The BSA, German section of the ICFI, held a special conference on January 26 and adopted a manifesto, published here, elaborating the political orientation of the Trotskyist movement to the events in East Germany. This manifesto established the principled basis for the BSA’s intervention in the East German Volkskammer (parliament) held on March 19.
Crisis in Eastern Europe
The mass movements which have swept away the Stalinist regimes in Poland, Hungary, the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and, most recently, in Romania are the prelude to violent revolutionary class battles not only in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, but in the whole world. All the contradictions of the imperialist epoch, which have unleashed two world wars and innumerable revolutions in the first half of this century, have erupted once again at the beginning of the 1990s and must be resolved.
The working class stands at the crossroads: capitalism or socialism. Either the imperialists restore capitalism in Eastern Europe in collaboration with the Gorbachev, Mazowiecki, Modrow, Nemeth, Calfa and Iliescu regimes—which leads, as already shown in Poland, to a drastic worsening of the living conditions of the working class; or the working class carries through the political revolution to its conclusion, overthrows the Stalinist bureaucracy, takes power into its own hands and constructs a genuine socialist society.
The working class has not overthrown Honecker, Mielke, Krenz and the whole Stalinist Mafia in order to place production in the hands of Daimler, Thyssen and the Deutsche Bank, the same capitalists who organized two world wars and built concentration camps for the working class.
After their fascist dictatorship collapsed in 1945, the German imperialists did not see themselves in a position to carry out capitalist exploitation in the East. But today, basing themselves on the Stalinist bureaucracy, they hope to reconquer the Eastern region. The greatest historical crime of the Stalinists is that they so discredited socialism that the capitalists can now venture to set foot in the East again.
We appeal to the working class: Read, study history! German history is full of uncompleted revolutions. To this day, we live in the shadow of the November revolution, which was bloodily strangled and suppressed by the social democratic government of Ebert, Noske and Scheidemann in 1918. The defeat of the revolution opened the way for fascism and war. Today the SED-PDS (the Stalinist Social Unity Party—Party of Democratic Socialism), SPD (Social Democratic Party) and the parties at the round table endeavor to once again help bring German imperialism to power in the whole of Germany.
The working class faces the task of completing the struggle it began in 1945 on the ruins of fascism: the construction of a genuinely free, socialist society. Stalinism has prevented this for four decades, and, as on June 17, 1953, bloodily suppressed it. The history of Stalinism is a history of the greatest crimes against the working class, which were all committed in the name of socialism and provided the imperialists and petty bourgeoisie with the arguments for their anticommunism. With the collapse of the regimes in Eastern Europe, not only the Stalinists, but also the anticommunists have been refuted. What has failed is not socialism, but Stalinism.
The working class must reject with contempt all political tendencies which want to replace the Stalinist dictatorship by the dictatorship of the Deutsche Bank, i.e., the dictatorship of imperialism. The enraged petty bourgeoisie at the round table go into raptures at the prospect of capitalism at a time when the living conditions of the working class in all capitalist countries have drastically worsened over the last 10 years; when in Europe, one in four youth is without work and further education, and in southern Europe it is one in two; when in the poorest sections of New York, life expectancy is lower than in Bangladesh; when in the most impoverished countries of the world hundreds of thousands die every day of starvation, as a result of imperialist plunder. These petty-bourgeois elements have attacked Stalinism only because to them it is a barrier to leading the same kind of privileged life at the expense of the working class as that enjoyed by their counterparts in the West. Their struggle against Stalinism is a struggle against the working class. Their aim is to destroy all the achievements of the working class.
The working class must put a stop to this. Against the bourgeois, right-wing opposition to Stalinism, build the proletarian, left-wing opposition! Return to Marxism, to the revolutionary traditions of Marx and Engels, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, Lenin and Trotsky! Build the Fourth International, the only revolutionary and consistent opposition to Stalinism!
The Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter, German section of the Fourth International, is the only party which directly appeals to the working class and calls on it to unconditionally defend its past gains: the productive facilities that were built by the working class at great sacrifice must not be sold off to the capitalists. The state property must be cleansed of all Stalinist parasites and placed in the hands of the working class. Prevent the penetration of capitalist enterprises and banks! The working class bears absolutely no responsibility for the mismanagement of the Stalinists. Block all price hikes, rent increases and wage cuts which are being initiated by the Modrow regime in the name of “desubsidization”!
Organize strikes and factory occupations! Form workers’ councils! This is the way to destroy the Stalinist bureaucracy and remove the bureaucrats from all their positions in the state and economy. Workers’ councils must take control over the economy and democratically reconstruct the planned economy from top to bottom to correspond to the needs of the producers and consumers.
The elections to the Volkskammer (the East German parliament) are a fraud, which only serve to cover capitalist restoration with a legal fig leaf; they are being held by the same parties which today sit together in the government. The working class must reject the Volkskammer like all the organs of the old Stalinist state apparatus, and construct its own organs of power: workers’ councils, as the basis for a workers’ state and a genuine workers’ government The working class must consciously fight for the unity of the international working class, above all with that in Western Europe. The struggle for the political revolution in Eastern Europe is inseparably bound up with the struggle for the socialist revolution in Western Europe.
The restoration of capitalism in Eastern Europe would have drastic consequences for the working class in Western Europe. It would enable the capitalists to take advantage of the cheap, technically skilled labor in the East, in order to sharply intensify the exploitation of the working class in the West. Conversely, the working class in Eastern Europe cannot overcome the technological backwardness, which is the economic legacy of Stalinism, without the direct support of the working class in the West.
The present situation poses more urgently than ever before the necessity for the international working class to unite across all borders in a common struggle for the defeat of Stalinism and capitalism. In an economically and politically close-knit Europe, the United Socialist States of Europe, as a step towards a socialist world republic, is the only conceivable form of the rule of the working class.
The only alternative to this is a new period of brutal oppression, national conflicts and wars. Once again the refuse of European history has been washed to the surface, and the flash points of both world wars—the Balkan question, the Baltic question and the discussion on the Polish border—are again flaring up.
The collapse of Stalinism—the imperialist chain breaks at its weakest link
All the objective prerequisites for the realization of the United Socialist States of Europe are rapidly maturing. The revolutionary wave which has swept over Eastern Europe in the last months has not only sounded the death knell for Stalinism, but for imperialism as well.
Stalinism is not some form of socialism, but the most important prop of imperialism inside the workers’ movement. The crisis of the servant is also the crisis of the master. For six decades, Stalinism has quashed countless revolutionary struggles of the working class in the capitalist countries, driven them into dead ends and betrayed them. Wherever workers have turned against Stalinist rule—as in East Germany in 1953 and Hungary in 1956—they have been repressed with a cruelty equal to that of any capitalist regime.
With the fall of the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe, a cornerstone of the postwar order has collapsed, by which the imperialists attempted to gain the upper hand over the contradictions which they could not resolve through two world wars.
The division of Europe and the European working class agreed to at Potsdam and Yalta after the Second World War was designed to prevent Europe from being overrun by a wave of proletarian revolution, as at the end of the First World War. The Kremlin bureaucracy pledged to support the newly erected bourgeois regimes in Western Europe and to nip in the bud any resistance to them by the working class, gaining, in return for services rendered, control over the belt of so-called buffer states.
These buffer states were not simply a concession to the military security needs of the Soviet Union; in these countries, the bourgeoisie was so discredited through collaboration with the Nazis that only by the Stalinists themselves taking power could the working class be kept in check. The Stalinist regimes arising in this way were not the result of a socialist revolution, but served to prevent one. Every independent initiative of the working class was crushed.
The collapse of Stalinism has undermined the foundations of the political mechanisms by means of which the imperialists up to now secured their own rule. The imperialist chain is broken at its weakest link; but what is broken is the chain itself and not just the link. The collapse of Stalinism makes Europe ripe for the socialist revolution.
The international crisis of capitalism
Regardless of the short-sighted bourgeois propagandists who celebrate the fall of the Stalinist bureaucracy as the victory of capitalism over socialism, the crisis in Eastern Europe is only one expression of a much more profound, worldwide crisis of capitalism.
The 1980s were characterized by the attempt of the capitalists to overcome the inner contradictions of their system through an unparalleled international expansion of production. Today no capitalist concern, no matter how big, can survive without operating internationally. The total of cross-border company mergers rises year by year, in Europe alone in 1988, 1,500 firms with a value of 2.5 billion deutsche marks have changed hands. All the most important branches of industry, including the service sector, are controlled by a handful of monopolies and banks operating worldwide.
This extraordinary globalization of production has driven to the sharpest point the fundamental contradiction of capitalism in the imperialist epoch—the contradiction between the world market and the system of rival nation-states—and imperiously demanded its resolution. The modem forces of production, requiring the collaboration of workers of every continent, are not compatible with the existence of competing capitalist nation-states and deformed workers’ states which are isolated from the world economy.
In Eastern Europe, this contradiction leads to the collapse of the national economies isolated from the world economy; in the capitalist countries, it is expressed in the form of intense trade war bound up with sharp attacks on the working class. The world is once again splitting into hostile, feuding trade blocs along the same fault lines as emerged prior to the First and Second World Wars—the USA, Japan and Europe.
The conflict between the imperialist powers is tremendously intensified by the economic decline of the once all-powerful imperialist power, the USA, which provided the basis for a functioning world monetary and economic system following the Second World War.
Within just a few years, the USA has been transformed from the main creditor nation to the world’s greatest debtor nation, with a net indebtedness of $500 billion by the end of 1989. In 1990 the national debt will hit the $3 trillion mark. Between 1981 and 1986, the US share of world exports fell from 20 percent to 14 percent. The annual trade deficit is running at $110 billion. This corresponds rather closely to the combined trade surpluses of Japan and West Germany of $60 billion each.
Profits are being made in the US mainly through gigantic speculative undertakings. In this way, a huge house of cards of paper values is being constructed which can only be supported with real value acquired by drastically intensifying the exploitation of the working class, and which threatens to collapse at the slightest sign of a recession. The stock market crash of October 19, 1987 and its repetition in October 1989 were clear warning signs.
The USA does not shrink from using its military power to demand back its “just” share from the exploitation of the world. Encouraged by Gorbachev’s foreign policy, US imperialism inclines towards ever greater military adventures. The most recent intervention in Panama only superficially targeted the CIA-created “drug general.” It was above all intended to make clear to Japanese capital, which has massively penetrated Latin America, exactly who the boss is in America’s “backyard.”
A drastic worsening of the living conditions of the working class is developing hand in hand with the economic decline of the USA, and, along with it, a social polarization which has stretched class antagonisms to the breaking point and will soon drive the powerful American proletariat into the revolutionary ranks of the world working class.
Thirty-two million Americans live below the official poverty line; 37 million, including 12 million children, have no medical insurance; infant mortality is approaching the level found in underdeveloped countries; in every large city tens of thousands are homeless; 44 percent of the national income goes to the top fifth of society, whilst the lowest fifth receives a mere 4.6 percent.
In Europe the bourgeoisie is arming itself with the European single market of 1992 for the trade war against its American and Japanese rivals. The tempo at which these plans are being driven forward flows from the bourgeoisie’s understanding that a Europe split up into two dozen states is condemned to perish in the furious struggle for the world market. For the third time this century, German imperialism has taken on the leading role of “organizing” Europe. Daimler, through its fusion with AEG, Dornier, MTU and MBB, has built the largest European armaments enterprise. The Deutsche Bank, through the purchase of banks in Spain, France, Italy and Great Britain, now blossoms as the leading bank in Europe.
Trade war is inseparably bound up with class war. In the framework of the European single market, production is to be concentrated into two or three great combines per industry, and therefore tens of thousands of small, medium and large factories will be closed, throwing millions of workers onto the streets. At the same time, working conditions are to be drastically worsened. According to a British industrialist, one in every two European factories will be closed in the next decade.
The plans for capitalist restoration in Eastern Europe are an essential element of these attacks on the European working class. In Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania and the GDR, the European bourgeoisie wants to create its own South Korea and Hong Kong as reservoirs of cheap labor power which it can exploit, thus underbidding competition on the world market, while forcing wages down at home.
Already over two million are without work in West Germany and six million are living below the poverty line. In Spain, Portugal and Greece, which only recently joined the European Economic Community, total unemployment has doubled and real incomes fallen by 10 percent. In Spain, every fourth worker is without a job. Under the Thatcher government, two-thirds of the steel plants and coal mines have been closed, the national health service demolished and practically any kind of union resistance declared a crime.
The single European market does not overcome the antagonisms in Europe; it creates a new arena in which they will be fought out The race to Eastern Europe has dramatically increased the conflict between the rival German, French and British imperialists. France and Britain fear the power of a reunited Germany.
The “common European home,” which is being extolled to workers from Gorbachev to Willy Brandt as the future, is really a fortress for the worldwide trade war on whose ground floor the capitalists are bitterly wrangling while the working class is locked in the dungeons below and brutally exploited.
What Trotsky declared in 1915 in the middle of the bloodbath of the First World War is newly reconfirmed: “A more or less complete unification of Europe accomplished from above through an agreement between the capitalist governments is a utopia. Along this road matters cannot proceed beyond partial compromises and half measures. But this alone, an economic unification of Europe, such as would entail colossal advantages both to the producer and consumer and to the development of culture in general, is becoming a revolutionary task of the European proletariat in its struggle against imperialist protectionism and its instrument—militarism” (Leon Trotsky, Third International After Lenin [London: New Park Publications, 1974], p. 9).
The causes of the crisis in Eastern Europe
The crisis in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe is a result of the same fundamental changes in the world economy that are driving the capitalist countries into a new round of trade wars, to be followed by shooting wars—the unprecedented globalization of production.
The modem productive forces, which demand a very high international division of labor, are irreconcilable with the system of nation-states cut off from the world economy which was erected in Eastern Europe after 1945 under the wing of the Stalinist bureaucracy. The bureaucracy, which managed the economy in a completely short-sighted manner in accordance with its own egoistic needs, was not even capable of using the enormous potential that an economically integrated Eastern Europe could have offered. In Western Europe, even the capitalists achieved a higher degree of economic cooperation. The Eastern European states had only loose economic connections amongst themselves, mainly dictated by the needs of the Kremlin bureaucracy. The falling apart of COMECON under the pressure of the stream of incoming capital is the end result of the policies of the Stalinist bureaucracy.
A certain degree of progress, laying the foundations for industrial development, was possible when it was merely a question of reconstruction following the devastation of the war. But the rapid development of new technology, particularly in the field of microelectronics, has seen the Eastern European economies thrown ever further behind the capitalist West. The development of this new technology, which demands enormous financial means and an army of highly qualified technicians, is only possible through an extensive international division of labor.
Honecker’s attempt to resolve this problem through the development by the GDR of its own megabyte chip has shown the impossibility of keeping pace with the world economy within the framework of a nationally isolated economy. A major part of the investment funds available was sunk into this project while other branches of industry disintegrated. Meanwhile, the GDR megabyte chip, slated to go into mass production in the 1990s, will have long been ripe for a museum and incapable of competing with similar products on the world market either in price or performance.
The consequence of this technological backwardness was a drastic worsening of the balance of foreign trade. The GDR share of the world market in machine exports fell between 1973 and 1986 from 3.9 percent to 0.9 percent. Today Taiwan exports 20 times and Singapore 10 times more machine products than the GDR. Even the trade with West Germany, which was strongly politically promoted, began to fall after 1985. In the Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries, the consequences have been similar.
As Trotsky long before explained, the conception that it is possible to construct socialism in one country or group of countries isolated from the world economy is a reactionary utopia: “Marxism takes its point of departure from world economy, not as a sum of national parts but as a mighty and independent reality which has been created by the international division of labor and the world market, and which in our epoch imperiously dominates the national markets. The productive forces of capitalist society have long ago outgrown the national boundaries. The imperialist war (of 1914-18) was one of the expressions of this fact. In respect of the technique of production socialist society must represent a stage higher than capitalism. To aim at building a nationally isolated socialist society means, in spite of all passing successes, to pull the productive forces backward even as compared with capitalism. To attempt, regardless of the geographical, cultural and historical conditions of the country’s development, which constitutes a part of the world unity, to realize a shut-off proportionality of all the branches of the economy within a national framework, means to pursue a reactionary utopia” (Leon Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution [London: New Park Publications, 1962], p. 22).
The international crisis of the labor movement
The collapse of the Stalinist bureaucracy is the most developed expression of the general crisis of the international labor movement. It signifies the absolute bankruptcy of all national programs, upon which not only the Stalinist, but also the reformist bureaucracy in the trade unions and social democratic parties in the West base themselves.
The starting point of reformism is that the working class can best defend its interests by accepting the framework of capitalist society. It follows from the logic of this conception that reformism subordinates the working class to the capitalist nation-state system. In a period of trade and military wars, this leads inevitably to reformism’s identification of the interests of the working class with those of one’s “own” bourgeoisie in the struggle for the world market.
During the last decade, the reformist bureaucracy in every capitalist country has been transformed into policemen for the employers. They saw their main task as carrying through the attacks on the working class which the employers declared necessary to maintain their “competitiveness” on the world market. While the reformists previously based their policies on the possibility of reforming capitalism in the interests of the working class, asserting there was no necessity for socialist revolution, today in the name of defending capitalism, they renounce all reforms.
In West Germany the SPD supports all the attacks of the Kohl government on old age pensions and health provisions. The trade union bureaucracy—in the name of defending the “industrial position of Germany”—works for the carrying out of mass layoffs and speed-ups in the closest collaboration with management. The union IG Metall supports the introduction of “group working” and night shifts in the car industry; in the steel industry, where the bureaucracy sits on the corporate boards on the basis of parity codetermination, it shares responsibility for the destruction of 180,000 jobs in the last 20 years.
In the USA, the trade union bureaucracy has systematically sold out and isolated every struggle in the 1980s. As a result, wages have fallen back to the level of 1968. Although the employers in recent years have made record profits, the number of strikes has hit an all-time low and the percentage of workers belonging to unions has dropped from 35 percent after the Second World War to 17 percent today.
In all countries where the social democrats are in power, such as Spain, France and Australia, they carry out attacks on the working class indistinguishable from those of the right-wing governments in Great Britain and the Federal Republic (West Germany).
Based on this crisis in the labor movement, countless petty-bourgeois ideologues have announced the “end of the working class.” But what is finished is not the working class, but the national program of its old leadership. In a global economy, it is impossible to defend any of the gains won by the working class on the basis of a purely national program. The working class needs an international program and without one it is not in a position to defend its most elementary gains.
The bankruptcy of “socialism in one country”
Just like the reformists, the Stalinist bureaucracy bases itself on a national program. The development of Stalinism is inseparably bound up with the theory of “socialism in one country.”
This theory was first elaborated by the German Social Democrat G. Vollmar in 1878 in his article “The Isolated Socialist State.” In opposition to Marx and Engels, who viewed socialism as the result of an international class struggle, Vollmar declared that, based on a highly developed technology, it would be possible to construct socialism in Germany alone. Vollmar’s theory served to justify the SPD’s support for the First World War. The SPD voted for war credits and argued that it was necessary to preserve the German culture and economy for the future construction of socialism. Thus the fate of the working class was tied to that of the national state and the working class was led into the imperialist bloodbath.
In 1924 Stalin and Bukharin took up the theory of “socialism in one country,” and abandoned Lenin’s internationalist strategy in favor of a nationalist program. This program articulated the social interests of the state and party bureaucracy, which had chosen Stalin as its leader, shaken off the control of the working class and eventually raised itself to become the new ruler of society.
The bureaucracy’s origin lay in the economic isolation of the Soviet Union caused by the defeat of the German revolution. The economic isolation made it impossible to raise production in a brief time span to the level that could have created the prerequisite for eliminating general want and for giving the economy a socialist character. In contradiction to a socialist state, which, according to Marx, was bound to wither away, the state apparatus, as the “policeman of inequality,” began to grow, and the bureaucracy began to formulate its own interests.
As the sole privileged stratum in Soviet society, the bureaucracy was interested in maintaining the status quo. It feared that the extension of the revolution to other countries would threaten its own privileged position by arousing the Soviet working class. The theory of “socialism in one country” finally became the lever for the transformation of the bureaucracy into an agency of imperialism inside the workers’ movement.
The bureaucracy secured its power in a bitter struggle against the Left Opposition, which under Leon Trotsky’s leadership defended the perspective of world socialist revolution. In the course of this struggle, the bureaucracy murdered a whole generation of revolutionaries, including the entire central committee of the Bolshevik Party of 1917.
At first on the basis of mistakes brought about by a return to old Menshevik theories, but later increasingly consciously, Stalinism organized the most frightful defeats of the international working class. The most devastating was the defeat of the German working class by Hitlerite fascism, which cannot be understood outside of the role of the Stalinist leadership of the Communist International and its German section, the KPD. They alone bear responsibility for the fact that a united front of the working class against fascism did not come about, which alone could have prevented Hitler’s victory. Trotsky and the German Trotskyists fought with all the means at their disposal for such a united front, but were persecuted, expelled from the party and finally murdered.
The defeat of the German working class signalled the complete passage of the Stalinist Communist International into the camp of counterrevolution. It had become impossible to revive the International and return it to a revolutionary policy. The year 1933—the defeat of the German working class and the refusal of the Comintern leadership to draw any lessons from it—has for the Third International the same historical significance as 1914—the vote in favor of war credits for the First World War—had for the Second International. Trotsky drew the conclusion that it had become necessary to build a new, Fourth International. It was founded in Paris in 1938.
Stalin’s foreign policy now concentrated on the conclusion of various alliances with the imperialist powers. Any independent policy of the Communist parties was subordinated to these maneuvers. The cynical high point of this policy was reached in 1938 with the Stalin-Hitler pact and the handing over to the Gestapo of hundreds of KPD members who had fled to the Soviet Union.
The victory of the Red Army over Hitler changed nothing about the counterrevolutionary character of Stalinism. It simply proved that the Soviet proletariat, then as before, was prepared to heroically defend the property relations of the October Revolution despite the crimes of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Credit for the victory over fascism belongs to the Russian working class and not Stalin, who was responsible for the defeats of the international working class and for opening the way to Russia for Hitler’s armies by executing the leaders of the Red Army on the eve of the war.
Gorbachev’s program of capitalist restoration
If the Stalinist bureaucracy today turns towards the abolition of the nationalized property, which up to now has been the source of its privileges, and seeks the reintroduction of capitalist property, this is only the ultimate consequence of its program of “socialism in one country.”
As the Fourth International declared in its founding program over 50 years ago, an isolated workers’ state cannot continue to exist in the long run. Either it will serve as the starting point for an extension of the socialist revolution to other countries, or the bureaucracy will become the instrument of capitalist restoration:
“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 into capitalism; or the working class will crush the bureaucracy and open the way to socialism.”
The policy of Gorbachev, who is introducing capitalist private property, overturning the monopoly of foreign trade, and offering the Russian working class to international capital for exploitation, is not a break with Stalinism, but its consummation.
Gorbachev’s perestroika is the practical recognition by the Stalinist bureaucracy of the unviability of the theory of “socialism in one country” and the necessity to reintegrate the Soviet economy into the world economy. But the bureaucracy is organically incapable of doing this in a socialist direction, that is, through the mobilization of the international working class. Instead it takes the capitalist path and collaborates ever more closely with imperialism, in order to carry through capitalist restoration against the resistance of the working class. Gorbachev’s policy threatens to bring about today what Hitler’s tanks were unable to achieve—the dissolution and destruction of the Soviet Union. This is why it is so enthusiastically praised by the bourgeois media.
However, the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union is impossible without a confrontation with the working class. The miners’ strikes have made this clear. With the installation of Gorbachev as its new leader, the bureaucracy reacted to the danger of a confrontation such as that which had emerged in 1980-81 with the revolutionary offensive of the Polish working class. It needed new social supports to reinforce its rule, the creation of which is the goal of glasnost.
Glasnost has absolutely nothing to do with the revival of workers’ democracy, which would require a renewal of the soviets and the driving of the bureaucracy out of them. Rather it aims to mobilize, as a counterweight against the working class, the petty bourgeoisie—sections of the intelligentsia who hate Stalinism because it has prevented them from making a career like that of their Western colleagues; speculators who no longer wish to carry on their businesses without legal sanction; and the captains of Soviet industry who want to become private capitalists.
Gorbachev’s policies have mobilized the most reactionary religious and nationalist elements in Soviet society. His economic policies and ideological campaigns are directly responsible for kindling nationalist pogroms. Through his attack on the planned economy, he has encouraged the disintegration of the Soviet Union along national lines, while he has simultaneously repudiated as an obsolete principle the solidarity of the working class, which alone could guarantee the equality of nations in the Soviet Union, replacing it with universal “human rights.” Like every bourgeois politician who condemns the class struggle in the name of universal morals, Gorbachev has opened the sluices for the most backward ideologies: racism, nationalism and religion.
Gorbachev appears in the sphere of international politics as an unconcealed policeman of the imperialists. He has pressured the liberation movements in Nicaragua, South Africa and countless other countries into accepting the dictates of American imperialism and collaboration with the most reactionary fascist elements.
Capitalist restoration in Eastern Europe
With the onrush of the political revolution in Eastern Europe, the Stalinist parties have decided upon the same course as Gorbachev. The same bureaucrats who for years justified the oppression of the working class, using walls and barbed wire, with the assertion that it served the “defense of socialism” against imperialism and fascism, have now changed into the most active proponents of capitalist restoration.
They have immediately received the backing of the petty-bourgeois democrats who only yesterday were demonstrating alongside the working class against Stalinism. Today they sit alongside the Stalinists in the government in order to carry out mass layoffs, price increases and wage cuts against the working class with the collaboration of the capitalist banks.
In Poland the petty-bourgeois leaders of Solidarity have established a government in coalition with the representatives of the Catholic church and the Stalinist PUWP. Their attacks on the working class far exceed those that led to the creation of Solidarity in the first place. The program of the International Monetary Fund which the Mazowiecki government prescribes for the working class is aimed at making half a million workers unemployed, cutting the average living standard by 20 percent and the destruction of all remaining social security measures. This program is to create the prerequisite for selling off the Polish workers on the cheap as wage slaves to the imperialist companies.
In Czechoslovakia the spokesman of Civic Forum, Vaclav Havel, presides over a Stalinist-led government whose economics minister is an enthusiastic supporter of Margaret Thatcher. In the GDR the round table parties completely support the program of introducing capitalism laid out by the Modrow government.
All of the Eastern European countries have enacted laws to abolish the state monopoly of foreign trade and currency exchange. COMECON is breaking apart following the announcements by Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary of their own economic alliance in which trade between members will be reckoned only in dollars.
Capitalist restoration can be imposed only through the use of force against the working class. The Stalinists and their petty-bourgeois allies have taken great care to preserve the old repressive apparatus. In Poland the interior and defense ministries are still to be found in the hands of the Stalinists. In the GDR Modrow is continuing the Stasi secret police under a new name, corresponding to the West German equivalent. Meanwhile the participants at the round table ensure that the crimes of the Stalinist SED and Stasi are not uncovered and punished by workers’ tribunals, but are placed under the jurisdiction of the very same judges who for years have been fulfilling the needs of the bureaucracy.
Democracy for the working class in Eastern Europe can only come as the result of a political revolution under the leadership of the proletariat, which destroys the bureaucracy and replaces it with revolutionary governments based on democratically elected workers’ councils.
The struggle for the international unity of the working class
The working class can only defend itself against the program of capitalist restoration and the attacks on its social achievements which are bound up with this policy on the basis of an international program. It is impossible to resolve the crisis which has led to the overthrow of the Stalinist regimes in the GDR and all the other Eastern European countries within the national borders of these countries. In reality, it is exactly the unviability of these borders which have driven class tensions to the point of explosion.
The working class must join together with its class brothers in the whole world—in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, in the capitalist countries and in the oppressed lands of Asia, Africa and Latin America—in a common struggle against Stalinism and capitalism.
It must not allow the Stalinist bureaucracy and the bureaucracy’s petty-bourgeois allies, who are competing with each other to court favor with the imperialist banks, to play off the German against the Polish, or Hungarian against the Russian working class through racist tirades.
Just the consolidation of the economies of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, not under the control of the Stalinist bureaucracy but of the working class, could immediately and noticeably ease the situation of the working class.
Of much greater significance, however, is unity with the West European working class. The struggle against factory closures, mass layoffs and wage cuts in Western Europe must be united with the fight against capitalist restoration in Eastern Europe. The working class in Western Europe must take responsibility for the defense of the Eastern European workers by organizing strikes and demonstrations.
The goal of this struggle must be the establishment of the United Socialist States of Europe within the framework of a socialist world republic.
The United Socialist States of Europe is the only conceivable form of rule of the working class in an economically and politically close-knit Europe. The European revolution is a combination of political revolution—for the overthrow of the Stalinist bureaucracy in Eastern Europe and the construction of genuine workers’ states—and socialist revolution—the conquest of power by the working class in Western Europe.
Build the Fourth International!
The complete bankruptcy of the national program of the Stalinist and social democratic bureaucracies urgently demands the construction of a new revolutionary leadership to arm the working class with an international program and unite it across all borders. The Fourth International—led today by the International Committee of the Fourth International—is by virtue of its doctrine, program and tradition the only party which can fulfill this task.
The origins of the Fourth International lie in the struggle of the Left Opposition, led by Leon Trotsky, against the rising Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union in the twenties.
The central axis of this struggle was the defense of the international strategy of socialist revolution against the nationalist program of “socialism in one country.” It was directed against many aspects of Stalinist policy—the bureaucratization of the state and party apparatus, the suppression of inner-party democracy, the oppression of the nationalities, the zig-zag course of the economic policy which endangered the workers’ alliance with the peasantry—but Trotsky insisted that only those who agreed with the fundamental question of proletarian internationalism could be members of the Left Opposition.
History has proven that he was right. With the exception of the Trotskyists, every other tendency which came into conflict with Stalin capitulated under the pressure of the bureaucracy. Only the Trotskyists could not be broken either by political pressure or through the terror of the secret police, the GPU. Finally they were liquidated in the tens of thousands in the secret concentration camps of the Gulag.
The international program of the Left Opposition gave a conscious expression to the revolutionary tradition of the working class and its social hatred of the bureaucracy. Stalin himself recognized this and all the purges were carried out in the name of the fight against Trotskyism. Even today, Stalin’s followers in the Kremlin and in East Berlin have, in spite of all talk of democracy, a deadly fear of making Trotsky’s writings available to the working class. In the GDR the suppression of the Trotskyists was taken over without a hitch from the Nazis by the Stalinists. Leading Trotskyist Oskar Hippe, who in the underground had survived the persecution of the Nazi dictatorship, was then jailed for eight years in Bautzen Prison by the Stalinist regime of Ulbricht.
The basis for the construction of the International Left Opposition in 1928 was laid through Trotsky’s fundamental criticism of Stalin and Bukharin’s draft program presented at the sixth congress of the Communist International. In this he systematically brought out the irreconcilable opposition between the program of international revolution and that of “socialism in one country,” and proved the responsibility the Comintern bore for the disastrous defeat of the Chinese proletariat in 1927.
The International Left Opposition worked in the existing Communist parties until 1933, with the aim of winning them back to a Marxist program. After the defeat of the German working class, and the refusal of the Comintern leadership to draw any lessons from this at all, the call for a new, Fourth International was made; this was founded in Paris in 1938. “The Fourth International has already grown out of great events: the greatest defeats of the proletariat in history,” states the founding program. “The cause for those defeats is to be found in the degeneration and perfidy of the old leadership. The class struggle does not tolerate an interruption. The Third International, following the Second, is dead for the purposes of revolution. Long live the Fourth International!”
The Fourth International was the only political tendency which fought during the Second World War for a revolutionary defeatist line against the war, as Lenin and the Zimmerwald Left had done in the First World War. Its members conducted a heroic struggle against fascism. In France they agitated amongst the German occupying troops with the paper Worker and Soldier, paying for this with their lives. They insisted that the struggle of the working class against fascism could not be subordinated to the interests of the French, British or American imperialists. The Second World War, like the First, was an imperialist war for the redivision of the world between the imperialist bandits.
Because of their stance, the Trotskyists were bitterly persecuted not only by the fascists and the “democratic” bourgeoisie—the leadership of the American Socialist Workers Party was thrown into jail—but they were also persecuted by the Stalinists, who subordinated the antifascist struggle of the working class to reactionary bourgeois politicians such as De Gaulle.
Like every revolutionary tendency in history, the Fourth International was developed in a struggle against opportunist tendencies within its own ranks as well, i.e., against all those who adapted to the existing social relations and capitulated to the ideological pressure of the class enemy. This pressure took a particularly acute form in the early 1950s, as capitalism stabilized itself on the basis of the collaboration between imperialism and Stalinism.
A petty-bourgeois tendency led by Michel Pablo and Ernest Mandel broke with the assessment of the Fourth International that Stalinism was a counterrevolutionary agency of imperialism. They glorified the states erected in Eastern Europe as the prototype of future socialist regimes, saying they were proof that under the pressure of the masses, Stalinism could play a progressive role. Pablo even declared that the transition from capitalism to socialism would take the form of centuries of such Stalinist police dictatorships.
This perspective, which transformed the Stalinist bureaucracy into an instrument of historical progress, left no room for the independent role of the working class under the leadership of the Fourth International. Hence, what inevitably followed was the liquidation of the Fourth International through its conversion to an appendage of the Stalinist bureaucracy.
The International Committee of the Fourth International was founded in 1953 in order to defend the principles of the Fourth International against Pabloite revisionism. The “Open Letter,” in which James P. Cannon, the leader of the American Socialist Workers Party, issued the call for the formation of the International Committee, explicitly asserted that Stalinism was the principal barrier preventing the working class from carrying out the socialist revolution. “The main obstacle to this is Stalinism, which attracts workers by exploiting the prestige of the October 1917 revolution in Russia, only later, as it betrays their confidence, to hurl them either into the arms of the Social Democracy, into apathy, or back into illusions in capitalism. The penalty for these betrayals is paid by the working people in the form of consolidation of fascist or monarchist forces, and new outbreaks of wars fostered and prepared by capitalism. From its inception, the Fourth International set as one of its major tasks the revolutionary overthrow of Stalinism inside and outside the USSR” (quoted by David North in The Heritage We Defend [Detroit: Labor Publications, 1988], p. 232).
The International Committee has always held firm to the basic conception that socialism can only be built on the foundations of a proletarian revolution. Workers’ states cannot arise through bureaucratic machinations from above, through changes of property relations by means of a police dictatorship, but only through the class-conscious intervention of the working class. At its Third Congress in 1966, the ICFI summed up its position and foresaw the present developments with astonishing precision:
The Europe which came out of the second imperialist war is even less viable than the Europe resulting from the first imperialist war. The mosaic of European states has not disappeared. In Western and in Eastern Europe it is maintained both by the bourgeoisie and by the Kremlin bureaucracy and the satellite bureaucracies. To this has been added the division of Germany into two, cutting into the living flesh of the German working class.
This mosaic of states, and the division of Europe into two, is incompatible with the development of productive forces. The capitalist attempt to overcome the narrowness of the national frontiers by the setting up of the European Economic Community and by the establishment of the European Free Trade Association are only agreements between groups of capitalists according to the relationship of forces. They are established at the expense of the working class. Each bourgeoisie puts more pressure on its working class to the extent that it ‘collaborates’ with other bourgeoisies on the European scale. At the slightest sign of economic tension, cracks and groans are heard from inside both the EEC and EFTA.
Under the guidance of the Kremlin bureaucracy, the bureaucracy of each national state of Eastern Europe, far from harmonizing the economy of its country has, on the contrary, reinforced the national divisions, thus multiplying the contradictions. The bureaucracy has no answer to this problem.
The division of Europe into two, and of Germany into two, can only be resolved on capitalism’s side by the destruction of the economic and social structure of Eastern Europe and Eastern Germany and the reintroduction of capitalism. It would mean the liquidation of whole sections of the economy, the control of the remainder by American and European capital, millions of proletarians reduced to unemployment and poverty, and national oppressions of unheard-of brutality. The Kremlin bureaucracy has no solution. All that it can hope for is to prolong indefinitely a status quo which is impossible in the long run.
Revolution in a European country could not bring the working class to power without the whole of Europe being shaken. No working class in a single country could hold power in Europe without the extension of the revolution to the whole of Europe. The struggle for the proletarian revolution in Europe cannot ignore the question of national frontiers, of the division of Europe in two, of the unification of Europe. In Europe the social revolution in the capitalist countries and the political revolution in Eastern Europe and the USSR come together. The programme of the proletarian revolution in any European country demands the struggle for the United Socialist States of Europe, established by the dictatorship of the proletariat.
This slogan demands: the denunciation of the division of Europe in two brought about at Yalta and Potsdam; the struggle against all forms of national oppression whether it be by imperialism or by the Kremlin bureaucracy; the struggle for the unconditional reunification of Germany.
It demands the denunciation of the adulterated internationalism, consisting of participation of the trade union organizations in the organizations of the Common Market, which is only one facet of the incorporation of the trade unions into the state.
The slogan of the United Socialist States of Europe is a weapon in the building of revolutionary parties in each European country. It is the concrete answer to the national division of the European proletariat and unifies the social revolution and the political revolution in a single process. It demands that the working class take power in every country (Trotskyism Versus Revisionism, vol. 5 [London: New Park, 1974], pp. 60-62).
The struggle against Pabloism taken up by International Committee of the Fourth International in 1953 has stretched over more than four decades. In 1963 the American Socialist Workers Party capitulated to the same class pressures as Pablo and Mandel, and joined the Pabloite United Secretariat, which is to this day led by Ernest Mandel. In the 1970s the British section of the International Committee, the Workers Revolutionary Party, began to develop Pabloite positions, which led to a turn away from the International Committee and the WRP’s disintegration.
The history of Pabloism is marked by a long track of bloody defeats of the working class. Pabloism has always come onto the political scene whenever the domination of the Stalinist bureaucracy over the working class was endangered. At the time of the workers’ uprising in the GDR of June 17, 1953, Mandel and Pablo placed themselves on the side of the Stalinist bureaucracy. They refused to call for the withdrawal of the Soviet troops and instead spread the illusion that the bureaucracy could be forced to make ever more sweeping concessions under the pressure of the masses.
When a workers’ uprising broke out in Poland in 1956, Mandel helped to promote Gomulka—who 13 years later ordered the tanks to shoot down the shipyard workers—as a representative of a “new revolutionary Marxist leadership of the Polish proletariat.” Twenty years later, he glorified Walesa. Mandel collaborated closely with Jacek Kuron, who is now Minister of Labor in the Masowiecki government, up to the day he took office, for years extolling him as a Trotskyist.
In other countries, the role of the United Secretariat led by Mandel is no less criminal. Wherever it controlled sections of the Fourth International, it subordinated them to the dominant political tendency—Stalinists, petty-bourgeois nationalists, or the student protest movement
In 1964 the Pabloite LSSP in Sri Lanka joined a bourgeois coalition government, participating in the massacre of an uprising of 15,000 peasant youth. In Latin America, thousands of Mandel’s supporters paid with their lives for following his advice and replacing the political fight in the working class with a pointless adventure in guerrilla warfare in the countryside.
One of the most evil waste products of Pabloism is the Trotskistische Liga Deutschlands, which has appeared in East Germany as provocateurs in the service of Stalinism. The TLD has its origins in the American middle class. It is part of a group which in the 1960s, under the leadership of James Robertson, broke with the world Trotskyist movement. It follows the Pabloite line—defending the Stalinist bureaucracy to the point of hysteria. It enthusiastically supported the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, denounced Solidarity as fascist in 1980 and approved of its suppression through the military coup of General Jaruzelski. In the GDR, it openly appears as defender of the SED-PDS, sending ardent greetings to their congress. It calls for the strengthening of the state apparatus, including the Volkspolizei, the army and the crack troops of the Stasi, and advocates the reestablishment of the Stalinist factory militia.
The protracted theoretical and programmatical struggle against Pabloite revisionism, which culminated in the conflict with the nationalist leadership of the British Workers Revolutionary Party, has prepared the International Committee of the Fourth International for the challenges of the new revolutionary period. This struggle has the same significance for the revolutionary development of the working class at the end of the twentieth century as Rosa Luxemburg’s struggle against Bernstein and Lenin’s conflict with the Mensheviks at the beginning of this century, a struggle which finally culminated in the victory of the October Revolution.
The collapse of the Eastern European regimes is a historical confirmation of this struggle. The deformed workers’ states, which Pablo and Mandel gave a life expectancy of centuries, have in fact lasted four decades before falling apart. The working class that was written off by the Pabloites once again takes the stage of history as an independent revolutionary factor.
The Pabloites’ reaction to this is to appear as the open defenders of the Stalinist bureaucracy. In his latest book on Perestroika, Mandel puts himself decisively behind Gorbachev and his policies. In the GDR, Mandel’s supporters, the Democratic Socialists—part of the United Left—sit at the round table and support the Modrow government in the restoration of capitalism. At a time when Krenz was still in power, Mandel, in an official paper of the Stalinist bureaucracy, condemned the BSA statement calling for the overthrow of the Stalinist bureaucracy as “impermissible intervention from without.”
The Stalinist bureaucracy the driving force of capitalist restoration in the GDR
In the GDR the Stalinist bureaucracy is the driving force for carrying out the restoration of capitalism. Forty years after the founding of the German Democratic Republic, the policy of Stalinism is aimed at overturning all the social achievements and social positions of the working class.
The plans for this policy have been drawn up for a long time. Professors from the official Stalinist colleges—like Modrow’s Economics Minister Frau Luft have been on standby waiting for the call to put them into practice. Honecker himself had made the ideological preparations for capitalist restoration by establishing a bourgeois historical tradition for the GDR: Luther, Frederick the Great and even Bismarck were numbered among its founders, and no longer Marx and Engels.
The overthrow of the Honecker regime under the pressure of the mass demonstrations in autumn 1989 was the signal for the SED bureaucracy to put its plans into practice as rapidly as possible and present them as accomplished facts before the working class could offer any resistance. The Modrow government has systematically worked to organize the capitalist counterrevolution and to integrate the GDR into the imperialist German state. This is the significance of the Vertragsgemeinschaft (common agreement) which the Modrow regime proposed to the Federal Republic (West Germany) and which it single-mindedly presses forward.
The SED-PDS has now dropped all talk of a “third way” between capitalism and socialism, with which it originally sought to cover up its plans. All obstacles to the establishment of enterprises in which the capitalists have a majority share have been overturned. Modrow’s economics minister, Frau Luft, has presented a plan for the introduction of a capitalist market economy which will lift all price restrictions and make the GDR-Mark convertible by 1992. The consequences of this economic policy are comparable to those of the Mazowiecki government in Poland: prices will multiply, real wages and pensions will drastically sink and savings will be wiped out.
All of the Modrow government’s economic measures have been previously discussed with the West German government, with whom it is in almost daily contact. Whatever West German Finance Minister Haussman or Daimler boss Reuter demand on Western television in the evening is announced as a government decision in East Berlin next morning.
The Stalinist bureaucracy needs the old apparatus of state suppression in order to break the resistance of the working class to capitalist restoration. Counterrevolution can only be carried through with violence. This is why in its official statements, the SED-PDS still clings to the GDR state and claims to oppose “reunification.”
The division of Germany following the Second World War served above all to split the working class so it could be held under control. Therefore the Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter does not defend these reactionary borders, but rather the social achievements of the working class. This is only possible through the unification of the working class of East and West Germany. The alternative confronting the working class is not “for or against reunification.” The real alternative is: reunification from above or reunification from below; incorporation of the GDR into an imperialist Great Germany or a united socialist Germany within the framework of the United Socialist States of Europe.
The possibility proclaimed by SED Chairman Gysi at the special SED congress of creating out of the GDR “a humanistic social alternative to West Germany, thus stimulating democratic competition between both German states” does not exist This is nothing more than an attempt to breathe new life into the old Stalinist theory of “socialism in one country,” which has been clearly shipwrecked in the GDR, and to throw sand in the eyes of the working class.
The round table—a conspiracy against the working class
The most important prop of the Stalinist bureaucracy to carry through capitalist restoration against the working class is the collection of so-called opposition parties which have come together with the SED-PDS at the round table and, since the end of January, have joined the Modrow government.
They all represent an opposition to Stalinism from the right. They do not defend the working class against the restoration of capitalism, but on the contrary, demand of the Stalinist bureaucracy that it reintroduce capitalism more swiftly and more consistently. Their “opposition” is limited to their desire to have a share of the power themselves, which to now has been exclusively in the bureaucracy’s hands.
Their social basis is the petty bourgeoisie—lawyers, academics, church representatives, self-employed, etc. They stand much closer to the bureaucracy than to the working class, whom they hate because they equate Stalinism with the power of the working class. They detest Stalinism above all because it denied them the possibility of making a glittering career as lackeys to the bourgeoisie.
Their political program is that of formal, i.e., bourgeois, democracy. This is the diametric opposite to workers’ democracy. It does not strive to overthrow the existing state apparatus of repression and place control over the state and economy in the hands of the working class, i.e., the overwhelming majority of the population. Rather it aims to maintain and strengthen this apparatus and to ensure the participation of the petty bourgeoisie in the running of state affairs.
The words used by Marx to warn the working class in 1850 against the German petty-bourgeois democrats have lost none of their relevance: “The democratic petty bourgeoisie, far from wanting to overthrow the whole of society for the sake of the revolutionary proletariat, aspires to change social conditions so as to make the existing order as tolerable and comfortable. as possible for itself.”
These layers and their conceptions dominated the mass demonstrations last autumn. They enabled the Stalinist bureaucracy to withstand the first blows and to take to the road of capitalist restoration. As the working class began to formulate its own interests, the petty-bourgeois democrats, forgetting their demands for democracy, joined with the Stalinists at the round table and finally entered the government. Although the petty-bourgeois “democrats” of the round table have just as little democratic legitimacy as the Modrow government and the previous Honecker and Krenz regimes, they, together with the SED, undertake the economic and political conditioning for capitalist restoration.
There are no fundamental differences between the various parties and groups at the round table. This was clearly shown by their decision on January 5 to contest the elections with a common program and list of candidates. If they divide into different organizations which then split and fall apart, it is because in a revolutionary situation, the petty bourgeoisie is crushed between the Stalinist bureaucracy on the one side, and the working class on the other, and is organically incapable of articulating a consistent independent policy.
The Social Democratic Party (SPD): Champions of German Imperialism
The SPD has developed as the dominant party at the round table since the West German SPD decided in January to inject this formerly weak organization with massive political and financial means and construct it as their subsidiary.
The objective of the SPD is to take over the government in the GDR after the elections of March 18 and to accelerate its incorporation into the Federal Republic in conformity with the Ten Point Plan of West German Chancellor Kohl. The cornerstones of the SPD’s policy are: the unity of the German nation and the introduction of the market economy. Thus they champion a restoration of capitalism and the interests of the German imperialists.
They carry on the tradition of the SPD, coming onto the scene whenever German imperialism finds itself in a deep crisis, in order to save it. In 1918 it was the SPD which suppressed the November revolution and signed the treaty of Versailles; between 1929 and 1933 it did everything in its power to prevent an uprising of the working class, and supported the election of Hindenburg as state president, who eventually handed power over to Hitler. The SPD actually marched under the banner of the swastika on May Day in the hope that Hitler could find a use for its services.
The SPD does not stand in the tradition of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg—whom they have the impudence to quote—but in the tradition of their murderers, such as former SPD leaders Noske, Scheidemann and Ebert. They stand in the tradition of Zoergiebel, who ordered the workers to be shot down in Berlin on May 1, 1929.
The claim that they represent an opposition to Stalinism is an outright lie. Stalinism and social democracy have always complemented imperialism as its auxiliary troops. The SPD do not intervene in the GDR to oppose Stalinism, but to become its heir. With the collapse of the SED apparatus, the SPD seeks to erect a new apparatus to suppress the resistance of the working class to the introduction of capitalism.
Codetermination, works councils and the introduction of West German-style constitutional factory laws, such as proposed by the SPD in its program, serve this objective. The SPD and trade union leaders in West Germany have subordinated the working class to the interests of the capitalist enterprises for four decades through such mechanisms. Above all, the collaboration of the employers and trade union bureaucracy, in the framework of worker-management participation, was decisive in carrying out mass layoffs and preventing any fight back by the workers, or, as at the Duisberg-Rheinhausen steel plant of Krupp, selling the struggle out. Workers in West Germany have won social achievements in a fight against such institutions, especially against the constitutional factory law, which pledges the joint management boards to maintain business secrets and preserve the interests of the firm, i.e., of the capitalists.
The very claim by the SPD to a part of the assets of the SED makes clear that they want to take over the Stalinists’ role. While workers demonstrate for the expropriation of the SED, whose property was acquired through robbing the working class, the SPD demands a share of the proceeds. Countless SED bureaucrats—including Herr Berghofer, the Dresden mayor and confidante of Modrow—have left the SED in order to join the SPD.
There have always been close ties between the SPD and SED. Leading SPD politician Herbert Wehner was one of the political foster parents of Erich Honecker. As a leading functionary in the Comintern secretariat, he supported the liquidation of all opponents of Stalin, including countless German communists during the Moscow show trials. When he later moved over to the SPD, it was not because he had broken with Stalinism, but because in the SPD he could better serve the needs of the German bourgeoisie than in the SED. He was the architect of the grand coalition with the conservatives which enacted emergency laws against the working class.
Willy Brandt began his political career in the SAP (Sozialistische Arbeiter Partei) in the 1930s as a declared opponent of the Trotskyists—who were the only principled opposition to Stalinism. After the war, Brandt played a key role against the revolt of the party rank and file in securing the approval of the SPD for the rearming of West Germany, and the implementation of the antisocialist Godesberg Program. His Ostpolitik at the beginning of the 1970s opened the way to the East for German capital and began a phase of intensive collaboration between the SPD and SED, which lasted until just before Honecker’s downfall. Common programs were elaborated and Honecker was feted in West Germany from Bonn to the Saar.
The working class must as decisively reject the SPD as the SED-PDS.
The New Forum
At the beginning, New Forum played an important role as the movement against the Honecker and Krenz regimes developed. They saw their main task as ensuring that the movement did not get out of control, that it was directed against only a few heads at the top of the bureaucracy and not against the whole state apparatus of repression.
New Forum has inscribed the slogan of abstract, bourgeois democracy on their banner and maintain they do not have a definite program. However, like all the participants at the round table they are for capitalist restoration.
They are for a “mixed economy.” This hybrid economy, according to New Forum, should be characterized by various forms of property: “private property, cooperative property, and social property, including the participation of foreign enterprises in the form of share capital, of joint-ventures in the form of direct investment in the technological field, know-how and so on. Also license agreements, leasing and further aspects will play a role.”
This is nothing more than a glossy description of capitalism. Such “various forms of property,” including state property, have always existed within capitalism; what is decisive is that with the reintroduction of private property and a market economy, all social relations are determined and dominated by commodity relations.
The class character of the state is not decided by what percentage of property is in state hands, but which class holds power. State property such as the Post Office or railways does not change a bourgeois state into a socialist one, but rather the state itself trades as a capitalist. The term mixed economy is a deception; to be a little bit capitalist is no more possible than to be a little bit pregnant!
The hostility of New Forum to the working class becomes ever clearer; at their congress at the end of January, they even rejected a right of veto for joint worker-management factory boards and demanded the unity of the nation.
The United Left
A special role at the round table is played by the United Left. It is a front organization of the Pabloite United Secretariat, with Ernest Mandel as one of its prominent spiritual initiators.
In contrast to the other parties at the round table, who openly proclaim their procapitalist program, the United Left poses as a champion of real socialism. But one searches in vain amongst the colorful bouquet of their demands for their opinions on the fundamental questions. They demand, like SED leaders Gysi and Modrow, “the consistent application of the performance principle in the distribution of income” and “self-financing through enforced profitability.”
The specialty of the United Left consists in their ability to disguise their right-wing program with a host of left sounding phrases. According to one of their own articles in the Leipziger Volkszeitung, they are for “support by Western management and joint-ventures”—”but under the condition that this process remains under the control of the employees, production workers and the scientific-technical intelligentsia.” As if a private employer has ever invested money in a factory in which the workers decide what to do with it!
They are for “the election of joint worker-management boards” as “organs of all working people,” but the tasks of these should be “the reorganization of production to a higher level of efficiency.” Instead of the Stalinist trade union organization the FDGB, joint worker-management boards should enforce the speed-ups!
Instead of the purging of all bureaucracy from the planned economy, they demand “direct profit-sharing of all working people.” This means in practice the allocation of income according to the level of profits in individual factories.
This program—right policies behind left phrases—is there to serve as a safety valve for the Stalinist bureaucracy. A declared aim of the United Left is to shackle the working class to this bureaucracy. They call for a congress of the joint worker-management boards and for the “collaboration of such a congress with competent representatives of the reform wing of the SED.”
A program for the working class
The working class can only overthrow the Stalinist bureaucracy and prevent a capitalist restoration by freeing itself entirely from the influence of these petty-bourgeois groupings and taking up the struggle for its own independent class program.
No Confidence in the Volkskammer—For a Workers’ Government Based on Workers’ Councils!
The conspiracy of the round table comes to a head with the preparation for the elections to the Volkskammer.
The working class must not place the slightest confidence in these elections. Quite apart from the question as to who wins and who forms the government later, the policies of capitalist restoration will nonetheless be continued after the election. The entire election farce serves in reality only to lend these policies a democratic legitimacy, so that afterwards strikes against them will be declared “undemocratic” and illegal. The Volkskammer is an essential part of the state apparatus, which never had any other function to fulfill than to suppress the working class. The Stalinist bureaucracy consciously created this parliament in accordance with bourgeois state models. It did not even try for appearance’ sake to imitate organs of workers’ power, soviets. Even when it was used to expropriate the capitalists, it did not change its character as an instrument for the suppression of the working class. The economy, to be sure, was now in the hands of the state, but the state was still in the hands of the Stalinist bureaucracy. The latter used the state to channel the pressure of imperialism on to the working class by raising work norms and creating virtual siege conditions behind the wall and the barbed wire.
The Fourth International has traditionally characterized the states of Eastern Europe as “deformed workers’ states.” The concept of workers’ states expressed the fact that the Fourth International defended these states and their property relations against capitalist intervention. At the same time, by defining them as deformed workers’ states, the Fourth International made it clear that under no conditions did they contain elements of a proletarian state, nor were they viable entities. In its function as the policeman guarding social inequality, the state apparatus has retained a completely bourgeois character.
This bourgeois character of the state apparatus makes it impossible to reform and utilize it in the interests of the working class. This applies equally to the Volkskammer. It is a bourgeois parliament and cannot be transformed into an instrument of workers’ power by the working class.
The delegates of the bloc parties (the so-called bourgeois opposition parties represented in the Volkskammer from the time of its creation by the Stalinists), who yesterday were still unanimously supporting all the crimes of Stalinism and who today are just as unanimously outraged by them, have demonstrated the ability of every bourgeois parliamentarian to make a 180-degree turn, whenever the raison d’etat (“reason of state”), i.e., the defense of the privileges of the ruling stratum against the working class, requires it to do so. The entrance of the parties of the round table into the Volkskammer will change nothing in this respect. They all support the restoration of capitalism and will tailor their conduct in parliament in accordance with that need and not with the promises made during the election campaign.
The elections to the Volkskammer offer the working class no way forward whatever. It must elect its own organs of power, workers’ councils, to which only workers and peasants, but not the representatives of the bureaucracy and its apparatus of suppression, can be admitted.
In the factories, the workers’ councils must organize the struggle to drive from their positions all the corrupt bureaucrats, plant managers and other such parasites and thus cleanse the planned economy of all bureaucratic degeneracy, putting control in the hands of the working class.
In the residential neighborhoods, the workers’ councils must organize militant actions against price increases and rent hikes so as to wrench the control of provisions and public administration away from the ruling bureaucracy and place it under workers’ supervision.
Based on workers’ councils, a genuine workers’ government must be created to defend the existing property relations against capitalist restoration and be organized in the interests of the working class. In its foreign policy, it must put an end to secret negotiations with the imperialist governments and support the revolutionary movement of the working class and the oppressed peoples of the entire world!
The Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter will participate in the elections to the Volkskammer only to acquaint the working class with its revolutionary program and to unmask the character of this bourgeois parliament.
Dissolve the State Apparatus!
The suddenly discovered “fascist danger in the GDR” is nothing but a cynical feint to cover up the preparations for a violent counterrevolution. The principal danger for the working class does not emanate from a few skinheads—whom the workers’ defense committees could easily make short shrift of—but from the state apparatus, which is being maintained by the Modrow government to violently carry out the restoration of capitalism.
The antifascist demonstration organized by the Stasi in Berlin early in January was a deliberate provocation around which to reorganize the Stasi under the new name of “Defense of the Constitution.” This plan has only been postponed, but not rescinded.
Fascism is a product of capitalism. The danger of a new fascism arises from the policies of the SED, which is reintroducing capitalism in the GDR. Here too, the SED fits right in line with the tradition of Stalinism, without whose help fascism in Germany could never have been brought in. Prior to 1933 Stalin and the KPD prevented the formation of a united front of the working class against the Nazis by their policy of “social fascism of the SPD.” Only the united front could have stopped the victory of Hitler. The subsequent leaders of the SED supported Stalin’s pact with Hitler, in connection with which hundreds of KPD members who had fled to the Soviet Union were turned over to the Gestapo. And finally in 1945, Ulbricht and the KPD liquidated all antifascist groups so as to insure the undisputed control of the Stalinist bureaucracy over the working class.
When the SED speaks of the struggle against “fascism,” the reference is always to the working class as the fascists. In 1953 it ordered the workers’ rebellion in the GDR, which it called the “work of fascist provocateurs,” to be shot down, and in 1956, using the same argument, it cheered the bloody crushing of the Hungarian uprising. But it really is not necessary to venture that far back in time; in the summer of 1989 it acclaimed the massacre of students and workers by the Chinese Stalinists as a victory over the fascist counterrevolution.
The neofascist elements and skinheads, who are suddenly appearing on the surface now, have sprouted from the Stalinist manure pile. Most of them come from the families of the Stasi agents, whose counterparts from the Romanian Securitate have vividly demonstrated the kinship that exists between the Stalinist secret police and the Nazis.
The prevention of a new’ fascism requires above all else the elimination of the Stasi, the People’s Police, the army and all the other organs of the Stalinist state apparatus, and their replacement by workers’ militias which are under the control of workers’ councils.
Abolish Social Inequality and Political Oppression!
The working class in the GDR must remove all bureaucrats from their positions and abolish their privileges. The investigation and sentencing of these parasites for crimes committed by them must not be left to the court apparatus and the Volkskammer, which for four decades have loyally served the bureaucracy. For this purpose, the working class must form its own tribunals.
No new privileges through incentive wage schemes; instead adjust wages for the various types of work!
Defend the Expropriations and the Planned Economy against Any Capitalist Restoration!
Purge Them of All Bureaucratic Elements and Place Them Under Workers’ Control!
The planned economy must be completely overhauled from top to bottom and made to conform with the needs of the producers and consumers. Place production under the control of factory committees, which are directly elected by the work force and are responsible to the latter.
Build Workers’ Councils!
Elect workers’ councils to form the basis of a workers’ state!
Do not fall for the swindle of works councils and codetermination being organized by the parties of the round table and the West German DGB (umbrella union federation in the FRG)!
Works councils patterned after the Western model are not workers’ councils. They do not serve the independent organization of the workers and the control of production by the workers, but the collaboration of the trade union bureaucracy with management against the workers. The works councils were the answer of the SPD to genuine workers’ councils that arose in 1918-19, thus they were part of the social democratic counterrevolution.
After the Second World War, the struggles of the West German workers were concentrated against Adenauer and the Industrial Relations Act, which regulated the works councils and codetermination. The gains won by the workers were made only by fighting against this law.
Codetermination does not mean that the workers determine production. On the contrary, a handful of privileged trade union bureaucrats sit at a table with the capitalists and make decisions affecting the fate of the workers. Codetermination has not saved a single job, but it was the breeding ground for a swamp of corruption, compared to which the privileges of a Harry Tisch [head of the East German Stalinist trade unions] come across as rather modest. The Neue Heimat scandal was but the tip of the iceberg.
For the International Unity of the Working Class in the Struggle against Capitalism and Stalinism!
In the struggle against the Stalinist bureaucracy and its program of capitalist restoration, the working class in the GDR must deliberately make contact with its class brothers in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, America, Asia and Africa, but particularly in the Federal Republic.
The economic crisis in Eastern Europe has its causes in the isolation of these countries from the world economy. There are but two ways of overcoming this isolation: the capitalist way—through the SED, the SPD and the parties of the round table—and the socialist way, that is, through the Fourth International.
The working class is an international class. It cannot successfully take up a fight in one country against corporations that operate in Europe and around the world. It needs an international, revolutionary strategy of uniting worldwide with its class brothers, who face the same problems and the same capitalist enemy.
The Tasks of the West German Working Class
The working class in the Federal Republic must see the struggle of the working class in the GDR as its own. It is directed against the same foe. The West German workers must support their class brothers with all the means at their disposal, such as solidarity demonstrations and strikes.
But they must not restrict themselves only to these measures. They must take up the fight for a socialist program to eliminate the profit system and replace it with a planned, socialist economy. They must not allow Lafontaine, Vogel and Brandt, Steinkuehler, Rappe and Breit to push ahead with capitalist restoration in the GDR in the interests of German imperialism.
The West German working class must eject the agents of capital—the SPD leaders and the reformist trade union bureaucrats—from its ranks. Both of them have placed themselves at the disposal of the Kohl government as auxiliary troops in the reconquest of the GDR on behalf of capital.
As far as German policies are concerned, the SPD has virtually entered into a grand coalition with Kohl and it never tires of rejoicing at his nationalist tirades in the Bundestag. Its candidate for chancellor, Lafontaine, has unleashed an agitational campaign against the East German immigrants that not even the Republicans can surpass. While he himself supports weekend work and social cuts, he tries to divert the workers’ hatred for these attacks into an assault on the immigrants. At the same time, this campaign, which practically amounts to a re-erection of the recently fallen boundary, is intended to stabilize the GDR regime with which Lafontaine for a considerable period has had chummy relations.
Within the GDR, the SPD and its Friedrich Ebert Foundation are making efforts to create the same corporatist structures that were used to keep the working class subordinated to West German imperialism in the FRG for the past four decades.
The DGB has announced its own “community agreement” with the FDGB. The aim of the DGB is to nurse this absolutely discredited instrument of the Stalinist bureaucracy back to some kind of health and to prepare it for its new task of collaborating with the capitalists moving into the GDR. To carry this out, all the DGB trade unions have announced training programs for GDR trade union functionaries.
The struggle for the international unity of the working class means the repudiation of any kind of chauvinist agitation that is being stoked up by the bourgeoisie and its social democratic agents.
For the United Socialist States of Europe
The elimination of the European state borders, which have long since become the greatest obstacle for the development of the productive forces, is the task of the working class and will be possible only when it is linked to the overthrow of capitalism and Stalinism. At the same time, the United Socialist States of Europe in a Europe that is economically and politically tightly integrated is the only conceivable form of rule for the working class.
Instead of Bourgeois Disarmament, Disarm the Bourgeoisie!
The disarmament negotiations with the imperialist bourgeoisie are a deception of the working class and while they do nothing to ease the danger of war, they do disarm the working class by creating illusions in the “peace-loving” bourgeoisie. As long as capitalism exists, wars are inevitable. Only the disarming of the bourgeoisie by the working class can avert a third world war that would spell the end for mankind.
The disarmament agreements between Gorbachev and Reagan-Bush have been achieved at the direct expense of the revolutionary movements in South Africa, Nicaragua and Palestine. Gorbachev has stopped the delivery of oil and weapons so as to force the liberation movements to sit down at the table with the fascist butchers and provide free access to imperialism.
Construct the Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter, the German Section of the International Committee of the Fourth International in the Federal Republic and the GDR!
The decisive task facing the working class in the GDR and the Federal Republic is the construction of a new, revolutionary Marxist party, the Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter, the German section of the International Committee of the Fourth International.
The Fourth International, the World Party of Socialist Revolution, has arisen out of the greatest factional struggles in the international working class movement, the struggle of the international Left Opposition under the leadership of Leon Trotsky against the Stalinist degeneration of the CPSU and the Communist International. It defends the program and principles of Marx, Engels and Lenin, of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. As is written in the founding program of 1938, it “gives battle to all political groupings tied to the apron-strings of the bourgeoisie. Its task—the abolition of capitalism’s domination. Its aim—socialism. Its method—the proletarian revolution.”
The Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter works in the Federal Republic and in the GDR as a single party. The Fourth International never recognized the division of the German working class, which served the consolidation of capitalism and Stalinism.
We appeal to all workers, male and female, to become members of the BSA! Write to us, come to our office in Berlin, read and subscribe to the Neue Arbeiterpresse, the weekly paper of the BSA!