This was the main report to a Workers League membership meeting held in Detroit on January 6, 1990. The report analyzed the relationship between the breakup of the Stalinist regimes which had taken place so rapidly during the previous year and the crisis of world capitalism.
Just one year ago, on the 31st of December 1988, we held a national aggregate meeting in this very room which was opened with a report on the perspectives of the International Committee of the Fourth International. It was entitled “The Revolutionary Challenge of 1989.” Stressing that “we are clearly coming to the end of an entire historical era, that of the post-World War II reconstruction of capitalist society,” the report explained:
“The point has now been reached where it is undeniable that the fundamental political and economic relationships which regulated the affairs of world imperialism for some four decades, and which provided the foundation for its essential equilibrium, even during periods of conjunctural slumps, are coming to an end.”
Now we are meeting in January 1990, in the aftermath of a year which marks without question a great historical watershed and that perspective has become a reality; and even the bourgeois pundits, who foresaw absolutely nothing, accept as received wisdom that the basic political relations which were set up at the end of the Second World War have ceased to exist. Before we proceed to analyze these events and ponder their significance, let us briefly review the chronology of 1989—the annus mirabilis, “wondrous year,” of the political revolution.
January: On the 18th, Poland’s Communist Party adopted a resolution accepting gradual legalization of the outlawed Solidarity trade union.
February: On the 11th, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Hungary voted to allow independent political parties. On the 21st, the Czechoslovak playwright Vaclav Havel was convicted and sentenced to nine months in jail for instigating an illegal demonstration.
March: Elections took place in the Soviet Union and on the 29th, Mikhail S. Gorbachev indicated that the Soviet Union would not interfere with the political liberalization in Hungary and other East Bloc countries.
April: On the 15th, there occurred the death of Hu Yaobang, 73, the former chairman of the Chinese Communist Party who had supported liberal reforms. Four days later, on the 19th, the Tiananmen Square demonstrations began in Beijing. In Romania, on the 17th, the government passed a law barring any further foreign borrowing. Ceausescu, announcing that he had repaid the $10 billion foreign debt and said: “Now that we have long ceased to pay tribute, we have decided not to depend on anyone anymore either economically or politically to really ensure the independence of our people, our nation.” And in Czechoslovakia, Prime Minister Jakes stated on the 18th that the rehabilitation of Dubcek was out of the question and praised the Soviet invasion of 1968.
May: On the 2nd, 60 students rode bicycles into Beijing to present a list of demands for democratic reforms to Chinese leaders. The Chinese leaders rejected student demands the next day and 100,000 students and workers marched in Beijing to demand democratic reforms. On the 15th, Gorbachev arrived in Beijing for a four-day summit with the Chinese Stalinists. On the 17th, one million people demonstrated for democratic reforms in Beijing, while 3,000 students engaged in a hunger strike. On the 18th, Premier Li Peng and party leader Zhao Ziyang met with protesting students.
On the 20th, Chinese Premier Li declared martial law in Beijing in response to heightened student and worker demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. More than one million Chinese spilled into the streets to support the student protest, blocking military convoys heading into the city. There were signs of a power struggle among the Chinese leaders. Protesters called for Li’s ouster and protests erupted across China.
On the 29th, Chinese students erected a 33-foot statue in Tiananmen Square and 100,000 people flocked to the square to watch its construction.
June: On the 4th, the Tiananmen Square massacre occurred, killing thousands of students and workers. A wave of terror swept China as the bureaucracy attempted to reassert control. On the same day, in Poland, Solidarity won 99 out of the 100 seats it was contesting in the Sejm.
July: In Hungary, on the 6th, former Hungarian leader Janos Kadar, who had been deposed a year before, died and on the same day Hungary’s Supreme Court rehabilitated Imre Nagy, the former premier executed in 1958 for his role in the 1956 revolt against the Stalinist regime which was crushed by the Soviet Union.
One week later, in the Soviet Union, hundreds of thousands of miners went on strike and forced the government to accede, on paper, to their demands.
In Poland, on the 19th, General Jaruzelski, running unopposed for president, got the minimum number of votes necessary to win the presidency.
August: On the 2nd, Gen. Czeslaw Kiszczak became prime minister of Poland, provoking an outburst of strikes. He lasted just two weeks then Tadeusz Mazowiecki was selected prime minister, and formed the first non-Stalinist government in Eastern Europe in 40 years.
September: On the 10th, Hungary opened its border with Austria, sparking a mass flight of East Germans to the West.
October: On the 7th, the Hungarian CP renamed itself the Socialist Party. On the 23rd, Hungary formally declared an end to 40 years of so-called communism and proclaimed itself a republic, setting the stage for the creation of a Western-style democracy in that country.
In the meantime, mass demonstrations erupted in East Germany involving hundreds of thousands. Honecker was removed as party secretary and replaced by Egon Krenz.
November: The mass demonstrations continued, forcing, by the 7th, the resignation of the entire East German cabinet and two days later, in the midst of mass mobilizations of the working class, East Germany opened its border to West Germany.
In Bulgaria, mass demonstrations in Sofia forced the ouster of longtime Stalinist strongman Todor Zhivkov on the 10th.
In Czechoslovakia, mass student demonstrations erupted, which the police attacked viciously on the 17th. The Civic Forum was established on the 19th and the Jakes regime was ousted on the eve of a two-hour general strike, which took place on November 20th.
December: On the 1st, the East German parliament revoked the constitutional guarantees of the preeminence of the SED, the party of the East German Stalinists. On the 3rd, the SED Politburo and Central Committee resigned. On the 5th, Honecker was placed under house arrest after revelations of SED corruption. On the 6th, his successor Krenz resigned as head of state. On the 9th, Gregor Gysi was elected head of the SED.
In Czechoslovakia, Prime Minister Ladislav Adamec resigned on the 7 the, and was succeeded by Marian Calfa on the 9th. Calfa and the opposition agreed on a new government that gave the non-Stalinists 11 out of 21 posts. Gustav Husak, who was installed by the Soviet bureaucracy in 1968, agreed to resign.
In Bulgaria, Peter Mladenov, who had replaced Zhivkov, set a May 31st deadline for free elections.
Finally, it was the turn of Romania. The government sealed its borders on the 18th as mass demonstrations erupted against Ceausescu. A massacre took place in Timosoara. On the 21st, Ceausescu was shouted down at an official rally in Bucharest and his regime fell the next day. The dictator and his wife were executed on Christmas afternoon.
Finally, on the 29th, Vaclav Havel, who began the year in jail, was sworn in as the first non-Stalinist president of Czechoslovakia and Dubcek, who had been politically and officially a “non-person” since 1969, became the chairman of the parliament.
These events, which amount to a political transformation without precedent in the entire postwar era, must be carefully analyzed. The question which must be addressed is, what has produced this political avalanche that has shaken regimes which have stood for the last 40 years? Events of such a magnitude cannot be explained by abstract references to “democracy.” There must be causes of an objective character that are far more profound. One must study what it was that moved tens of millions of people as an objective force into struggle. Our explanation is that the revolutions which have erupted in Eastern Europe—revolutions which we foresaw—are the most advanced political expression of the general crisis of world imperialism. However peculiar the state forms which have existed for 40 years in Eastern Europe, these regimes and their development cannot be explained apart from the general development of world economy as a whole. They do not exist outside of the world economy and they cannot escape its influence. Therefore the source of this crisis must be explained from a more general and profound crisis of imperialism itself. We have said, and I will explain why, that the breakdown of these Eastern European regimes represents the breakdown of imperialism at its weakest link.
We have stressed repeatedly in our perspectives document and in countless other statements and reports that the most revolutionary factor in the world has been the unprecedented globalization and integration of production. In objective terms, there does not exist a single country that can insulate itself from the influence and pressure of the world market. Indeed, the connections and interactions between all economic processes are so intimate and complex that there do not exist any purely national economic phenomena. Even interest rates, balance of trade, employment levels, tariff policies—all the basic indices of every national economy—are shaped by international conditions and factors and themselves have a profound effect on developments taking place throughout the world.
As we know, the technological developments of the last two decades have played a fundamental role in the globalization of production. But the impact of technological transformations is not simply in the sphere of communications. The technological revolution is itself transforming the forms and nature of the productive process. Both what is being produced and how it is produced are profoundly affected by these technological transformations. Manufacturing is to an ever larger extent based on microelectronics and telecommunications technologies. A competitive position in the world market requires a mastery of semiconductor and computer technology, which is then the basis of a whole host of new industries, involving computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), and computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM), upon which economic life will be based in the coming century, which is now only 10 years away.
Why is this so relevant to the events in Eastern Europe? Because the collapse of these regimes is the product of the impact, in the most negative form, of the world economy upon the artificially insulated national economies of the East European Stalinist regimes. There has been no greater delusion than the Stalinist conception that socialism could be built within a small group of nation-states which are denied and deny themselves direct access to the resources of the world market and the international division of labor.
In an earlier period, when the newly-established Stalinist regimes were simply laying down the foundations of industrial development in the aftermath of wartime devastation, certain advances could be registered—though, starting as they were from a far lower economic and technological base, the level of development never reached that of the advanced capitalist countries. But even within the framework of the relative advance that was made by the Eastern European countries in the 1950s and the 1960s, as many of them moved from having been primarily agricultural countries, such as prewar Poland, to highly industrialized countries—even this limited, though significant in some respects, economic advance accentuated their dependence on the world market. As Trotsky once pointed out, the dependence of a country upon the world market increases rather than diminishes the more technological and industrial it becomes. He made the point that backward India could survive a blockade far longer than advanced England because the more advanced a country, the more dependent it is on the international division of labor and the world market. And nothing, not even the omnipotence of the Stalinist bureaucracy, could overcome that dependence.
The technological transformations of the last 20 years have had a devastating effect on the USSR and Eastern Europe. The new technologies have created, as I’ve already said, entirely new industries or transformed the way older ones, such as steel, coal and auto, operate. But the development and implementation of these industries require vast capital resources, not to mention relatively unrestricted access to the fruits of scientific research. The Eastern European states and the USSR have neither.
Thus, particularly since the 1970s, the tendency toward stagnation has become ever more pronounced. It is an economic fact that it has been virtually impossible for the economies of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to make the necessary adjustments in line with these technological transformations.
This crisis has found perhaps its most advanced expression in East Germany itself. Let me cite some economic statistics which illustrate the decay of the East German economy over the last 15 to 20 years, particularly in the way it is reflected in the trade between East and West Germany. Between 1968 and 1985 trade between the two German states increased 5.5 times, from 2.9 billion deutsche marks to 15.5 billion DM. The average rate of growth of trade between East and West Germany during this period was 11 percent a year. But since 1985 it has begun to decline precipitously: in 1986 it decreased by 8 percent, in 1987 by 1.7 percent and 1988 by 2 percent. This is mainly because of the very sharp gap that has opened up in the technological development between not only East Germany and West Germany, but between East Germany and virtually all of its capitalist competitors. That is, the industry of East Germany has become very rapidly outdated.
For example, in the mid-1970s, the East German share of machine exports to OECD countries was 3.9 percent in 1973. That is, 3.9 percent of the OECD market for machine exports were supplied by East Germany. Now it is below one percent On the other hand, the market of such countries as Taiwan, Mexico, Hong Kong, South Korea or Singapore has increased considerably. Consider this: at the present time Taiwan exports 20 times more machine industrial products than East Germany. Singapore exports 10 times as much and many other similar statistics could be provided.
The stagnation economically of East Germany, its decline relative to West Germany, is the product of the bankruptcy of the reactionary and anti-Marxist perspective of socialism in one country or in a group of isolated countries. And here we come to the most crucial issue—that of the basic political and historical significance of the breakdown of these regimes. Day after day, the bourgeois press and electronic media proclaim that what is taking place in Eastern Europe, not to mention in the USSR itself, is the “fall of communism,” and the “fall of Marxism.” Moreover, they assert that the more or less inevitable product of this revolt against “communism” will be the restoration of capitalism and bourgeois democracy, which shall supposedly enter the new century unchallenged and triumphant, having finally conquered its old and discredited Marxist adversary. That is what the political and ideological representatives of the ruling class would like everyone to believe.
Let us subject this thesis to a more considered analysis. We have the credentials to do that because unlike the high priests of bourgeois punditry the International Committee can reasonably claim that it did foresee the events which have now taken place; and I am not merely referring to the perspectives resolutions and reports of the last two years! Our entire movement’s history is one of unrelenting political struggle against Stalinism, which is, ideologically, the antithesis of Marxism and socialism, and politically, the chief counterrevolutionary instrument of imperialism in the international workers’ movement. All the claims that the collapse of these regimes represents the collapse of socialism proceed from the false, dishonest and politically cynical claims that the regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union are based on Marxism and represent socialism. Of course, in order to uphold this political lie—which simply repeats the self-serving falsifications of the bureaucracy itself—it is necessary that the bourgeoisie make no reference to the life and work of Trotsky, nor permit representatives of the Fourth International any access to the mass media.
To understand what it is that is breaking down, it is necessary to examine what the states in Eastern Europe represented when they were first created at the end of the Second World War. The regimes in Eastern Europe were not the product of socialist revolutions, but of the counterrevolutionary settlement worked out between Stalinism and imperialism at the end of the Second World War. American imperialism was haunted by the experience of World War I, which ended with the victory of the October Revolution and the eruption of a wave of revolution that nearly toppled capitalism throughout Europe. The arrangements worked out between Roosevelt (and then Truman) and Churchill on the one hand and Stalin on the other, at Yalta and Potsdam, were aimed at preventing a revolutionary conclusion to the war. Both sides desperately feared revolution far more than they feared each other. The imperialists, of course, wanted at all costs to save capitalism from overthrow in its West European heartland. Stalin, whose entire regime was based on the suppression and betrayal of proletarian revolution, knew very well that the outcome of victorious working class revolutions in the historic centers of capitalism would inspire the Soviet proletariat and lead it to settle accounts with the Kremlin bureaucracy.
The postwar settlement guaranteed the survival of capitalism in Western Europe as well as in Greece, which, as Stalin knew, had profound strategic significance for imperialism. If you want to have an illustration of how Stalin thought at the time, allow me to quote from the autobiography of Milovan Djilas. He records a meeting between the Yugoslav leaders, the Tito group, and Stalin after the war. At that time, the Greek Communist Party was engaged in a civil war, fighting against the Greek bourgeoisie and British and American imperialism. He quotes the following:
Next Stalin passed to the uprising in Greece: ‘It has to wind up!’ Then he turned to Kardelj. ‘Do you believe,’ he asked, ‘in the success of their rebellion?’
‘If foreign intervention doesn’t escalate,’ said Kardelj, ‘and if the Greek comrades don’t commit big military and political blunders...’
‘If, if!’ Stalin retorted sarcastically. ‘No. They have no prospects of success at all. Do you think that Britain and the United States—the United States, the strongest country in the world—will permit their arteries of communication in the Mediterranean to be severed? Nonsense! The uprising in Greece must be wound up a soon as possible’ (M. Djilas, Rise and Fall, pp. 168-69).
That is exactly what Stalin proceeded to do. The Greek revolution was denied material and military support by the Soviet regime and that enabled Stalin to keep the commitments he had made to Roosevelt and Churchill at Yalta when he promised that capitalism would be maintained in Greece.
From the very beginning, the whole purpose of the postwar settlement was to bolster capitalist rule. The imperialists, of course, agreed to acknowledge Soviet interests in Eastern Europe. But even in this area, which entered under Soviet control, it was by no means a question of advancing working class power and socialism. Rather, while recognizing the Soviet sphere of influence, the imperialists were entrusting the bureaucracy with the task of policing an area which had been one of the main trouble spots for imperialism throughout the century. Both the First and Second World War had as their flashpoints the crisis in Eastern Europe, the vexed questions of the Baltics, of Poland, and so on. These were the big issues which had led time and again to general conflagrations. So under conditions where the bourgeois regimes which had existed prior to the war were shattered and discredited, it was Stalin’s task to organize and impose some sort of order to shore up this very explosive area of Europe. It should be pointed out that a precedent existed for counterrevolutionary deals between imperialism and the Kremlin at the expense of the working class in the relations between Hitler and Stalin which at times, as in the Eastern Ukraine, even involved the acceptance by imperialism of a temporary change in the forms of property. But it must be stressed that the basic role of the bureaucracy was to throttle the independent initiative of the working class.
I’d like to illustrate how this was done by quoting a number of passages from the book by Wolfgang Leonhard, who was at the time a member of the German Communist Party. He was raised in a communist family. He fled to the Soviet Union after Hitler came to power. He was for a time in charge of Soviet propaganda into Germany during the war and then he returned to Germany believing that now with the defeat of fascism, a genuine socialist regime would be established, the dictatorship of the proletariat, a democratic regime based on democracy in the working class movement. He was in for the surprise of his life.
He gives a number of examples of how the Stalinists proceeded to throttle every independent initiative of the working class. He first writes about the way in which the Stalinists in East Germany shut down all the antifascist committees which had sprung up spontaneously at the end of the war:
‘There have been various offices, committees and organizations set up recently,’ said Ulbricht (the Stalinist leader) at one of our routine conferences, ‘calling themselves Anti-Fascist Committees or Anti-Nazi Groups or Socialist Offices or National Committees or such-like.’
I had seen such offices again and again on my travels through Berlin. I took it for granted that the task Ulbricht was about to assign to us was to make contact with them and support their work. ‘It has been reported,’ he went on, without saying how or by whom, ‘that these bodies have been created by the Nazis. They are in fact cover organizations, whose object is to frustrate the development of democracy. We must break them up at all costs. It’s a highly important task, and you must all find out, without fail, where these committees have been established in your respective districts. You must then ensure their immediate dissolution’ (W. Leonhard, Child of the Revolution, p. 318).
Then he describes how these committees were shut down:
The fate of the Charlottenburg committee was only one example among many. Dozens of similar committees and groups and bodies, which had been created on their own initiative from below in Berlin, were broken up simultaneously; and this happened not only in Berlin but in all the major towns of the Soviet Zone, as soon as the Government authorities were established. Later on, it even happened in the area occupied by the Western Powers.
I shall never forget a brief encounter which took place at this time between Ulbricht and a Party member from Brandenburg.
‘Well, how are things in your local administration?’ Ulbricht asked his colleague with interest, but somewhat condescendingly. His colleague reported briefly on the activity of the Administration, adding with a certain pride: ‘And we have also founded an anti-Fascist organization.’
‘How’s that?—what’ve you done?’ asked Ulbricht angrily. His colleague showed him some printed membership books of an anti-Fascist action group, with a program somewhat similar to that of the National Committee.
Ulbricht was furious. ‘Who allowed you to do that? How dare you do a thing like that? Your anti-Fascist action group must be broken up at once, and the membership books must be destroyed! You’re supposed to wait for instructions from the Central Committee.’
Shocked by the violence of Ulbricht’s tone, his colleague tried to justify himself. ‘But Comrade Ulbricht, we had no intention of anticipating directives from the center.’ He pointed to the membership cards and went on: ‘We expressly inserted the word “provisional” in front of our program. Our membership books, too, are labeled as temporary.’
‘Provisional or not, the whole show must be broken up, and that forthwith!’
Later I learned of similar happenings in Thuringia and Saxony. In Thuringia a United Socialist Party, with the title of ‘The Workers’ Party’ (PDW) had been formed by former concentration-camp victims immediately after their liberation. They too were broken up. When the SPD and the KPD were established from above in the middle of June, only half the former members of the PDW joined them. Many others, including whose who had been most active in the PDW, abstained because they did not want to return to the old parties.
In Dresden an organization was set up under the name of the Anti-Fascist People’s Committee, and it was joined by twenty to thirty thousand members. After the re-establishment of the old parties, seven thousand of them joined the KPD and three thousand the SPD. All the rest, who were only too ready to collaborate in an anti-Fascist People’s Committee, but did not wish to opt for a particular Party, withdrew in disappointment back to private life. There were no doubt similar examples in many other places. In this way, every initiative from below was nipped in the bud between the beginning of May and the middle of June.
At the time I regarded this merely as an error in one particular limited context, and I tried to justify it, exactly as I had previously tried to justify negative tendencies in the Soviet Union as temporary errors. It was not until my break with Stalinism that I really understood the significance of the directives at that time against the spontaneous creation of anti-fascist committees. It was not an error in a limited context but an essential feature of Stalinist policy. It was impossible for Stalinism to permit the creation by independent initiative from below of anti-Fascist, Socialist or Communist movements or organizations, because there was the constant danger that such organizations would escape its control and try to resist directives issued from above. The dissolution of the Anti-Fascist Committees was therefore nothing other than a disruption of the first emergence of what might prove to be a powerful independent anti-Fascist and Socialist movement. It was the first victory of the apparat over the independent stirrings of the anti-Fascist, left-inclined strata of Germany” (Ibid., pp. 324-26).
We were all required to speak at the first Party meetings. I shall never forget the inaugural meeting held in one of the quarters of Charlottenburg, at which I was the speaker. There were about a hundred and twenty Party members present, and one could see in their faces the pride and satisfaction and joy they felt at being members of the Communist Party again. At the end of my talk a discussion began, and soon there was mention of the excesses of the Red Army, which were then causing the Berlin Communists so much anxiety. At that moment, a member in the far comer got up to speak. He spoke vehemently about things which he himself had seen, about the damage done to German Communists by the conduct of the Red Army, and about the inevitable conclusions which German Communists must draw from this behavior. This sort of language was quite new to us, and there was tense excitement in the hall. It may have been this atmosphere which led the speaker, from his deepest inner conviction, to express what he really thought: ‘And I tell you we’ve got to establish Socialism in Germany without the Red Army and, if necessary, even against the Red Army!’ (Ibid., p. 331).
He is, of course, speaking about the Soviet army which had come into Germany and had done everything it could to alienate the German working class with behavior which was directly sanctioned by the Kremlin.
He then describes a speech given by Ulbricht:
Ulbricht then gave a new definition of the Communist Party, which I knew to have been worked out by Fred Oelssner. Instead of the old formulae current before 1933, which spoke of the Party of the ‘revolutionary proletariat’, the terms now used referred to a National Party, the Party of the People and the Party of Peace. The Party was to include the best men and women of all classes in the active population, and all sincere opponents of fascism. Ulbricht was critical of the fact that in many areas comparatively few Party members had been admitted, and in many cases the Party leadership had set up impossible conditions for admission to the Party: this was a grave mistake. Unmistakable sounds of astonishment were to be heard in the hall as Ulbricht declared: ‘In admitting people to the Party it must not make any difference at all whether the anti-Fascists concerned are Catholic, Evangelical or Jewish in their religious affiliations.’
When Ulbricht had finished his speech and the Internationale had been sung, many of those present raised their fists in the old salute of the Red Front, which Party members had used before 1933. Ulbricht, together with his colleagues on the Presidium and those present who were already familiar with the new line, did not do so. Many others thereupon lowered their arms again. It was a small but typical example of the change which had taken place in the KPD since 1933. What had been a revolutionary party of the opposition, with the dictatorship of the proletariat as the objective, had now been turned into a party bearing the authority of the state, which was about to embark on an anti-Fascist democratic system aimed at achieving parliamentary democracy (Ibid., pp. 337-38).
These things are interrelated. In the first instance, you have the constant suppression by the Stalinists of every independent revolutionary initiative by the working class at the end of the Second World War aimed at establishing socialism in Germany. In the second, you have the conduct of a policy which was, in its essence, directed against socialism and at the liquidation of the working class politically into the overall social strata within Germany on what was essentially a bourgeois program. This is fundamental for understanding the whole subsequent development both of East Germany and of Eastern Europe because it would be profoundly wrong to believe that, simply on the basis of the nationalization of property, this somehow represented a realization of a working class, socialist program.
The nationalizations were undertaken, first of all, quite late and only under extreme pressure, when the bureaucracy was forced to, first of all by the pressure provided by the Marshall Plan and in order to overcome certain bourgeois elements which were in opposition in Eastern Europe. But these bureaucratically-engineered nationalizations did not create in any sense of the word genuine working class states. You did not have the dictatorship of the proletariat in Eastern Europe. What you had, rather, were bureaucratically-manipulated nationalizations which were based politically on the suppression of the working class and its own independent revolutionary program and that is described very well by Leonhard, who witnessed these things.
The postwar settlement was indispensable to the survival of capitalism. It created the political framework for the economic restabilization and expansion of capitalism. The settlement of the German question was crucial for the following reason: first of all, it solved what had been the biggest problem facing imperialism as a whole, the role of Germany in the affairs of European and world capitalism and secondly, it divided the German working class which had the most profound revolutionary tradition. One might say that in dealing with the German working class imperialism required not one state but two states—a capitalist state in the West and a Stalinist regime in the East. In this way, they divided the working class and in 1961 they actually built a wall to prevent any interaction within a working class which has, as I said, the oldest and greatest socialist traditions.
The eruptions in Eastern Europe are the definitive end of the postwar system. It thus reopens a period of profound political instability. Economics determines politics, but the latter is not merely the passive reflection of the former. The political superstructure interacts with its base and profoundly influences and, to some extent, determines it. The East European eruptions come at the very point when the tensions within world imperialism have been intensified by the breakdown of US hegemony and the eruption of inter-imperialist antagonism that are greater today that at any time since World War II. I now propose that we examine this overall crisis of imperialism because the crisis within Eastern Europe unfolds within that context and far from mitigating the crisis of imperialism, it adds a new and very explosive factor. We have in previous reports stressed the growing antagonism between the United States, Germany and Japan. This, too, is now more or less admitted by bourgeois analysts.
I would like to now quote how Foreign Affairs, which is the major foreign policy publication of the American bourgeoisie, assesses the present relationship between the major imperialist states:
Tokyo and Bonn could be responsible for some of America’s biggest headaches in the coming years. Each could present Washington with almost intractable problems deriving from their domestic drives, and in some important cases their interests could converge in opposition to America’s needs....
There are many reasons for American concerns. There is no need to belabor disclosures of the growing assertiveness of Tokyo or Bonn, or of the escalating trade tensions between the United States and its allies which are wearing down governments and taking a toll on all aspects of relations. Beyond that, however, the world economy has become dangerously imbalanced. Despite all the attention paid to America’s ‘irresponsible’ deficits, Japan and Germany are a major part of the problem too. They, after all, are the ones running large trade and financial surpluses. If this situation is not corrected, it could lead to destructive competition for trade and more destabilizing plunges in financial markets.
No letup is in sight. In both Japan and Germany the economies are booming, investment in new production capacity is growing, and exports are not weakening. America, on the other hand, shows no similar strength. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), for example, projects that the US current accounts deficit will grow to $139 billion next year from $125 billion in 1989, while Japan’s surplus will balloon to $90 billion from its present $72 billion and Germany’s to $57 billion from $53 billion. Moreover, America, Japan and Germany are at loggerheads concerning how to handle its deficits or surpluses, and whose responsibility it is to change its policies....
The drives and policy constraints of Japan and Germany could lead to tensions with America in several ways.
First, there is the specter of a recession in America in the early 1990s.... The United States is particularly vulnerable to a deep slump. Many companies that have acquired large amounts of debt from leveraged buyouts and junk bonds are already struggling, and a period of slow growth could result in a large wave of bankruptcies. Moreover, the banks and savings and loan system are in an extremely fragile shape; if their borrowers have problems repaying loans, their own plights will worsen.
Recessions have come and gone, of course, but this time Washington lacks the usual tools to dig its way out....
It is here that Japan and Germany enter the picture. Faced with recession, Washington—its hands tied domestically—would surely implore its two allies to grow faster and buy more American products. That has been a standard American refrain since the mid-1970s, but it could now assume greater importance than ever before. It is far from certain that Japan and Germany would go along with America’s requests....
A recession, in short, could crack open the facade of economic coordination and common direction that have characterized the proclamations of ministers for the last few years, during which strong economic growth has prevailed....
The article then points out that “Japan’s financial power is already enormous and still growing rapidly. Since the mid-1980s, Tokyo has acted like the world’s central banker.... Japan’s financial surpluses will grow to over $800 billion in the 1990s from today’s $350 billion.” The author says, with horror, that “it is almost impossible to conceive where such power will lead—how many industries will be dominated by Japanese firms; how much clout Japan will have in the IMF, World Bank and other organizations; what kind of political influence will accompany Japan’s economic penetration of ail global markets.... Japan and Germany are becoming major players in areas where Americans have had a relatively free hand....
Tokyo is creating a yen-dominated trade and industrial zone from Seoul to Sydney.... The handwriting is on the wall as to who will be the dominant and most influential economic power in East Asia.
Japan has not yet acquired great influence in America’s backyard—Latin America—but the possibility is there. There are many convergent interests between Japan and Latin America. The southern hemisphere has minerals and oil that Japan needs. With its large consumer markets, it is an attractive outlet for Japan’s exports....
The significance of this last observation is obvious in light of the invasion of Panama and the more recent speculation that the US will become militarily involved in Peru, Colombia and Bolivia!
If I read this extended extract from Foreign Affairs which, after all, is a magazine which has the task of working through the perspectives of the American bourgeoisie, what is being acknowledged? That the very contradictions and antagonisms which produced the Second World War and which were also behind the eruption of the First World War have now reemerged on a far higher level. The postwar settlement was aimed at resolving the very contradictions which led to the bloodiest war in history, a war which nearly brought about the end of capitalism and now, 45 years later, it turns out that all those contradictions are still there, all those fault lines still exist and once again world imperialism is preparing inexorably a ferocious confrontation between the major imperialist powers. What could be more explosive than the combination of America’s declining world position and its still considerable military power.
Nations and states and classes don’t go peacefully into the “Good Night.” America is not going to accept the loss of its world position. It views this as the American century, no matter what setbacks and defeats it has suffered, and having fought one war back in the 1940s over who was going to control the Pacific and who was going to control the Atlantic, it is not prepared to accept the peaceful loss of what it established in war. While bourgeois pundits can’t remember what they wrote yesterday, in terms of history, 45 years is just a short weekend. And, indeed, the last 45 years will be seen more and more, not as the dawn of a new epoch but merely as just a short transition, an interlude, a breathing space between major periods of crisis. That is how we interpret the events taking place in Eastern Europe.
Taken within a world historical framework, the breakdown of the Eastern European regimes and of the postwar order in general means the reassertion, on a far higher level, of all the basic contradictions of imperialism. Far from entering into a new and triumphant period of capitalist ascendancy, imperialism stands on the brink of a new bloody epoch of wars and revolutions. The new equilibrium that will be necessary for capitalism will only be worked out after a period of profound struggles and eruptions of all sorts, of wars and revolutions. In other words, contradictions have been set into motion that cannot be peacefully resolved. So this is the question confronting the working class, that it must resolve this crisis on a progressive basis or it will be resolved by capitalism on an extremely reactionary one.
Everything depends on the resolution of the crisis of working class leadership; and it is from this crucial perspective that we must now study the implications of the events in Eastern Europe. It would be one-sided and wrong to merely focus on the purely “objective” side of events—as if the breakdown of the Eastern European regimes and the postwar era proceeds, so to speak, entirely apart from and independent of the class struggle and the conscious clash of political forces. The subjective factor of consciousness is by no means insignificant. That Stalinism has gravely undermined the development of political consciousness in the working class is by no means the least of its crimes, and its consequences are themselves an important objective factor in the overall political situation. To the extent that Eastern European workers identify Stalinism with socialism and communism, it greatly weakens their capacity to advance an independent program to turn the present situation to their advantage. This is the reason why the breakdown of the Stalinist regimes have been, at least in their first stages, exploited by the petty-bourgeois forces who are utterly hostile to the working class. Indeed, if one surveys the situation now existing in East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Romania, in every case the petty bourgeoisie has moved into some sort of alliance with the Stalinists on the basis of bourgeois programs for the restoration of capitalism. They are striving to settle accounts, not with the Stalinists, but with the working class.
Indeed, the petty bourgeoisie holds the working class responsible for Stalinism and sees the working class as the principal social obstacle to the creation of a society where their individual, petty and egotistical interests are looked after at the expense of the masses.
Moreover, the course of events in Eastern Europe has been greatly influenced by international conditions. The generally reactionary character of the political tendencies that now dominate the developments in Eastern Europe reflects the general international conditions of the class struggle. Had the eruption in the East occurred in the wake of great class battles in the advanced capitalist centers, the political revolution against the Stalinists would, from the first instant, have assumed a clearly socialist character. There simply would have been no basis for the illusions in capitalism that are now being peddled by the frightened Stalinists and their miserable and egotistical petty-bourgeois allies.
However, there is a profound crisis within the international workers’ movement—and it is similar to that which has overtaken the working class in Eastern Europe or, to put it more correctly, the crisis which has overtaken the working class in Eastern Europe is, in a specific way, an expression of the general international crisis of the working class movement. Just as the breakdown of the Eastern European regimes signifies the collapse of the national program of the Stalinist bureaucracies, the defeats experienced by the working class in the capitalist countries during the past decade demonstrate the bankruptcy of the national program of the social democratic and reformist bureaucracies. Just as there is no place for a nationally-isolated “socialist” state, there is no place for trade unions based on national-reformist policies.
This is proven by the entire experience of the American working class over the past decade. The drastic decline in the position of the labor movement is not just an expression of the subjective qualities of the leadership; the rottenness of the leadership is merely the necessary expression of the objective bankruptcy of its national-reformist program, which stands in flagrant contradiction to the realities of the global economy.
All bureaucracies which base themselves on such a program cannot defend even the most minimal interests of the working class. Just as the Stalinist regimes cannot escape the impact and weight of the global economy which renders their schemes of national development absolutely hopeless, the trade union bureaucracy cannot defend the working class in this or any other country on the basis of a national program. That is why we have insisted again and again as the basis of our own program that the chief task confronting the working class on a world scale is the creation of an international party. This is no utopian conception but a necessity because only on the basis of the international organization of the working class can the working class fight internationally-organized and internationally-mobilized capital.
The fate of Eastern Europe only poses, at this moment, the crisis of revolutionary leadership in its most acute form. That there presently exists the danger of capitalist restoration is undeniable; and there is no question but that the successful reintegration of Eastern Europe, not to mention the USSR, into the world capitalist market, would be a very severe blow to the international working class. But that, to say the least, has by no means been accomplished; and it will not be accomplished without a real measuring up of class forces in struggle, not only in Eastern Europe, but on a world scale. First of all, whatever illusions the masses may have temporarily in the viability of the program advanced by the petty bourgeoisie, that will soon be exposed by the impact of their reactionary schemes on the lives of millions of people. Every single day the international bourgeoisie examines the situation in Poland with nervous apprehension, like a doctor standing over the bed of patient who has just come out of surgery for a quadruple bypass. The bourgeoisie fears and expects a massive social eruption against the program of Walesa and Mazowiecki, and fears the impact of such a rebellion throughout Eastern Europe.
Let me read how the bourgeoisie describes the program it is advancing. This is an editorial which appeared on Wednesday (1/3/90) in the New York Times entitled “Poland’s Brave Plunge” (about as brave as a plunge out of the top window of a skyscraper). It says the following:
The Polish celebration of the new year has already ended. The crash program to propel the economy into capitalism has gone abruptly into effect, and that means pain. The price of heating fuel may jump by seven times. Other necessities which also cost much more and hundreds of thousands of workers will soon be unemployed.”
Who’s ever made a revolution to achieve such conditions?
There is no certainty that the brazen plan to revive the economy will work.”
Consider for a moment the class standpoint “Revive the economy”—for whom?
Success depends on the willingness of Polish workers to swallow severe short-term losses because they trust that their new government is working for their long-term benefit. Herein lies Poland’s advantage among the East bloc countries just emerging from the stifling grip of Communism: trust.
If that’s all they’ve got, there’s problems. Then they say:
To stop raging inflation, the fledgling government must control money creation. To do that it must control government spending. In Poland that means ending widespread price subsidies. Hence almost all price controls have now suddenly ended. Prices of food, fuel and nearly everything will soar for a short time.
If wages are allowed to follow, the battle against inflation will be lost. So the program calls for wage control and therefore a deliberate fall in living standards. If workers go along, the budget deficit can be eradicated and inflation licked. Afterward, living standards can recover. If workers protest and strike, the entire program will collapse.
Price hikes will not be the only assault on workers. The Government will also end most subsidies to industry. Bankruptcies will occur, creating something new and frightening in a society accustomed to Communist control—unemployment.
This is the program which capitalism is outlining. Strip away all the democratic demagogy and what is the reality? They’re saying that the restoration of capitalism means the starvation of a considerable section of the population and that’s what they’re proposing—starvation and the impoverishment of millions of people. So whatever confusion there may be, it will be cleared up by reality. As Trotsky was fond of saying, people respond differently to an argument; everyone responds the same way to a red hot poker. This is what is now going to be applied to the masses of workers in Poland.
One thing is certain: we stand before what will prove to be a protracted and bitter struggle. The future of Eastern Europe is not going to be decided in one, two, three, four or five months. We are going to see an intensification of class conflict on a scale unprecedented in world history. There is going to be an ever greater interaction between the struggles of the working class in the Stalinist countries, or former Stalinist countries and those in the advanced imperialist centers, as well as in the backward capitalist countries. We base ourselves on this perspective, and we have absolutely nothing in common with the petty-bourgeois pessimists who respond to these events with real outbursts of hysteria and fear. In fact what these petty bourgeois are bemoaning is the fact that the Stalinist police have lost control of the working class. They are frightened of the class struggle. They look upon the bureaucracy as their protector, as the regulator of class antagonisms. This has broken down, and it is in fact true that if the petty-bourgeois radicals in Germany could have their way, they would once again set up the wall up in East Berlin. That was a political arrangement which the radicals could accept.
It is more than ever clear today that the whole perspective of Pabloism was nothing more than an adaptation to the temporary domination of the working class movement by the Stalinist bureaucracy. Pablo proclaimed just 40 years ago that the establishment of the so-called people’s democracies in Eastern Europe represented the beginning of a transition to socialism that would last for centuries. He said that these deformed, rotten police dictatorships were the necessary form which the development of socialism would take for centuries. Well, as Cannon once said, it just goes to show that some centuries are shorter than others! This one lasted just 40 years. What the IC said three or four years ago is being vindicated. We said in The Heritage that these states are unviable.
You can call them deformed workers’ states, decrepit workers’ states, distorted workers’ states, senile workers’ states—at any rate, they are not viable political entities. It demonstrates the truth of the basic Marxist proposition that the road to socialism is only possible on the basis of a proletarian revolution. Workers’ states cannot be established on the basis of bureaucratic manipulations from the top. Socialism is not simply a question of administrative or police-military changes in the forms of property. It is a question of the revolutionary mobilization of the class-conscious working class.
This is precisely the historic significance of the Fourth International and the significance of the struggle of our movement that has been waged over the last 35 years against Pabloite revisionism. The International Committee was founded in struggle against a petty-bourgeois tendency which had capitulated to the postwar settlement between imperialism and Stalinism; and, on that basis, rejected the entire historical and internationalist perspective of Marxism. It is really worthwhile now to reread the documents of the late 1940s, when the Marxist elements in the Fourth International were resisting the attempts of the impressionists to abandon basic Marxist positions on the basis of an impulsive and eclectic reaction to events in Eastern Europe. Allow me to read a few passages from those documents. Anyone who believes that theoretical questions are not significant can only ponder in the light of historical development, just how critical those discussions were in the 1940s and early 1950s. Let us review a discussion which was held in the political committee of the Socialist Workers Party back in 1950. Morris Stein, reviewing the discussion, said the following:
Let us therefore start with this question of: What are the criteria of a workers state? In Marxist theory and in historical experience, we know of only one way in which a workers state can come into existence—by way of the proletarian revolution. That is, the proletariat, through its independent mass action and guided by the revolutionary party, is the only force in modem society able to abolish capitalist rule and construct a workers state.
We know also, from theory, and one might add a century of Marxist practice, that the bourgeois state cannot be reformed into a workers state, but it and all its institutions must be abolished. And only then, can it be replaced by a workers state and its specific ruling organs....
Purely economic criteria for establishing the existence or non-existence of the workers state have figured in our movement only in discussing the degeneration of a workers state previously established by a proletarian revolution....
In brief, the most important element in the social revolution is the consciousness and self-action of the working class as expressed in the policy of its vanguard party.
And then he answered the position of Hansen who argued that the statification of the productive forces was the essential issue:
It seems to me that it is comrade Hansen and not Germain who needs enlightenment—not on planning—but on the difference between a workers state arising from a proletarian revolution and this process of structural assimilation, or incorporation, of countries which the Stalinist bureaucracy is now trying to carry through as a substitute for proletarian revolution.
The minority will be wasting its shots if it continues to fire away at planning as the criteria for a workers state; or at dependence on the world market; or at the capitalist nature of agriculture in the buffer countries, and so on. We readily grant all these points and even go a step further and say that the immediate nationalization of industry is not necessarily a criterion for a workers state either—provided the regime in the country is that of workers’ power arising from a proletarian revolution....
They are fully aware, for example, that the origin of the Soviet Union in the October Revolution is an inseparable part of our definition of the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers state. They have tried to overcome this difficulty in two ways, both equally dangerous. On the one hand, some of them try to minimize the importance of origin. This is very dangerous because such a course can only lead them into the trap of “bureaucratic revolution.” That would be the unavoidable conclusion of such an argument pursued to its logical end.
The simplified approach which reduces itself in essence to the proposition: nationalization equals workers state, can only disorient our movement. It is a caricature of Marxism. It substitutes bureaucratic nationalization decrees for a real analysis of the living class forces and their relative position within society. Such an approach cannot conceivably serve us either as a guide to understanding the events transpiring in the buffer countries or as an aid in shaping our policy toward them.
Nationalization of industry, important as it is, can be considered as only one field in which the bourgeoisie has been compelled to surrender its decisive positions. But the bourgeoisie still has, as I mentioned earlier, considerable strength in society... (The Heritage, pp. 176-78).
Now, I’ll read one more quote which is from Cannon:
I don’t think that you can change the class character of a state by manipulation at the top. It can only be done by revolution which is followed by [a] fundamental change in property relations. That is what I understand by a change in the class character of [the] state. That is what happened in the Soviet Union. The workers first took power and began the transformation of the property relations....
I don’t think there has been a social revolution in the buffer countries and I don’t think Stalinism carried out a revolution. My opinion of the situation is that a tremendous revolutionary movement was indicated by the situation toward the end of the war with the victories of the Red Army, and that the instinctive movement of the masses was to carry through, sweep away capitalism, workers take power and immediately unite themselves with the Soviet Union or federate the Balkan states and create a sufficient arena for socialist planning.
‘I think the role of Stalinism is not revolutionary at all. It gave an impulse to the revolution in this sense that the victories of the Red Army stimulated the revolutionary movement. But the actual role of Stalinism was to strangle that revolution, to suppress the mass movement of the workers and reestablish the capitalist state and capitalist property relations. If you once begin to play with the idea that class character of the state can be changed by manipulations in top circles you open the door for all kinds of revisions of basic theory. I believe not only that the buffer countries can return to the capitalist order, but the chances are that they will, unless the situation is altered by a revolutionary movement in Europe (pp. 165-66).
This was very far-sighted. The relevance of these discussions to the analysis of the present period is extremely clear. It demonstrates the enormous significance of the whole struggle of the International Committee and especially that which has been waged by the International Committee since 1985.
It might seem remarkable that the central political question which arose from the split in 1985 was the nature of the states in Eastern Europe. What might have appeared to be an abstract question, of interest only to specialists in the history of old disputes in the Fourth International, has now turned out to be the most pressing political issue in the world. The ICFI worked out and clarified its political and theoretical conceptions and established the unviable character of those states, insisting on the historical significance of the independent revolutionary role of the working class. It is now clear that the theoretical struggle which we carried out against the renegades to clarify these questions was a subjective expression of a profound objective process.
Perhaps comrades will recall in past meetings how when we discussed the intervention of the International Committee in 1985, we made the point that the strength of our intervention at that time was determined by the theoretical work which had been done in preparation for that struggle, particularly the work which had been done from 1982 on in subjecting the opportunism of the WRP to a careful critique. Therefore when the eruption came inside the Workers Revolutionary Party, we were prepared. We didn’t have to begin making an analysis, we already had one. And we made the point that the theoretical work carried out by the International Committee would similarly prepare us for the great eruptions when they came in the objective situation and that is certainly the case.
When the eruptions began in Eastern Europe the International Committee already had developed its political line, its political orientation. That is why we are not in the position today where we have to sit down and begin asking ourselves, well, what are these states in Eastern Europe anyway, where we would have had a situation where it would have been possible for people to get up and say, the downfall of the Stalinist regimes is a downfall for the working class, it is ruining the property relations established, and so on. It is precisely the radicals and petty-bourgeois revisionists who adopt such a position and declare that at all costs what must now be done is defend the territorial integrity of the GDR, to defend the separate East German state. We are, of course, able to advance an independent revolutionary line for the working class in East Germany, for the German working class as a whole and the working class throughout Europe.
Our party fights to defend and develop all the gains of the working class and that includes the nationalized property relations which have been established in Eastern Europe. But we don’t make a fetish of them and we don’t elevate them above the general revolutionary interests of the working class as a whole. At any rate, to the extent that these nationalizations had a progressive role to play, they can only be defended on the basis of the revolutionary mobilization of the working class in opposition to the Stalinist regimes and within the context of an international revolutionary program. We are not defenders of the partition of Germany as it was established by the Stalinists and the imperialists. We fight for the unity of the German working class as part of the unity of the international working class. This sets us into opposition to all these really reactionary petty-bourgeois tendencies among the Pabloites who are today working in the round table in East Berlin with the Modrow regime. They’re being financed by the East German state to continue to subordinate the working class to the reactionary policies of the East German bureaucracy, which is now working openly to reintroduce capitalism into East Germany under the cover of defending the GDR. It is possible for comrades now to understand the objective significance of our 35-year struggle against Pabloite revisionism.
The IC has prepared for this situation. If you review all the perspectives documents over the past few years, they have an almost uncanny accuracy.
The manner in which the International Committee has been able to anticipate and prepare for these developments is the most powerful vindication of Marxism. It is of course the most powerful refutation of all the claims that somehow the crisis of Stalinism represents the death of Marxism. The future of socialism has never depended on bureaucracy. It has in fact depended on the struggle against bureaucracy. Those who would claim that socialism or Marxism is defeated on the basis of the crisis of Stalinism would have to demonstrate that the need of the working class for socialism had lessened in the present historical period.
More than 100 years ago in the course of an important controversy which Plekhanov was conducting in Russia, he answered one of the slogans of the petty-bourgeois democrats. They were denying that the working class had any independent role to play in a revolution, let alone a leading role, and argued for the construction of a party embracing all classes. Nevertheless, they conceded that it was important to organize workers and said that the working class was “important for the revolution,” that is, they wanted workers in their party. Plekhanov rejected that phrase, “The workers are important for the revolution.” He said, No, it is not the workers that are important for the revolution, but the revolution that is important for the workers! That is, he was explaining that the revolution was something that the working class needed. Revolution was not some sort of abstract process, but a historic event in which classes played a definite role and the revolution that was coming in Russia would be a working class revolution led by the working class and therefore the working class had to create a party in order to carry through this revolution.
Today, of course, one reads many articles in which the question is asked: What is the fate of socialism? But that really is not the decisive question. The issue which concerns us is not what is the fate of socialism, but what is the fate of the working class? It isn’t that the working class is important for socialism; it is socialism that is important for the working class! By this we mean the following: Before anyone can convince us that socialism is dead, they have to tell us what perspective they have to offer for the working class. None of us are dogmatists. If someone can convince us that there is a better path for the working class and for its liberation from oppression, we will listen to them with great interest But no one has in fact even suggested that such an alternative exists.
In fact, no alternative is being presented to socialism at the very time when the conditions of the working class in all capitalist countries are deteriorating, the conditions of exploitation are intensifying, the use of state repression against the working class is becoming an ever more common phenomenon. What are the prospects for democracy in Poland when scores of workers are being systematically framed up in the United States, which is supposed to be the pinnacle of bourgeois democracy and, in fact, the working class does not really have any democratic rights to conduct any struggle on issues which are important to it.
The reality is that the class struggle is sharpening and it is out of the class struggle that the necessity for socialism emerges. There is no other solution for the working class except the dictatorship of the proletariat and the socialist revolution.
This basic perspective will now find an ever wider response among the class conscious working class. What we must recognize is that the long period where the working class movement was suppressed by Stalinism and petty-bourgeois democracy has come to an end. The long, organic period of political stagnation is over. What now emerges is a period that will see the very rapid political radicalization of ever wider layers of workers.
It sometimes appears that our enemies are more conscious of our role and the strength of our movement than we are: thus, the warning of the SWP that the Workers League is going to grow. That is the considered opinion of the anti-Marxist intelligence experts of the US government working inside the labor movement And, indeed, we will grow because the rebellion of the working class against the bankrupt, reactionary, obsolete bureaucracy of the AFL-CIO is no less inevitable here than the rebellion of the Eastern European workers against the Stalinist autocrats.
We, the sections of the International Committee, are the most decisive factor in the ultimate resolution of this world crisis. What happens in Germany in the next period immediately ahead depends to a large extent on the political struggle of our own movement We are not merely commentators. Our movement is a vital and decisive force.
That is already recognized by the Stalinists and the imperialists. Before a mass demonstration on November 4, the comrades of the BSA made a very crucial decision. As that demonstration was going to be held in East Germany—this was before the Wall opened up—the comrades decided that the time had come to intervene, that it was a do or die situation for the Trotskyist movement The comrades had decided they would be carrying out a distribution of literature for just 15 minutes. So within about 15 minutes, several thousand pamphlets were sold at that mass demonstration and hundreds of workers came up to grab the first Trotskyist literature they had ever seen.
Within a few days there was a denunciation of the BSA in the Stalinist government press and Ernest Mandel was flown into East Berlin to be interviewed by the Stalinist press, in which he denounced the activities of the BSA as outside agitation. He said that the Trotskyists from West Germany had no business interfering in the affairs of East Germany. That’s the real role of revisionism in the present situation. That intervention was crucial. It took on a profound meaning within the working class in East Germany. That leaflet was distributed throughout the country. It found its way into the factories. Now we are able to speak to workers on a far larger scale. Ours is the only movement which is fighting against any adaptation to the Modrow-Gysi regime, which is rejecting the reactionary program of the so-called round table discussions and fighting for the independent mobilization of the working class in East Germany on the basis of the political revolution and fighting for the unity of the East and West German working class in a common struggle against imperialism and Stalinism.
What we do is decisive for the fate of the world socialist revolution and, therefore, for the fate of mankind, and in the United States no less than in Germany. One might say that all of Marxism boils down to that conclusion.