International Committee of the Fourth International
The World Capitalist Crisis and the Tasks of the Fourth International: Perspectives Resolution of the ICFI

Pabloism on the Role of Stalinism

The opportunist theories of the Pabloites found their first expression in their attempt to attribute to the Soviet bureaucracy a potentially revolutionary role. In the schema devised by Pablo and Ernest Mandel, the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie was no longer the driving force of historical progress. Rather, the class struggle as it was defined by Marxism had been superseded, according to Pablo, by a conflict between two mighty blocs, “the capitalist regime and the Stalinist world.” Within this new “objective social reality,” there was no place for the revolutionary mobilization of the working class against both the imperialist and Stalinist regimes under the banner of the Fourth International. Since Pablo had concluded that a global war between the two blocs was inevitable, and that “such a war would take on, from the very beginning, the character of an international civil war,” there remained nothing for the Trotskyist movement to do but attempt to influence the existing Stalinist parties and move them to the left. The Pabloites claimed that the sheer force of objective conditions, with the auxiliary assistance of Trotskyists working inside the Stalinist parties, would drive these parties to the left and compel them to overthrow the imperialist regimes, thus establishing “deformed workers states” that would last for centuries.

History has mercilessly exposed this sham perspective. The premises upon which Pablo based his conception of “objective social reality”—the hegemonic position of US imperialism on the one hand and the dominant position of the Soviet bureaucracy on the other—were soon contradicted by the worsening American balance of payments and the outbreak of rebellions in Eastern Europe against the Soviet bureaucracy.

Not merely the extravagances of the theory of “War-Revolution,” but, more significantly, the underlying conception of bureaucratic self-reform and the potentially revolutionary role of Stalinism has been discredited by history. The evolution of Stalinism has not been to the left, i.e., toward revolutionary struggle against world imperialism. It has, on the contrary, been consistently toward the right, i.e., toward ever more direct collaboration with world imperialism against the working class.

Nevertheless, at every point when the crisis of the bureaucracy posed the necessity for the intensification of the independent revolutionary struggle of the Fourth International against Stalinism, the Pabloites have promoted the illusion that the maneuvers of the bureaucracy constituted a new episode in the process of self-reform. Repeatedly, the Pabloites discovered in the bureaucracy not a deadly enemy of Marxism, but a political incubator for the development of various strains of Trotskyism. Thus, in March 1962, Ernest Mandel, surveying the disputes erupting within the various ruling Stalinist bureaucracies and its allies, made the following astounding analysis:

“It could be asserted that the present debate within the international communist movement [what a soothing euphemism!] reflects revolutionary Marxism in a ‘broken’ way, as the crystal breaks up the sun’s rays into the spectrum of the colors which it contains. All the Trotskyist position[s] are to be found again amongst the various participants in the debate, but no present tendency adopts them all: the Russians liquidate the Stalinist heritage, the Chinese come close to the theory of permanent revolution, the Cubans boldly assert that a Workers’ State must appeal to the proletarians of other countries to extend the revolution internationally, the Yugoslavs explain that management of the factories must be in the hands of workers’ councils, the Italians (and to a lesser extent the Polish) return to the Leninist tradition of free discussion within the Party and the unions, the Albanians proclaim the principle of equality of rights for all Communist Parties, great or small, and necessity for settling disputes through frank and loyal international discussions. Only one basic position of revolutionary Marxism is still not defended by any of these parties, remains a ‘monopoly’ of our Trotskyist movement: the absolute necessity for a revolutionary International, based on democratic centralism, to co-ordinate and guide the international communist movement.” Only indeed!

Writing on the eve of the 1963 reunification, Mandel held out the hope that the self-reform process taking place within the Stalinist bureaucracies would lead to a new international revolutionary movement of which the Fourth International would be a part: “Through the present fragmentation and disorder, the world communist movement makes its way inexorably, according to its own laws, towards a unity and an organization at a higher level, towards a Communist International constituted on the basis of the Leninist program, adapted to the reality of our epoch.”

And Pablo, not to be outdone by his old colleague, pontificated on the irreversible character of the break with Stalinism: “Ten years after the death of Stalin the process of de-Stalinization in the USSR in particular has taken such scope that it has become not only irreversible but it has already laid down their bases for the revolutionary renewal of the international Communist movement as a whole.... The USSR is not taking the road towards a more ‘reformist’ era while being left behind on the plane of revolutionary leadership by no matter what other workers state; but on the contrary is moving towards a firmer, more determined and clear role in support of the world revolution.”

The Pabloite capitulation to Stalinism did not stop at these revisions of the Trotskyist program. It also led to the cover-up of the crimes committed by the GPU-KGB agents of the Kremlin bureaucracy against the Fourth International. From the 1950s on, the Pabloites opposed any investigation into the activities of Stalinist agents who had organized the assassinations of leading members of the Fourth International, including Trotsky and his son, Leon Sedov. Following the 1955 exposure of Mark Zborowski—the key GPU agent inside the Paris center of the Fourth International who provided the information used by the Stalinists to kill Sedov, Fourth International secretary Rudolf Element, and the GPU defector Ignace Reiss—Ernest Mandel directly opposed a proposal to organize an investigation by the Fourth International into Zborowski’s past activities.

In 1975 the International Committee of the Fourth International initiated Security and the Fourth International, an inquiry into the assassination of Leon

Trotsky, the first such investigation since that conducted by SWP lawyer Albert Goldman immediately following the crime. Hundreds of official and previously classified US government documents, many of which were uncovered through the Freedom of Information Act, illuminated the massive GPU network that had organized the murder. From the start, this investigation was denounced by the Pabloites, who feared that the ICFI revelations of GPU crimes against the Trotskyist movement would cut across their own ever more open collaboration with the Stalinist parties.

The opposition of the Pabloites became hysterical when the ICFI investigation uncovered information indicating that Joseph Hansen, the Pabloite leader of the American SWP who once served as a secretary to Leon Trotsky in Coyocan, had met secretly with the GPU prior to the 1940 assassination and then entered into discussions with the US government, requesting a secret contact “to whom information can be imparted with impunity.” The International Committee subsequently learned, on the basis of sworn testimony given by surviving members of the SWP’s 1940 leadership, that the party had known nothing of Hansen’s contacts with the US government.

The Pabloites repeatedly rejected calls issued by the International Committee for the establishment of a commission of inquiry to examine and pass judgment on the evidence which had been gathered by the ICFI into Security and the Fourth International. Instead, they organized an international campaign to denounce the investigation as a “shameless frame-up.” Among those whom they defended as the innocent victims of this so-called frame-up was not only Hansen but also Sylvia Franklin, the personal secretary of James P. Cannon in the late 1930s and 1940s, who had been exposed in 1947 by the GPU defector Louis Budenz as a Stalinist plant. Despite Franklin’s sudden disappearance after Budenz’s revelations and her subsequent collaboration with the US government in the preparation of the case against her former GPU controller, Robert Soblen, Hansen and the SWP continued to praise her as an “exemplary” comrade. The leader of the SWP, Jack Barnes, publicly declared that Franklin was his personal hero. But in 1983, as the result of a lawsuit brought by a former SWP member, Alan Gelfand, against the US government and its agents in the party leadership, the hitherto secret testimony of Franklin before US grand juries in 1954 and 1958 was finally released. The transcripts showed Franklin admitted that she had functioned as a Stalinist spy inside the SWP. Gelfand also obtained evidence which explained the implacable defense of Franklin by Hansen and the SWP. It emerged from Hansen’s private correspondence that he had also been identified as a GPU agent by Louis Budenz. Notwithstanding this irrefutable confirmation of the International Committee’s charges, the Pabloites continue to defend Franklin and Hansen. This defense of agents and indifference to the crimes which they committed on behalf of Stalinism and imperialism against the Fourth International is only the most grotesque expression of the Pabloites’ betrayal of Trotskyism.

In both their programmatic revisions and cover-up of Stalinist crimes, the Pabloites sought to divert the Fourth International away from a revolutionary struggle against Stalinism, promote illusions in the bureaucracy, distort the content of Trotsky’s analysis, blunt its revolutionary edge, and justify the liquidation of the Fourth International’s independent program. To recall these Pabloite falsifications of Trotskyism, which have been refuted by history, is not an academic exercise. The lessons of the struggle against revisionism must be thoroughly assimilated to meet the new political challenges posed by the crisis of Stalinism.