Soviet economy:

In the bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet state it is not the general laws of modern society from capitalism to socialism which find expression but a special, exceptional and temporary refraction of these laws under the conditions of a backward revolutionary country in a capitalist environment. The scarcity in consumer goods and the universal struggle to obtain them generate a policeman who arrogates to himself the function of distribution. Hostile pressure from without imposes on the policeman the role of “defender” of the country, endows him with national authority, and permits him doubly to plunder the country.

Both conditions for the omnipotence of the bureaucracy—the backwardness of the country and the imperialist environment—bear, however, a temporary and transitional character and must disappear with the victory of the world revolution. (Trotsky, In Defence of Marxism, New Park Publications, p. 8)

The first struggle against growing bureaucratization of the state and the party was waged by Lenin in a bloc with Trotsky. Following Lenin’s death, the Left Opposition continued this struggle, fighting for a platform aimed at strengthening the Soviet working class through industrialization and economic planning, and combating bureaucratism within the party.

6. The defeat of the German revolution of 1923, resulting from the failure of the German Communist Party, under the influence of the CPSU’s ruling troika of Stalin, Kamenev and Zinoviev, to organize the struggle for power further weakened the proletariat and strengthened the petty bourgeois elements, particularly in the state apparatus.

Reflecting the pressure of these social layers, whose principal concern was expanding their own privileges, and seeking to exploit the Soviet workers’ disappointment with the delay of the revolution in Europe, Stalin and Bukharin came forward in the autumn of 1924 with their “theory” of “socialism in one country.”

This formula, which represented a fundamental revision of Marxism and a direct attack on Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, liquidated the program of the international revolutionary struggle of the proletariat and became the guiding perspective of the bureaucracy. It remains to this day the basic program of Gorbachev.

Trotsky explained the two fundamental propositions which formed the basis of his theory of permanent revolution: “First, that despite the historical backwardness of Russia, the revolution can transfer the power into the hands of the Russian proletariat before the proletariat of the advanced countries is able to attain it. Secondly, that the way out of those contradictions which will befall the proletarian dictatorship in a backward country, surrounded by a world of capitalist enemies, will be found on the arena of the world revolution.” (Trotsky, The Third International After Lenin, New Park Publications, p. 31)

In attacking these principles, which were confirmed in the October Revolution itself, leaders like Stalin and Bukharin were turning against the proletariat and adapting to the right-wing pressures of the kulaks, the NEP-men and the bureaucrats of the state apparatus.

7. On the international scale, the substitution of socialism in one country for the program of world revolution encouraged the growth of opportunism based on a nationalist outlook, which ran directly counter to the objective development of world capitalism and therefore to the interests of the Soviet and world proletariat.

As Trotsky explained:

In our epoch, which is the epoch of imperialism, i.e., of world economy and world politics under the hegemony of finance capital, not a single communist party can establish its program by proceeding solely or mainly from conditions and tendencies of developments in its own country. This also holds entirely for the party that wields the state power within the boundaries of the USSR. On August 4, 1914, the death knell sounded for national programs for all time.

The revolutionary party of the proletariat can base itself only upon an international program corresponding to the character of the present epoch, the epoch of the highest development and collapse of capitalism. An international communist program is in no case the sum total of national programs or an amalgam of their common features. The international program must proceed directly from an analysis of the conditions and tendencies of world economy and of the world political system taken as a whole in all its connections and contradictions, that is, with the mutually antagonistic interdependence of its separate parts. In the present epoch, to a much larger extent than in the past, the national orientation of the proletariat must and can flow only from a world orientation and not vice versa. Herein lies the basic and primary difference between communist internationalism and all varieties of national socialism. (Ibid., pp. 3-4)

The bureaucracy’s perspective that the contradictions of the Soviet Union could be resolved through a national program led to the rejection of the independent revolutionary role of the international proletariat and a turn toward other forces. No longer seeing the world revolution as the only means to defend the Soviet Union, it proceeded with opportunist alliances aimed at “neutralizing the imperialist bourgeoisie.”

In Britain, Stalin saw the Anglo-Russian Committee, which was formed together with the syndicalist leaders of the TUC, not as a tactical bloc subordinated to the interests of the British revolution, but rather as the strategy for the defense of the Soviet Union. He refused to break from it even after the TUC had betrayed the 1926 General Strike.

In China, reviving the Menshevik two-stage theory of revolution, Stalin instructed the Communist Party to subordinate itself to the bourgeois Kuomintang on the grounds that the proletariat could struggle for power only after the completion of the democratic revolution. The October Revolution itself, verifying Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, proved that in the backward countries, the tasks of the democratic revolution could only be completed through the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The defeat of the second Chinese revolution in 1927 as a direct consequence of Stalin’s counterrevolutionary two-stage perspective completely confirmed the warnings and policy put forward by Trotsky and the left Opposition. But this defeat for the working class directly strengthened the grip of the bureaucracy, which proceeded with Trotsky’s expulsion from the CPSU.

In the Soviet Union, the struggle of Trotsky and the Left Opposition for industrialization and planning was entirely vindicated by the near catastrophe created by Stalin. The bureaucracy’s program of “economic opportunism” from 1923 to 1927 relied entirely upon the kulaks and opposed industrialization, thus cutting off the flow of industrial goods to the countryside and resulting in the grain strike of 1928. In panic, the bureaucracy swung over to “economic adventurism”—100% collectivization, liquidation of kulaks as a class and breakneck industrialization.

In carrying out this “left” turn, made necessary by the growing danger of capitalist restoration created by his own opportunist adaptation to the kulaks, Stalin took over large portions of the economic program of the Left Opposition, albeit in a caricatured form. Against those in the left Opposition who capitulated to Stalin on the basis of this turn, Trotsky insisted that these new policies were still being carried out within the framework of the counterrevolutionary program of socialism in one country.

This economic zigzag brought the Soviet Union to the brink of civil war and found its expression in the equally disastrous policy of international adventurism, the “Third Period,” culminating in the defeat of the German working class in 1933.

This defeat, the greatest in the history of the international working class, was directly prepared by the criminal perspective of “social fascism” advanced by the leadership of the Comintern and the German Communist Party. By rejecting the policy of a united front between the mass organizations of the working class, on the grounds that there was no difference between social democracy and the Nazis, the Stalinists allowed Hitler to come to power without a struggle.

The defense of this policy by the Executive Committee of the Communist International in April 1933 and the failure of the leadership of any section of the Comintern to oppose this line meant that the Third International had passed definitively into the camp of counterrevolution. Trotsky called for the formation of the Fourth International.

8. “Socialism in one country” now became a conscious counterrevolutionary policy of subordinating the international working class to the diplomacy of the bureaucracy. It found its consummate expression in the Stalinist policy of popular front, in which the proletarian revolution was explicitly rejected in favor of alliances with “democratic” sections of the world bourgeoisie. Popular frontism went hand in hand with the greatest massacre of communists in history.

To prove his trustworthiness to the world bourgeoisie, Stalin staged his infamous Moscow Trials, in which virtually the entire leadership of the Bolshevik Party was framed up as “fascist” and murdered. Hundreds of thousands of other Communists, veterans of the October Revolution and the Civil War, as well as revolutionary fighters abroad, particularly in Spain, were systematically exterminated by the Stalinist secret police, the GPU. The death sentence against Leon Trotsky was carried out by a Stalinist assassin in Mexico in 1940, but not before he had founded the Fourth International.

Gorbachev and the present bureaucracy, regardless of their talk of “democracy” and reforms, owe their power and privileges to these historic crimes against the Soviet and international working class.

It was through the extermination of the leadership of the October Revolution that the bureaucracy consolidated its position as a privileged caste—not a class. The dictatorship of the proletariat remained, but in a degenerated form. The bureaucracy carried out the complete political expropriation of the working class.

What emerged was a regime described by Trotsky as Soviet Bonapartism, balancing between the conflicting class forces, particularly the working class and the peasantry on a national scale, and internationally, between imperialism and the workers’ state.

The Stalinist popular front “against war and fascism” in fact paved the way for both. In Spain the victory of Franco fascism was directly prepared by the Stalinists, who participated in crushing the revolutionary struggle of the working class in order to maintain the popular front with the Republican capitalist state. In France, the Stalinists paralyzed the movement of the working class in the interests of a popular front with bourgeois parties which subsequently welcomed Hitler’s armies into Paris. In the US, they subordinated the mass industrial union movement to the Democratic capitalist Roosevelt. And in India, and throughout the colonial world, they betrayed the struggle for national liberation in order to ingratiate themselves with the “democratic” imperialist powers.

Having shattered the fighting capacity of the labor movement in Europe and sabotaged the anti-imperialist struggles in the colonial world, the Kremlin turned finally to a “popular front” with Nazism itself through the Stalin-Hitler pact.

This pact, together with Stalin’s beheading of the Red Army through the execution of virtually its entire general staff, opened the way for the Nazi invasion of 1941, which brought the Soviet state to the brink of destruction and cost the lives of 20 million workers and peasants.

Only the strength of the nationalized planned economy and the heroism of the Soviet working class, together with the revival of the European proletariat in struggle against fascism, prevented Stalin’s policies from resulting in the overthrow of the workers’ state.

9. In the aftermath of World War II, following the formal disbanding of the Comintern in 1943, the Soviet bureaucracy continued its counterrevolutionary policy of socialism in one country. In agreements with the imperialists drafted at Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam, Stalin collaborated in disarming the working class and reestablishing capitalism in Greece and Western Europe in return for the imperialists’ recognition of the Moscow bureaucracy’s domination over the buffer states of Eastern Europe.

This policy of international collaboration by the Kremlin was accompanied by the explicit rejection of revolution by the Stalinist Communist parties. In France, the CP, after disarming the working class, joined the government of De Gaulle and supported the French imperialist intervention in Indochina.

In Eastern Europe, it was not until 1948 that the bureaucracy carried out the overturn of the native bourgeoisie and in Yugoslavia, the Kremlin actually opposed the overthrow of King Michael. These deformed workers’ states, far from stabilizing the bureaucracy’s rule, exacerbated its contradictions.

Trotsky’s prognosis that the world war would be followed by new revolutionary crises was confirmed in a contradictory way in the challenge from the working class to the bureaucracy itself. Following Stalin’s death in 1953, the bureaucracy was unable to contain the working class with the old methods and was compelled to make limited concessions. But these concessions reached their limit when the movement of the working class threatened the rule of the bureaucracy itself and it replied with savage repression.

The uprisings in East Germany in 1953, the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the uprisings in Poland in 1956, 1970 and again in 1976 all provided a powerful confirmation of Trotsky’s perspective of the necessity for political revolution.

This upsurge of the working class was the objective basis for the continuing crisis within the bureaucracy from the death of Stalin in 1953. While in his “secret speech” to the twentieth party congress in 1956, Khruschev partially revealed the crimes of the Stalin era, this in no way signified a break with Stalinism, as the bloody suppression of the Hungarian Revolution, with the killing of some 20,000 workers, was to prove in only a few short months. Directing the operations of the Stalinist secret police during this bloodbath was none other than Yuri Andropov, the mentor of present Soviet chief Gorbachev.

10. The present crisis of the bureaucracy, the greatest since 1956, has its roots in the emergence of the Solidarity mass independent union movement in Poland. The Polish workers’ struggle toppled first the Gierek and then the Kania regimes and led to the complete collapse of the ruling United Polish Workers Party, leaving only the army of Gen. Jaruzelski to preserve bureaucratic rule through the martial law crackdown of December 1981.

The specter of mass strikes, factory occupations and workers’ demonstrations in Poland struck terror into the hearts of the Kremlin bureaucrats. The more perceptive among them, such as Andropov of the KGB, recognized that the same conditions of economic stagnation and unbridled corruption coupled with growing discontent in the working class existed in the Soviet Union and could lead to a direct revolutionary challenge to the Kremlin bureaucracy itself.

Gorbachev’s “reforms” represent the bureaucracy’s reaction to the threat of political revolution which it so clearly perceived in the Polish events.

They are an attempt by the Stalinist bureaucracy to maintain its rule under the impact of the growing economic and social contradictions within the Soviet Union which have been intensified by the pressure of the world economic crisis of imperialism.

11. The crisis of Gorbachev has emerged as every section of world Stalinism confronts economic convulsions and upheavals by the masses. In every case—from Beijing to Belgrade—the response of the Stalinist bureaucrats has been to turn ever more openly toward capitalist restorationism.

In Poland, more than five years after the suppression of Solidarity, Gen. Jaruzelski’s regime faces continued resistance from the working class as it moves to implement new austerity policies aimed at meeting interest payments on the country’s $29.3 billion debt to the foreign banks. Fully 25% of Poland’s export income now goes to meet this interest, as the bureaucracy’s economic plans are submitted to prior approval by the IMF.

In Yugoslavia, where the state property foundations have been deeply eroded, inflation has reached 100% and unemployment stands at one million. Attempts by the bureaucracy to introduce economic “reforms” which bear a marked resemblance to those proposed by Gorbachev have provoked a mass strike wave.

And in China, amid mass demonstrations of students and workers, the Beijing bureaucracy has continued a policy of the “open door” to imperialist investment, while pledging to uphold capitalist property relations in Hong Kong after it replaces the rule of British colonialism.

12. The changes proposed by Gorbachev are entirely in line with this general tendency and the character of the Stalinist bureaucracy as a counterrevolutionary agency of world imperialism.

At the heart of the “reforms” is a further undermining of the achievements of the October Revolution—the nationalized property relations, the state monopoly of foreign trade and the existence of the workers’ state itself.

Faced with the growing opposition of the working class to the ossified bureaucratic caste, Gorbachev moves against its worst excesses from the standpoint of defending the bureaucracy as a whole against the Soviet proletariat.

In opposition to all the Stalinists, middle class radicals, pacifists, reformists and revisionists of all stripes who today hail the “democratic” Gorbachev—just as their predecessors sung the praises of Stalin—the International Committee of the Fourth International remains the implacable enemy of the bureaucracy.

We call on the Soviet and international working class while using all the opportunities created by the crisis in the bureaucracy, including any concessions it is forced to make to the working class—to conduct an uncompromising struggle for the political revolution: for the overthrow of the bureaucratic regime and the reestablishment of the political power of the working class based on Soviet democracy.

13. For both the working class in the Soviet Union and the workers and oppressed masses internationally, the so-called reform policy of Gorbachev represents a sinister threat. It jeopardizes the historic conquests of the October Revolution and is bound up with a deepening of the bureaucracy’s counterrevolutionary collaboration with imperialism on a world scale.

In the Soviet Union itself, the growth in the productive forces in the 70 years since the revolution—made possible, despite the parasitic bureaucracy, by the nationalization of the means of production and economic planning—has not lessened inequality, privilege and bureaucratism.

Notwithstanding the claims of the bureaucracy that it is possible to build “socialism in one country,” the productivity of labor still lags behind the levels of the most advanced capitalist countries. Only by surpassing these levels can socialism be guaranteed. Without this superiority, the overturning of the Soviet workers’ state is threatened not only by the intervention of imperialist armies, but by the invasion of cheaper capitalist goods.

This higher productivity of labor can only be achieved, as Trotsky pointed out, “on the soil of the worldwide division of labor which has been created by the entire preceding development of capitalism;” i.e., through the conquest of power by the working class in the advanced capitalist countries.

14. Gorbachev’s speech at the central committee plenum in January of this year made clear that the Soviet economy is gripped by a serious economic crisis, which has steadily intensified since the mid-1970s:

The growth rates of the national income in the past three five-year plan periods dropped by more than half. From the early 1970s most plan targets were not met. The economy as a whole became cumbersome and little responsive to innovation. The quality of a considerable part of the output no longer met the current requirements and imbalances in production were aggravated.

The growth of the productive forces has increased the dependence of the Soviet economy on the world market. Soviet exports increased from 11.5 billion rubles in 1970 to 74 billion rubles in 1984, while imports rose from 10.5 billion rubles to 65 billion rubles in the same period.

This rise in Soviet foreign trade has meant an increasing exposure to the impact of the world capitalist crisis. In 1983, 80% of the income in Western currencies was achieved through exports of energy (oil and gas). The fall in oil prices had devastating effects. Every time the price of a barrel of oil has decreased by a dollar, it has cost the Soviet Union half a billion dollars in foreign income. A trade surplus of four billion dollars in 1984 was transformed into a deficit of six billion dollars in 1985.

The continuing backwardness of the Soviet economy is expressed in the fact that it is forced to rely on the export of raw materials such as oil to get foreign exchange required for the purchase of badly needed high-technology imports.

The development of socialism in the Soviet Union and the solution of the economic problems arising in its evolution are indissolubly bound up with the extension of the proletarian revolution to the world arena. The shortage of technology and the continuing contradictions between industry and agriculture can only be resolved through access to the world market. There are only two roads to the integration of the Soviet Union into that market—that of Gorbachev leading towards capitalist restoration and that of the world socialist revolution.

15. Under conditions in which the Soviet economy is increasingly affected by the crisis of Western capitalism, Gorbachev’s reforms are undermining the foundations of the planned economy. By allowing 20 ministries and 70 state enterprises to establish their own trade relations with capitalist countries and companies and to keep 40% of the foreign currency for themselves, Gorbachev—for the first time since Lenin and Trotsky defeated Stalin’s attempt to open a connection between the NEP-men and the world market—is undermining the state monopoly of foreign trade. At the same time he is initiating a process of capital accumulation, which will seriously undermine the nationalized property relations.

This is the reason for the overwhelming praise Gorbachev has received from the representatives of finance and industrial capital and imperialist governments all over the world. This was symbolized by the participation of the chairman of the Deutsche Bank (an institution cited by Lenin in his basic work Imperialism) at the recent “peace forum” in Moscow.

“China and the Soviet Union are the markets of the future,” said Deutsche Bank Chairman Christians in an interview after his return from Moscow. “For the Soviet Union this is more true than for others, because due to a long cooperation the relations are very deep-going.”

The German bourgeoisie, after its failure to conquer the Soviet Union militarily in World War II, is eager to conquer its market by “peaceful” methods. But as Lenin stated: “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” Gorbachev’s weakening of the state monopoly of foreign trade will only whet the appetite of imperialism, whose ultimate aim is to reconquer the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev’s policies are opening up the Soviet Union to the penetration of foreign capital. Negotiations have already begun with foreign firms on nearly 100 joint ventures. Agreements have already been reached on 10 such projects and 2 more have been elaborated and are only waiting government approval.

The immense enthusiasm of the top layers of the Soviet bureaucracy for this turn toward direct collaboration with foreign capitalists has found its expression in a proposal by Gorbachev’s wife Raisa to begin publishing a Russian-language version of the German fashion magazine Burda Moden.

16. These developments and the dangers they pose can only be understood from the standpoint of the fundamental contradictions of the Soviet economy. Chief among these is the conflict between the nationalized property relations and bourgeois forms of distribution based on wage labor—the form of distribution developed under the capitalist mode of production.

Fifty years ago in Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky drew out the strategic implications of this contradiction:

Two opposite tendencies are growing up out of the depth of the Soviet regime. To the extent that, in contrast to a decaying capitalism, it develops the productive forces, it is preparing the economic basis of socialism. To the extent that, for the benefit of an upper stratum, it carries to more and more extreme expression bourgeois norms of distribution, it is preparing a capitalist restoration. This contrast between forms of property and norms of distribution cannot grow indefinitely. Either the bourgeois norm must in one form or another spread to the means of production, or the norms of distribution must be brought into correspondence with the socialist property system. (Trotsky, Revolution Betrayed, New Park Publications, p. 244)

The principal means of production are in the hands of the state. But owing to the fact that it usurped political power from the working class, the state apparatus is in the hands of the bureaucracy, which uses it to consolidate and maintain its privileges against the working class and perpetuate and strengthen bourgeois norms of distribution. In its outlook and social existence, the bureaucracy is infinitely closer to the capitalist class of the West than to the Soviet working class whom it hates and fears.

17. This was confirmed by Gorbachev in his speech to the central committee in which he claimed, that “the most important principle of socialism” is “distribution according to work.” This is Marxism turned inside out. Gorbachev makes the bourgeois norm of distribution the basis of socialism!

Gorbachev’s answer to the problems of Soviet economy could be taken from the handbook of a capitalist manager. The introduction of glasnost and “democracy” is conceived entirely from this standpoint. The following passage from his speech makes this unequivocally clear:

“Some comrades apparently find it hard to understand that the enhancement of democracy is not just a slogan but the essence of reorganization.... It is necessary to concentrate on the electivity of heads of enterprises, factories, workshops, departments, sectors, farms and teams, team leaders and foremen. The current stage in restructuring the transition to new methods of economic management, profit and loss accountability, self-financing and self-repayment make that task a very practical one....

“This means that the profits of enterprises, all forms of incentives for the members of the work collective, the degree to which social demands are met will totally depend on the end results of their work, the quality and quantity of the products made and the services rendered.

“Under these circumstances workers and collective farmers will be far from indifferent as to who heads the enterprise, workshop, sector or team. Since the wellbeing of the collective is made dependent on the abilities of the managers, the working people should also have a real say in their appointment and control their activities.”

In other words, for the worker, the “democracy” of Gorbachev is the freedom to choose his own slave driver. The bureaucracy is attempting to resolve the historic crisis of the Soviet economy and defend its own privileges with methods familiar to every capitalist—speedup, wage-cutting and goading workers into increased productivity with the threat of unemployment.

18. Not only will the “managers,” i.e., the lower levels of the bureaucracy, be encouraged to use the whip against the workers, they will also approach economic performance not from the standpoint of the nationalized economy, but from that of their individual “corporation.”

This marks a step on the road to restoration, which, as Trotsky explained, would take the form in the sphere of industry of denationalization, in which, “the planning principle would be converted for the transitional period into a series of compromises between state power and individual ‘corporations’—potential proprietors, that is, among the Soviet captains of industry… Notwithstanding that the Soviet bureaucracy has gone far toward preparing a bourgeois restoration, the new regime would have to introduce in the matter of forms of property and methods of industry not a reform, but a social revolution.” (Ibid., p. 253)

In addition, Gorbachev’s reforms are actively encouraging private production and trade, i.e., capital accumulation on the most basic level.

Last year the Supreme Soviet passed a “law on individual labor,” legalizing the black market by allowing “individual labor on a private basis” in the field of consumption goods and services.

In this way a strong layer of small traders—or rather small profiteers—is being created not just in the countryside, but in the cities as well. As the bureaucracy is the main purchaser of its products and services, this layer is tied to it by thousands of economic connections.

This introduction of private profiteering has brought Gorbachev the support of the middle class all over the world. His wife Raisa conquered an everlasting place in the heart of every “yuppie,” when she paid for expensive jewelry with an American Express card on her first official visit to London.

Both measures, competition among the big factories and expansion of private business, serve to bolster the bureaucracy. By creating the basis for divisions and differentiations within the working class and encouraging the birth of a new generation of NEP-men, the privileged parasitic bureaucratic caste can assert its position as an arbiter over society at the head of the Bonapartist state.

19. At no point do Gorbachev’s reforms touch the material and social privileges of the bureaucratic caste.

When Gorbachev mentioned “parasitism” in his central committee speech, he was not referring to the gross corruption and the consumption of the lion’s share of wealth by the bureaucracy, but to the Soviet workers themselves. He used it as a synonym for “leveling mentality”—in other words, as an argument against the basic socialist principle of greater equality of wages for all forms of labor.

“Parasitic sentiments grew stronger and the mentality of wage leveling began to take hold. All that hit those workers who could and wanted to work better, while making life easier for the lazy ones.”

An attack on basic working conditions, including the right to lay off workers, the general introduction of shift work, etc. is in fact the heart of Gorbachev’s campaign for increased productivity, introduced under the cover of “democracy.” In front of the central committee, he boasted:

“In Leningrad and in the entire region, virtually all leading factories have been switched over to two- and three-shift operations. This has allowed an increase in the number of afternoon-shift workers by almost 50,000.”

20. The chief concern of the Gorbachev leadership is the threat of political revolution. It fears that the corruption and decay in the regime which took place under Brezhnev has reached such a stage that the state apparatus, the source of its social existence, is being weakened.

The Brezhnev era was marked by ever more public scandals, corruption and outright gangsterism in the ruling stratum. The bureaucracy fears that these excesses, combined with the continued stagnation of the economy, will produce a movement against it in the working class. This was spelled out graphically by Gorbachev in his January speech to the central committee:

We cannot overlook the just indignation of working people at the conduct of those senior officials, in whom trust and authority has been vested ... who themselves abused their authority, suppressed criticism, sought gain and some of whom even became accomplices in, if not organizers of, criminal activities.

Disregard for laws, report-padding, bribe-taking and encouragement of toadyism and adulation had a deleterious influence on the moral atmosphere in society.

The campaign against the overt corruption and looting of the economy which took place under the Brezhnev regime, and which sections of the bureaucracy are still striving to defend, cannot resolve the economic problems, which have far deeper roots. The source of this crisis is the very development of the Soviet economy itself.

The more the productive forces are developed, the more complex the nature of the Soviet economy becomes, the more the bureaucratic regime itself becomes a barrier to economic development and the source of major contradictions.

Trotsky noted that the more the Soviet economy developed, the more it ran into the problem of quality. “Under a nationalized economy, quality demands a democracy of producers and consumers, freedom of criticism and initiative—conditions incompatible with a totalitarian regime of fear, lies and flattery.”

And behind the problem of quality, he explained, “stands a more complicated and grandiose problem which may be comprised in the concept of independent, technical and cultural creation.” (Ibid., p. 276)

Hence, he concluded: “Soviet democracy is not the demand of an abstract policy, still less of an abstract moral. It has become a life-and-death need of the country.” (Ibid.)

21. But the bureaucracy, which usurped political power from the working class, cannot restore Soviet democracy for that would mean reforming itself out of existence, something which no privileged social stratum has done or ever will do, for its privileges are based upon its monopoly of political power.

The essence of Gorbachev’s “reforms” now emerges. Fearing the movement of the Soviet working class, the bureaucracy attempts to overcome the obstacles in the development of the economy created by the bureaucratic regime itself.

Extending the bourgeois norms of distribution, weakening the state monopoly of foreign trade, opening the way for the conversion of money into capital by individual enterprises, the bureaucracy functions as the agent of the world bourgeoisie in the workers’ state and opens the way for capitalist restoration.

Gorbachev’s “democratic” measures—the release of some political prisoners, a very limited relaxation of censorship, and criticism of bureaucratic excesses—do not, by any means constitute a move towards restoring Soviet democracy. They are an attempt to win a social base for the bureaucracy among the broad layers of Soviet intelligentsia and managerial functionaries.

The “democratic” pretensions of the bureaucracy are in fact aimed at politically dissolving the working class into the population as a whole and manipulating class antagonisms which continue in the Soviet Union in order to bolster its own rule. Gorbachev proposes to introduce “democratic” elections within the ruling party. But the CPSU is not a party of the working class but the political machine of the bureaucratic apparatus. Soviet democracy means the democratic control by the working class of their own dictatorship over Soviet society. This requires workers’ control of their trade unions, factory committees and the local, regional and national soviets themselves.

Gorbachev’s reforms are bound up with an open appeal to “democratic,” i.e., bourgeois, public opinion in the capitalist West. But the very fact that Gorbachev is compelled to resort to these measures is an indication of the sharp tensions between the bureaucracy and the Soviet working masses. The Soviet workers must exploit every opening thus provided by this crisis-ridden regime in order to carry forward their own struggle to overthrow the entire bureaucracy, and restore political power to the proletariat.

22. As with every regime, the foreign policy of the Gorbachev bureaucracy is a continuation of its national policy. Just as its policy within the Soviet Union is directed against the threat of political revolution by the working class, so, on an international scale, it is one of counterrevolutionary collaboration with imperialism against social revolution.

We warn that Gorbachev’s “reforms” contain within them the gravest dangers for the revolutionary working class and oppressed peoples in every corner of the globe. In its attempt to secure relations of “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism, the Soviet Stalinist bureaucracy betrays the masses in South Africa, the Palestinian people and Nicaraguans struggling against US imperialism, as well as the working class in the advanced capitalist countries.

Under the counterrevolutionary slogan of “easing regional tensions,” the Moscow bureaucrats have held repeated closed door meetings with the representatives of US imperialism to discuss a joint stand against the revolutionary strivings of the masses of southern Africa, the Middle East and Central America.

The fact that the Gorbachev leadership is moving closer to the imperialist bourgeoisie has even been recognized by Ronald Reagan. As the Iran-contra crisis besieged the White House, Gorbachev sought to rescue Reagan by offering a new deal on arms reduction. In his speech responding to the Tower Commission report on the Iran-contra affair, Reagan declared, “if we’re reading the signs correctly,” that it appeared Moscow wanted him to “get on with the job.”

In a further indication of the international implications of the Gorbachev policy, his foreign minister Shevardnadse conducted a Far East tour in which he held cordial meetings with the Indonesian butcher Suharto, only weeks after the hanging of CP members jailed since 1965. This was followed by a stop in Vietnam, where he deliberately snubbed the Hanoi leadership by canceling a scheduled speech. This represented a calculated signal that the Soviet Stalinists are prepared to cut off economic and military support to Vietnam and to end their backing for the Vietnamese presence in Kampuchea in order to further Moscow’s diplomatic horsetrading with Washington and Beijing.

23. The bureaucracy’s defense of the Soviet Union proceeds entirely from the standpoint of maintaining the territorial base of its material privileges. Its methods of pacifist appeals to the imperialists for disarmament on the one hand and military adventures such as Afghanistan on the other have only led to a series of catastrophes.

Since the failure of the US to sign the SAIT II Treaty in 1979, concessions offered by the Soviet Union have resulted only in the deployment of Cruise and Pershing missiles in Western Europe, the inauguration of Reagan’s Star Wars plan and the demand for still more concessions.

Gorbachev’s latest initiative on intermediate-range missiles, hailed by every middle class pacifist, in fact endangers the military defense of the Soviet Union. Behind this reckless policy, the bureaucracy is attempting to resolve the economic crisis which it has created by cutting back military spending. But as history has repeatedly demonstrated, such a policy, far from ensuring peace, only encourages imperialism to intensify its war preparations.

The foreign policy of the Stalinist bureaucracy stands in complete opposition to the program of the Bolshevik Party written by Lenin and adopted by its congress of 1919: “the slogans of pacifism, international disarmament under capitalism, courts of arbitration, etc. are not only reactionary utopias, but downright deceptions of the toilers designed to disarm the proletariat and distract it from the task of disarming the exploiters.”

24. This policy of pacifism and collaboration in relation to imperialism is combined with bureaucratic adventures and outright contempt for the colonial masses, as has been demonstrated in Afghanistan. After eight years of its criminal military intervention, the Stalinists have succeeded only in discrediting the name of the Red Army and the Soviet Union throughout the Middle East and suffering substantial casualties among Soviet troops.

Now as part of its diplomatic maneuvers with imperialism, it is preparing a withdrawal under conditions negotiated with the right-wing Pakistani dictator Zia and US imperialism. Whatever the outcome of these negotiations, the end result of the Afghan intervention will be the weakening of the military defense of the Soviet Union, by both opening the road to the CIA in Afghanistan and eroding the support of the Soviet Union among the oppressed masses of the region,

These experiences have powerfully born out the inability of the bureaucracy to defend the Soviet Union based on the counterrevolutionary policies of “socialism in one country” and “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism.

The Fourth International recognizes the necessity for an isolated workers’ state to carry out diplomacy with imperialism. Under Lenin, such agreements with the imperialists were strictly defined, explained to the working class and in no way entailed the subordination of the national Communist Parties to Soviet diplomacy. Lenin achieved the greatest diplomatic victories for the young workers’ state precisely because he proceeded with such a revolutionary policy.

The only strategy for the defense of the Soviet Union lies in the program of world socialist revolution fought for by Lenin and Trotsky and carried forward today only by the Fourth International. The bureaucracy is organically opposed to such a program because it recognizes that the extension of the socialist revolution would strengthen the Soviet proletariat and signal its own death knell.

The International Committee of the Fourth International unconditionally defends the Soviet Union against imperialism. It insists that the working class must carry out this defense with its own methods, i.e., in unrelenting struggle to overthrow the imperialist bourgeoisie, regardless of the diplomatic maneuvers of the Kremlin. Thus the defense of the USSR coincides with the preparation of the world socialist revolution.

25. Stalinism, the main counterrevolutionary agency of imperialism the working class internationally, is defended by all the revisionist forces. Their attack on the Trotskyist program of the political revolution to overthrow the Stalinist bureaucracy represents the deepest needs of imperialism.

The revisionist Michel Pablo, supported by Ernest Mandel, advanced a perspective which excluded the class struggle and maintained that “objective social reality consists essentially of the capitalist regime and the Stalinist world.”

Predicting “centuries of deformed workers’ states” and proclaiming that the bureaucracy would be forced to carry out a policy of “war-revolution” to defend itself against imperialism, Pablo and Mandel wrote off the working class and made the bureaucracy itself the agent of socialism. According to Pablo’s “new world reality,” the only role for Trotskyists was to subordinate themselves to Stalinism and attempt to push it to the left.

This wholesale revisionism had its objective source in the requirements of imperialism for new ideological and political defenses under conditions in which the crisis of Stalinism was creating new revolutionary dangers. Instead of opening up a revolutionary road for the working class, the Pabloites began with superficial impressions of Stalinism’s supposed strength and speculation on the emergence of “revolutionary” tendencies from within the bureaucracy itself.

The revisionists have not changed this line to this day. As Mandel wrote in 1979:

I personally remain convinced that the resolutions we adopted at our Third World Congress, in 1951, to which Comrade Michel Pablo made a great personal contribution, were fundamentally correct and enabled the Fourth International to weather the storm. (Revolutionary Marxism Today, p. 219)

When the Soviet “liberalization” began after the death of Stalin in 1953, the Pabloite revisionists hailed it as the beginning of reform which in essence constituted the political revolution. This perspective expressed the direct interests of the bureaucracy itself, as was seen in the uprising of the East German working class in June 1953.

Instead of reaffirming and developing the perspective of political revolution on the basis of these events, the Pabloite International Secretariat of the Fourth International declared that the Soviet and East European Stalinist leaders would be “obliged to continue along the road of still more ample and genuine concessions” and to “effect a transition ‘in a cold fashion’ from the present situation to a situation more tolerable for the masses.” (Trotskyism versus Revisionism, Vol. One, New Park Publications, p. 302)

26. The International Committee of the Fourth International, founded with the “Open Letter” to the world Trotskyist movement by the Socialist Workers Party in November 1953, was born in a struggle against this revisionist tendency which sought to liquidate the Trotskyist movement by substituting the Stalinist bureaucracy and the national bourgeoisie in the colonial countries for the revolutionary working class as the agency of world revolution.

One of the principal forms taken by this revisionist trend was Pablo’s claim that under pressure of imperialist aggression, the Kremlin and its followers in the Communist Parties would be forced to play a revolutionary role.

In 1956, on the eve of the Hungarian uprising and the movement of the Polish working class against the Stalinist regime, Mandel declared that the Soviet bureaucracy was following an irreversible “new course” under pressure from the masses.

In response to Khruschev’s “secret speech” of that year, Mandel declared:

Clearly the bureaucracy cannot be considered as one “reactionary mass” which the working class will have to attack all at once. This mechanistic and anti-Marxist position is contrary to everything Trotsky taught. The more the pressure of the masses (and parallel to it, the pressure of the most privileged layers) increases, the more the bureaucracy, including its leaders, will split into conflicting tendencies. In the course of this process, a “Reiss tendency” will appear which will sincerely realign itself with the Leninist tradition. (“The 20th Congress of the CPSU: Beginning of the final stage of the crisis of Stalinism,” The Struggle to Reunify the Fourth International, SWP publication, p. 59)

The attitude of the Trotskyist movement to the divisions within the Stalinist bureaucracy is that the working class must rely on its own independent strength, expose all the maneuvers of the bureaucracy, build its own organizations, drive the bureaucracy out of the soviets and utilize those splits to carry out the political revolution.

Pabloism fights to maintain the dominance of the bureaucracy as a whole by seeking to subordinate the working class to a so-called revolutionary tendency which will emerge under the pressure of the masses.

27. Today the revisionist Mandel comes forward as the political advisor to the Gorbachev wing of the Soviet bureaucracy, attempting, as usual, to cover his tracks. But nowhere does he advance the Trotskyist perspective of political revolution. Gorbachev, he writes, is not “a fundamentally antibureaucratic element” but “represents a more lucid wing of the bureaucracy” who speaks of a “revolution” being necessary because he wants to save the system, not overthrow it and whose objective is “defending the bureaucratic dictatorship.” (Mandel, “Gorbachev’s dilemmas,” International Viewpoint, February 23, 1987)

Opposing political revolution, Mandel offers the Gorbachev wing advice as to how it should carry out its “reforms” and puts forward a series of democratic measures to provide the masses with a “test” by which “to judge the real portent” of those “reforms.”

Expressing the deepest needs of the bureaucracy itself, Mandel seeks to promote the illusion that the Gorbachev leadership should be given a “test” to see whether it will introduce democracy, as if history itself had not already delivered its verdict on the counterrevolutionary Stalinist caste.

Solidarizing himself with the measures undertaken so far, Mandel concludes:

To those who say you cannot go too quickly without running into more and more obstacles, we should reply—along with Gorbachev, that up until now the movement has been too slow....

To the Gorbachevites who say that the people cannot [sic] only adjust to democracy step by step, we should point out that their paternalism is leading them into a blind alley.

According to Mandel, the major “defect” of Gorbachev is not that he heads a counterrevolutionary caste, but his “paternalism.” The working class must not fight to overthrow the regime, but push for reforms to be carried out by the Gorbachev wing, while “we,” the camp of Pabloite revisionism, will offer the Gorbachevites advice as to how they might best save themselves.

Like the bureaucracy itself, the perspective of the so-called United Secretariat of the Fourth International is an entirely national one, beginning from the bureaucracy’s own standpoint of “socialism in one country.” It excludes the program of world revolution—the only means of regenerating the Soviet state.

28. The International Committee of the Fourth International has a long record of bitter struggle against this Pabloite adaptation to Stalinism. Beginning with the “Open Letter” of 1953, it was insisted within the IC that its sections “know how to fight imperialism and all its petty bourgeois agencies (such as nationalist formations or trade union bureaucracies) without capitulation to Stalinism, and, conversely, know how to fight Stalinism (which in the final analysis is a petty bourgeois agency of imperialism) without capitulating to imperialism.” (Trotskyism versus Revisionism, Vol. One, New Park Publications, p. 300)

When the SWP itself deserted these principles to reunify with the Pabloite camp on the basis of capitulation to Castroite petty bourgeois nationalism, the International Committee conducted an intransigent struggle against this betrayal in defense of the theoretical and political foundations of Trotskyism.

This struggle has been renewed and deepened against the reemergence of a Pabloite tendency within the leadership of the ICFI’s former British section, the Workers Revolutionary Party. It is of decisive historical significance that the three central leaders of the WRP—Gerry Healy, Michael Banda and Cliff Slaughter—have repudiated the Trotskyist program of political revolution, after breaking with the ICFI and splitting into three separate tendencies.

The renegade Michael Banda, the author of the infamous “27 Reasons Why the ICFI Should Be Buried Forthwith,” maintains in his latest document, “Will the Real Trotsky Please Stand Up,” that there is no possibility of capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union and that the October Revolution is “irreversible.”

Banda, whose “27 Reasons” formed the basis of the WRP’s split from the ICFI, has passed over to the camp of Stalinism, denouncing the struggle waged by the Trotskyist movement since 1928. Hailing Stalin as the “proletarian Bonaparte,” he has joined the chorus of supporters of the present leader of the counterrevolutionary caste, Gorbachev.

According to Banda, the danger of capitalist restoration is a “lurid fantasy” of Trotsky and: “In fact what we are seeing (under Gorbachev) is a gradual liberalization of bureaucratic rule and a decentralization of economic administration in line with the vast and unprecedented changes in Soviet industry, science and technology—and the working class.”

In his support for Gorbachev, Banda joins Healy who has praised the Soviet leader’s “reforms” as “unmistakably the product of the political revolution in the Soviet Union which is now well under way.” (Marxist Review, August 1986, p. 3)

Healy has openly embraced the basic Pabloite thesis: the political revolution is not carried out by the working class against the bureaucracy, driving it from its positions of power, but consists of a series of “reforms” initiated from above by a section of the bureaucracy.

29. That wing of the WRP led by the ex-secretary of the ICFI Cliff Slaughter, which used Banda’s pro-Stalinist document in breaking from the ICFI, attempts to cover itself with a veneer of “orthodoxy” and proclaims the necessity for political revolution in the deformed and degenerated workers’ states.

Behind this fraudulent veil of anti-Stalinist “orthodoxy,” however, Slaughter is now preparing to unite his tendency with the extreme right-wing Pabloite movement of the late Nahuel Moreno which has united with the Argentine Communist Party in the “People’s Front” electoral alliance. This unprincipled international maneuver is being carried out in order to conduct a similar popular front policy in Britain itself.

Moreover, the Slaughter group empties the concept of political revolution of any real historical content by identifying it completely with the spontaneous struggles of the working class against the Stalinist bureaucracy, thereby denying the necessity for a conscious revolutionary leadership.

In the statement published in Workers Press on January 31, announcing the convening of a conference for the “reorganization of the Fourth International,” the WRP calls for “recognition of the Polish struggle of 1980-81 as the renewal of the struggle for political revolution” and for “defense of the revolutionary spontaneity of the Polish working class and of Solidarity, which produced it.”

In the absence of an examination of the political forces in the leadership of Solidarity, whose program was that of compromise with the bureaucracy and not its overthrow, this worship of “revolutionary spontaneity” is another form of adaptation to Stalinism.

The Polish working class, which began its struggle in defense of living standards, came into direct confrontation with the bureaucracy and was “spontaneously” faced with the task of overthrowing it.

If all that is required to carry out the political revolution is “revolutionary spontaneity,” then how can it be explained that an organization of 10 million, encompassing the entire Polish working class, was defeated by the bureaucracy which had no social base of support?

The chief strength of the bureaucracy was not the military, but the absence of a revolutionary party in the Polish working class which had consciously elaborated and fought for the perspective of political revolution.

The political revolution is not simply the extension of the struggle for trade union rights or the accumulation of a series of democratic reforms—it will most likely begin with a struggle for democracy and trade union rights—but is the forcible overthrow of the bureaucracy and the establishment of independent organs of workers’ power.

While the Soviet bureaucracy is not a ruling class, it is more than an ordinary bureaucracy. It is the privileged and commanding stratum in the Soviet Union which has the state apparatus in its hands. The bureaucracy has as yet been unable to create special forms of property on which to base its rule. But this does not mean it can be simply pushed aside by “revolutionary spontaneity” in the absence of a conscious revolutionary leadership—a Trotskyist party—fighting to mobilize the working class on the program of political revolution against all attempts to compromise with the ruling stratum.

30. The evolution of the Gorbachev bureaucracy demonstrates that the program of the Fourth International written in 1938 retains its full force today:

The Soviet Union emerged from the October Revolution as a workers’ state. State ownership of the means of production, a necessary prerequisite to socialist development, opened up the possibility of rapid growth of the productive forces. But the apparatus of the workers’ state underwent a complete degeneration at the same time: it was transformed from a weapon of the working class into a weapon of bureaucratic violence against the working class and more and more a weapon for the sabotage of the country’s economy. The bureaucratization of a backward and isolated workers’ state and the transformation of the bureaucracy into an all-powerful privileged caste constitute the most convincing refutation—not only theoretically but this time practically—of the theory of socialism in one country.

The USSR thus embodies terrific contradictions. But it still remains a degenerated workers’ state. Such is the social diagnosis. The political prognosis has an alternative character: either the bureaucracy, becoming ever more the organ of the world bourgeoisie in the workers’ state, will overthrow the new forms of property and plunge the country back to capitalism; or the working class will crush the bureaucracy and open the way to socialism. (Transitional Program, Labor Publications, pp. 32-33)

31. The Trotskyist movement in determining its attitude to the Gorbachev regime starts not from the illusions of “self-reform” of the bureaucracy, nor from this or that proposal to amend its methods of rule. We begin from the standpoint of the world socialist revolution and the interests of the Soviet and international proletariat.

The Fourth International is obviously not opposed to the release of such intellectual figures as Andrei Sakharov, as well as political and religious dissidents, which has been carried out by the bureaucratic regime. Contrary to the lying arguments of the bureaucracy, these figures have never represented a restorationist danger. The main source of that danger is the bureaucracy itself.

But the working class must not accept the limits of the bureaucracy. It must demand the release of all other political prisoners who have been unjustly victimized by the bureaucratic dictatorship.

The workers must use every limited concession which the bureaucracy may be forced to give and every division within the regime in order to further the political revolution.

As Trotsky explained, any Stalinist “reforms” can open up a direct political struggle:

[I]t has happened more than once that a bureaucratic dictatorship, seeking salvation in “liberal” reforms, has only weakened itself.... The rivalry of bureaucratic cliques at the elections may become the beginning of a broader political struggle. The whip against “badly working organs of power” may be turned into a whip against Bonapartism. All indications agree that the further course of development must inevitably lead to a clash between the culturally developed forces of the people and the bureaucratic oligarchy. There is no peaceful outcome for this crisis. No devil ever yet voluntarily cut off his own claws. The Soviet bureaucracy will not give up its positions without a fight. The development leads obviously to the road of revolution. (Trotsky, Revolution Betrayed, New Park Publications, p. 287)

The struggle of the Soviet working class against bureaucracy begins with the demand for independent trade unions and factory committees and must raise the slogans of abolition of privileges and political oppression, the legalization of Soviet parties and the greater equalization of wages—all demands which are directly opposed to the so-called democratic reforms of Gorbachev.

It must proceed to drive the bureaucracy out of the soviets, restoring full democratic control to the workers. In place of Gorbachev’s turn to capitalist methods, there must be a reorganization of the planned economy from top to bottom in the interests of the working class and the elimination of the drain on the Soviet economy caused by the bureaucracy’s parasitism.

The bureaucracy’s counterrevolutionary collaboration with imperialism must be replaced with a policy of proletarian internationalism. All secret deals between the Kremlin and imperialism must be exposed and repudiated.

These demands can only be realized through the insurrection of the Soviet working class, toppling of the bureaucracy and reconquering political power. This is a political and not a social revolution, as the Soviet working class will have no need to change the property forms established by the October Revolution. Only in this way can the Soviet workers regenerate the first workers’ state and advance to genuine socialism as part of the world revolutionary struggles of the proletariat.

32. The International Committee calls on the Soviet working class to take this road of political revolution under conditions of profound revolutionary developments in the capitalist West. Every blow struck by the proletariat of Europe, North America and the former colonial countries to put an end to capitalism will strengthen the hand of the Soviet workers against the bureaucracy. Every blow struck by the Soviet working class against the bureaucracy will strengthen the hand of the proletariat and oppressed masses everywhere in the struggle against imperialism.

Only the program of Trotskyism can revive the traditions of 1905 and 1917 in the Soviet working class and lead the masses to insurrection against the counterrevolutionary bureaucracy. The International Committee of the Fourth International calls upon the workers of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to join its ranks, build sections of the ICFI and in this way defend and extend the conquests of the October Revolution.

Down with the Stalinist bureaucracy of Mikhail Gorbachev!
Forward to the political revolution!
Long live Soviet democracy!
Long live the world socialist revolution!
Build the International Committee of the Fourth International!