On October 3, 1990, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany, known as the GDR), a state with 17 million inhabitants, was disbanded 41 years after its founding and incorporated into the Federal Republic of Germany on a capitalist basis. Just a little over a year later, the Soviet Union was formally dissolved by the Stalinist bureaucracy.
Far from representing a 'triumph' of liberal democracy and capitalism, the collapse of the Stalinist regimes was the most advanced expression of the crisis of world imperialism. It confirmed the Trotskyist analysis of the counter-revolutionary role of Stalinism and opened up a new period of imperialist wars and social revolution.
In Germany, this has been expressed particularly sharply. Following reunification, the German bourgeoisie launched its first foreign military interventions since the fall of the Nazi regime in 1945, first in Croatia and then in Kosovo. Today, the return of German militarism is well advanced. The German ruling class is systematically building up fascist forces within the state apparatus and the army, while whitewashing the crimes of Nazism.
The ICFI intervened in the crisis of Stalinism in the USSR and East Germany on the basis of the program of socialist internationalism and fought for a political revolution by the working class against the bureaucracy. The German section of the ICFI distributed thousands of leaflets and volumes of Trotskyist literature among workers in the GDR, and delegates of the International Committee travelled to the Soviet Union in 1989-1991.
This intervention represented the most systematic effort by the Fourth International to establish sections in this region since the Stalinist Great Terror had murdered thousands of Trotskyists and revolutionaries. It was made possible, above all, by the expulsion of the Pabloites from the International Committee in the split with the Workers Revolutionary Party in 1985-1986, which had created the basis for a renaissance of Marxism within the International Committee.
However, the socialist and historical consciousness of the Soviet and international working class had been profoundly undermined by the combined impact of Stalinism and Pabloism, which had cut off workers and intellectuals from the Trotskyist movement for decades. As a result, the Stalinist bureaucracies were able to resolve their crisis in their own interests, completing the counter-revolution against October 1917 and restoring private property relations.
Analyzing the origins of the dissolution of the USSR, and the tasks of the Fourth International, David North stressed at the 12th Plenum of the ICFI in March 1992:
'Stalinism set out to destroy the greatest conquest of Marxism: the development of the revolutionary political consciousness of the working class, the transformation of an oppressed and exploited mass into a conscious historical force....It falls upon the Fourth International, led by the International Committee, to reestablish within the working class the great political culture of Marxism. That is the only foundation upon which a genuine revolutionary workers movement can be built.'