In Defense of Revisionism (1946)

Submitted by dalcassian on 22 May, 2014 - 7:20

The survival and expansion of Russian Stalinism threw all the political compass points of Trotsky's pre-World War "Trotskyism" into seismic confusion. Years of political ferment produced two "Trotskyisms" - Shachtmanites and Cannonites. The tiny Irish Group in this document declared for Shachtman.

Since the formation of the Workers Party the theories of Shachtmanite comrades have reached the average party member in the Fourth International only at second hand; and, even then, chiefly in the form of excerpts published with the aim of discrediting them. The majority of comrades interested in questions of theory are introduced to Shachtman's ideas through the pages of In Defense of Marxism or Cannon's book on the proletarian party. True, these contain material written by Shachtman and others (including Burnham), but no material outlining the developed position of the Workers Party. From a purely formal angle no party leadership is obliged to circulate the writings of the Workers Party among its membership. However, the British party in the recent past set the excellent example of publishing material submitted by the IKD which, though in flesh a part of the International, is nevertheless, in the eyes of the comrades, a heretical revisionist influence.

We feel that the British leadership should circulate the main programmatic documents of the Workers Party among its membership. This is especially incumbent upon them in view of their recent fusion resolution. As is known, Comrade Cannon postponed (actually rejected) a united front agreement with the Workers Party – proposed as a preliminary step toward fusion – on the grounds that first the theoretical points in dispute had to be sifted. The British leadership rejected this standpoint. It would have been logical if, at this stage, the British leadership had published the leading programmatic statements of the Workers Party with a view to showing the membership in Britain that Comrade Cannon had taken a wrong position; that, in fact, the theoretical divergences were not incompatible with fusion.

International Catastrophe’
However, in the British fusion resolution there was inserted a queer remark, contradicting the sense of the general statement; namely, that it would be an ‘international catastrophe’ if the views of the Shachtmanites prevailed in the united organization. Now, if Trotskyist groupings merge to form a common party it surely means that there is sufficient solidarity on programmatic fundamentals to permit either tendency to become the majority without a fresh split being thereby precipitated. Yet, supposing the Shachtmanites obtained a clear and stable majority inside the fusion over a lengthy and critical period. How then, could Comrade Cannon and his followers react to this ‘international catastrophe’ otherwise than by splitting? – unless, for a period, they remained inside in the manner that Trotsky remained within the CI, hoping for a reversal in the balance of power. But if there is a serious possibility of the Shachtmanite tendency gaining adherents within a united party, and if the victory of this tendency would lead to an international calamity, then Cannon is right. It is correct to deny the Shachtmanites the possibility of expansion.

Otherwise, your support for fusion rests on the assumption that the Shachtmanite comrades will inevitably remain the minority within the united party: that the programmatic superiority of Comrade Cannon's tendency will finally exert its weight, disintegrating the followers of Shachtman and re-educating them along orthodox lines.
If this is your case for fusion then you are employing the same tactic which Cannon suspects Shachtman of employing. Comrade Cannon rejects your optimism, and with justification. For, while the SWP has the perspective of advance through the winning of fresh adherents, the WP, much weaker in influence among the TU masses, aims at growth largely through the winning of SWP militants. Toward this end the cadres of the Workers Party arm themselves with a thorough knowledge of the SWP positions. It can be taken for granted that the SWP membership's knowledge of the Workers Party position is much more fragmentary. In fact, Comrade Cannon freely conceded this point when he called for a campaign of theoretical clarification. Consequently, there are no valid grounds for assuming that within a common party the ideas of the Shachtmanites would gradually wither away.

Still bearing in mind the British majority fusion resolution, it is astonishing to read in the resolution of the British CC majority on the Russian question that the theory of Bureaucratic Collectivism inevitably leads to a complete rejection of communism. Does the record of the Workers Party over six difficult years lend any credence to this surmise? True, many of the intellectual deserters – most notorious among them, Burnham – reject the idea that Russia is a degenerate Workers' State. It is axiomatic that out of false theoretical positions can come the degeneration of cadres. By adopting the position that a stable bureaucratically managed economy is possible, and even inevitable, both inside the USSR and internationally, Burnham decisively severed theoretical connections with Shachtman, and with all tendencies which hold that the next historic stage will be the stage of proletarian dictatorship ushering in the socialist system. What led Burnham to desert? Clearly, a complete loss of faith in the international socialist revolution. However, the onus is on the British CC majority to show generally in what way the Shachtmanite theory of Bureaucratic Collectivism leads to the abandonment of a communist perspective. Comrade Haston links Shachtman and Burnham together as though they hold a common theoretical position on Russia. But, apart from a use of the term bureaucratic collectivism, what is there in common?
Wrong Label for Healy

Thus far, we have mentioned only the British majority. However, the minority comrades are, if anything, even more vehement in their denunciation of Shachtmanism. According to Comrade Healy, the revisionist tendencies among some of the English comrades spring from the tension between British imperialism and Russia. As befits a representative of the ‘finished programme school’ of theoreticians, Comrade Healy applies Trotsky's 1940 appraisal of Shachtman – a totally false appraisal as Shachtman's whole subsequent record has shown – to British comrades in 1946. The minority leader does not suspect that, among comrades of revolutionary thought and temperament, it was most probably the period of Anglo-Russian collaboration which supplied the thought germ leading to reconsideration of the ‘Degenerated Workers' State’ theory.

Comrade Healy must have writhed with mingled indignation and astonishment when he studied Haston's article, which attributed to him a common position with Shachtman on the question of the nature of Russian distribution. We must confess that we did some writhing ourselves. However, Comrade Healy deserves to he made to writhe; for while his theory leads nowhere to Shachtman, it does lead straight to Burnham's‘Managerial Revolution.’

Dictation of the Law of Value
Since the period of its inception, in 1917, the USSR has existed under the dictation of the law of value. In Lenin's day, following the termination of the extraordinary regime of War Communism, control over the bourgeois mode of distribution was exercised by the workers' committees and the Soviet Government.

In the period leading toward the consolidation of the Stalinist reaction the levers of control were altered. Control was slipping from the hands of the tired and bewildered masses. Heavily engaged in an offensive against the Left Opposition, preliminary to a showdown with the Rightists who reflected kulak capitalist pressure, the bureaucracy was still compelled to countenance at least the formal functioning of working-class control over production and distribution. As yet the bureaucracy lacked an independent point of support. This was the stage when Trotsky still held reform of the party and state machine to be possible. It was the stage – the Degenerate Workers' State stage – best answering the analogy with a degenerate trade union machine: the stage when, in magnitude and nature, the crimes of Stalin corresponded to the crimes of the Noske-Ebert regime.

It required forcible collectivization to justify before the proletarian masses the building of a civil armed force of sufficient size and strength to provide an independent base for the bureaucracy. It required the huge industrial expansion and the organization of the collective farm system to provide the bureaucracy with the necessary dimensions, cohesion, and economic power to smash decisively the remnants of working-class control.

The political expropriation accomplished during the five-year plan signified at the same time an end to all proletarian control over conditions of work, production plans, and over the mode of distribution. The Moscow Trials were the final act in this drama of expropriation; and, at the same time, police measures designed to stifle the emergence of a new layer of Bolshevik revolutionaries. Henceforward, the Red Directors and the Stalinist Party functionaries held exclusive command over the economy and the state in general; thus constituting a new ruling class. Henceforward the drive of the Stalinist rulers to augment their power, prestige and the revenue was the sole determining human factor involved in investment plans and commodity distribution.

Yet, while the Stalinist totalitarians established their rule over the bones of the dictatorship of the proletariat there was one dictatorship over which they could not triumph – the dictatorship of the law of value, supreme law-maker and law-breaker, in any exploitative society.

The theories of the ‘stable, managed economy’ school rest upon a lack of understanding of the law of value. Socialism permits a harmonious expansion of productive forces, and a constant increase in material well-being, precisely because the command of society as a whole over the economy annuls the law of the minimum wage – the cornerstone of capitalism and bureaucratic collectivism. A planned, nationalized economy is one of the basic attributes of socialism, but by no means the whole essence. It is when exploitation of man by man ends that socialism begins, and the crises inherent in previous rounds of accumulation disappear. In the Workers' State, transitional to socialism, wage labor still exists, but the dictatorship of the proletariat withers away precisely as wage labor withers away. The nationalized economy is a dying commodity economy.

Planning and nationalization cannot, therefore, absolve bureaucratic collectivism from crises and social revolution. Thus, the distinction between the Stalinist State and a hypothetical state capitalist regime relates not to the essence of the system but to the superstructure. Within a society of state capitalism the rentiers would possess the right to buy and sell shares and bonds within the limitations imposed by the planning commissions. Freedom from the interference of investors no doubt endows the bureaucratic collectivist administration with a greater resilience than the capitalist system, in whatever shape, possesses; but it provides neither the guarantee nor even the possibility of escaping crises and disintegration.

The expansion of Russian industry has taken place within the framework of a potentially huge, and politically integrated, market. The planned, nationalized economy has undoubtedly exempted the Russian state from the cyclical crises of relative overproduction which were a marked feature of expanding capitalism and which continued to shake the capitalist system in its period of degeneration. Hitherto, the Russian economy has experienced its own peculiar type of crises, consequent upon the chronic shortage of producers' goods. It is this difference in production levels, in relation to their respective markets, which lies at the root of the opposing forms of imperialist plunder pursued by Stalinist imperialism and finance-capital imperialism. Those who consider the main distinction to be in opposing property forms overlook, or do not understand, that a chronic crisis of relative overproduction is ultimately inescapable within any social order resting upon the capitalist law of value.

Assume, hypothetically, that history grants time enough to the Stalinist system to expand the production of producers' goods to the limits imposed on the market by the minimum wage law. What will happen then? An unsaleable flood of consumers' goods, and an unemployable surplus of producers goods will appear, forcing the bureaucratic collectivist state into the forms of expansion typical today of the finance-capital states. Those who, forgetting about the law of value, imagine that the managed, nationalized nature of the economy is a guarantee against this are Burnhamites, or Stalinists, but not Marxists.

Students of Trotsky are familiar with the social contradictions which prevented the emergence of the old Russian bourgeoisie as the successor of Czarism. A kulak seizure of state power at the end o! the 1920s would undoubtedly have found the new bourgeoisie more favorably situated from the standpoint of expanding capitalist production, primarily because, thanks to the Revolution, the landlord class had disappeared permanently. Yet the foreign trade monopoly would have been broken, collectivization would never have been undertaken, and the level of production would have remained extremely low. Without the planned, nationalized economy no comparable expansion of industry would have taken place. This is the main proof advanced by most comrades that Russia is a ‘Degenerated Workers' State’ resting upon a progressive form of economy. Yet, if tomorrow the Stalinist Red Directors were to arm themselves with stocks and bonds a regime of state capitalism would prevail. The planned, integrated form of economy would remain, and there are no valid economic grounds for assuming that the efficiency of production would be greatly lessened.

Towards Capitalism?
Trotsky held that the Stalinist bureaucracy was more than a dishonest plundering servant. He held it to be the undisputed master of Russian society. He considered it would be monstrous for comrades to break with one another over the concepts class or caste. He rejected the concept of class mainly on the grounds that it did not correspond to the ‘arbitrary, shut-in’ character of the bureaucracy. It was against the defeatists who held that the bureaucracy could dominate over an epoch that Trotsky polemicized so bitterly.

In his article, ‘The USSR and War,’ Trotsky, reviewed in passing the theoretical possibility of a world system of bureaucratic collectivism, arising out of a further prolonged series of failures on the part of the international working class. Trotsky was polemicizing against a former comrade, Bruno R., who had grown convinced of the coming triumph of the bureaucratic collectivist system on a world scale, owing to the congenital incapacity of the workers to determine their own fate,, Moreover, Bruno R. seemed to regard the bureaucracy, as a viable instrument of history answering the inner needs of the productive forces. Such a standpoint contains a double fallacy: (1) a totally false theory relating to the weaknesses of the workers and their vanguard; (2) the untenable theory that bureaucratic collectivism can function over an epoch as a stable, workable alternative to either capitalism or socialism.

However, when Comrade Shachtman correctly seized upon this passage in Trotsky's article to show that Trotsky had theoretically conceded the possibility of a planned economy, which was no longer a Degenerate Workers' State, some witty polemicist made the reply that such a possibility about equals the possibility of the moon turning into green cheese. The sense of humor of this comrade is unquestionably superior to his logic: for, while there is nothing in the composition of the moon to give anyone but a madman the right to advance the hypothesis that it may turn into cheese, it is quite otherwise with planned, nationalized economy. Modern large-scale industry contains the inherent possibility of providing the material basis of various social formations – ’free’ monopoly capitalism, state monopoly capitalism, bureaucratic collectivism, dictatorship of the proletariat, socialism. ‘Free’ monopoly capitalism, state capitalism and bureaucratic collectivism are social regimes of crises.

To predict the possibility, or even probability, of an extension of bureaucratic collectivism to territories outside of Russia betrays no greater degree of pessimism concerning the eventual triumph of the workers than, for instance, to warn against a recurrent fascist menace in the areas of ‘free’ monopoly capitalism. Both would be temporary, although tragic, developments consequent upon further unfavorable turns in the class struggle. Comrade Haston believes that Czechoslovakia has become a state capitalist regime, which means that all major investment is in the hands of the government and civil service. If the new ranks of capitalist bondholders are expropriated, Czechoslovakia will have exactly the same social system as Stalinist Russia. Will it thereby have become a Degenerate Workers' State? To ask is to answer: No! And if, in the interim, United States imperialism vanquishes its Russian rival, then the Czech state will revert to ‘free’ monopoly capitalism.

Whether changes will occur in the social superstructure inside Russia leading to a transformation into state capitalism, is we hold, an open question. Here, no one can dogmatize. The new inheritance laws would seem to point in this direction. Trotsky cited earlier modifications of the inheritance laws as evidence of the proprietary yearnings of the individual bureaucrat. On the other hand, the social ambitions of the bureaucrats do not necessarily fit into the same psychological pattern as the bourgeoisie, notwithstanding their common position as exploiters. And, further, it must be borne in mind that while the transition from ‘free’ monopoly to state monopoly capitalism may be accomplished almost painlessly, owing to the impotence of the bourgeoisie to resist, the Stalinist bureaucrats, on the contrary, feel themselves to be a strong, victorious class. A transition toward a system based on proprietary rights is therefore inevitably beset with dangers to the solidarity and cohesion of the exploiters. A direct transition to ‘free’ monopoly would create unbearable tension among the bureaucrats, aside from the fact that the whole tendency of modern industry is toward state integration. In our view, a transformation toward capitalism would almost certainly be in the direction of state capitalism, but this would be accomplished slowly and cautiously, leaving open the possibility of backslidings at each stage. We repeat however, that the whole question of a transformation remains problematic.
Defensism or Defeatism?

Three main arguments are advanced to support the prevailing line of the Fourth International on the question of the defense of Stalinist Russia against the capitalist powers: (1) The struggle of the Red Army serves as an inspiration to the workers of the world to intensify the class struggle; (2) the subjugation of Stalinist Russia would lead to the economic consolidation of finance-capitalism over a lengthy period; (3) the main defense of the USSR is the international class struggle; but the Red Army, and the Stalinist war effort in general, must be upheld as a major weapon in the defense of nationalized property.

(1) As is understood by all of us, war furnishes an impetus to the revolutionary struggle; especially when the weaker states begin to go to the wall. Thus the disintegration of the traditional authorities in Eastern Europe led to the formation of the working-class committees. The advance of the Red Army, which the workers regarded as the defender of working-class interests, provided a further impetus to the struggle for control. We may, in this connection, regard the weakness of the established forces of coercion and ideological pressure as the ‘cause’ of the formation of committees of control, and the Red Army as an ‘impetus.’

In other words, the change in the balance of class power within the country is by far the more basic impetus. In Greece, where the class battle reached a higher pitch of intensity than anywhere else, the support furnished by the Red Army was purely platonic. In Italy, where it was the Allied capitalist armies which were advancing, the struggle was more advanced than in any of the territories fought over by the Red Army. Further, in the territories scheduled for Kremlin occupation the situation was complicated by the presence of the Stalinist parties, standing ready to react to the Red Army ‘impetus’ in whatever manner they were ordered.

Nonetheless, it remains indisputable that the Red Army advances did serve to accelerate the socialist class struggle; whereas the advance of the Axis armies only served to darken hope. The partition of Poland in 1940 provided a laboratory proof of this. Hopes in the Allied capitalist armies, in turn, were confined to the belief that there would be a restoration of bourgeois liberties, and more food.

The capitalists live daily and hourly on the backs of the working class. Every worker knows that a foreign, conquering, capitalist power will preserve the basic relations of exploitation. On the other hand, Russia is as remote from the orbit of the workers of the worLd as is the fabled land of Tibet. And Russia is accepted generally as the land of socialism. The capitalists, of course, harbor no illusions concerning ‘socialism’ in Russia. Roosevelt and Churchill preserved the alliance with Stalin throughout the period of the spectacular Red Army advances because their knowledge of the real nature of the Russian regime convinced them that Stalin would rivet fresh chains on the Balkan and German workers: that, in short, he would effectively destroy an emerging revolutionary situation, and later, owing to their material preparedness, they in turn would crush him in a purely military contest. On the other hand, the Balkan and German capitalists, faced with annihilation by Stalin, depicted the wretched reality of the Russian regime in their propaganda sheets – the Germans with some effect, but the Balkan bourgeoisie with more modest results. The bourgeoisie, reasons the worker, lie about every strike. Moreover, they lied about Lenin's government, so why not about Stalin's?

However, what capitalist propaganda could not accomplish is accomplished by the occupation regimes installed by the Kremlin. Russia is now seen to be a predatory, oppressive power. The myth of ‘socialist’ Russia is destroyed. The Kremlin despotism is swift in liquidating every active movement, right-wing and left-wing alike, except those which may be utilized as bait to trap and crush the masses. Social Democrats and trade unionists, who follow the tactic of Zinoviev and Radek, by diplomatically capitulating to Stalin, will be sucked dry of influence and then sent to a similar fate. Non-conformists among class-conscious workers are stamped out by police measures. Following the footsteps, of the Babylonian rulers – described by Kautsky in his Foundations of Christianity – Stalin roots out not only the active elements of opposition but even the potentially active, sending them to rot in the Siberian wilds.

Under such circumstances it is incredibly naive to cite the existence of workers' committees as evidence of the relatively progressive character of Stalinist rule. Wherein lies the relatively progressive character of the regime when, on the one hand, a balance is drawn between the division of the land – frequently at the expense of nationalist minorities – and, on the other, the plundering of exchequers to pay the huge war damage indemnifications and costs of occupation? – between, on the one hand, the statification of industry, managed by a privileged layer of civil servants, and, on the other, the whole-sale robbery of precious machinery and fixed capital, the restriction of industrial output to an unbearably low level under the Potsdam terms, the press-ganging of skilled labor into the Russian industries, and the deportation of all potential oppositionists to regions from which escape, or even long survival, is virtually impossible?

Logan and others have pointed out that whereas forcible collectivization, notwithstanding its trail of brutalities, advanced the level of production to new heights, the transformation of property forms in the occupied countries is carried through amidst a systematic destruction of productive forces. The political policy pursued in the overrun territories, however, follows the precise pattern of suppression practiced against the Soviet masses. How then, explain the high ‘Soviet morale’ in the war?

The limitless cannon-fodder, the huge expanses, the powerful Allies, the huge labor force, and the integrated production apparently do not sufficiently explain the survival of the Stalinist regime. It is necessary to attribute to the Soviet soldiers a morale higher than, for instance, the German troops possessed. However, accusations against the peoples of the Crimean Republic are lifting the veil on the real level of morale among sections of the Soviet people. But suppose it is conceded that the Russian resilience was due nine-tenths; to the reasons we have enumerated and one-tenth to the especially high quality of the morale. The question remains, what sort of morale? And the answer is a nationalist morale; and among the Red Army soldier even a chauvinist morale, as the abundant evidence of journalists and British troops stationed in Austria and elsewhere confirms. Nor could it be otherwise among a people deprived for years of the right to think and act independently.

General Casado's Last Days of Madrid is worthy of study for the revealing light it sheds upon the political state of mind of the Spanish troops, so recently imbued with a revolutionary morale. When Casado was estimating how many regiments would join him, and how many oppose him, in abandoning the fight against Franco it was sufficient for him to think in terms of the probable reaction of the several commanders. ‘This commander was a communist, and therefore he would oppose me. This other would support me, for he was a follower of Azana.’ The rank and file soldiers, deprived of all Army democracy, could be treated as men without either the right, or the power, or even the inclination to influence the verdict.

Unquestionably it is imperative to cement bonds of solidarity between the Russian troops and the European workers. But toward what end? Toward the destruction of world imperialism, of course, but more urgently toward the destruction of the immediate oppressors of the occupied peoples and Russian peoples themselves. The Stalinist regime grew upon the Russian people like a painful cancer. On the other hand, Stalinist imperialism jumped upon the backs of the European workers. There is quite a difference there. An alien yoke is always harder to bear. The occupied territories will become the first focal points of revolutionary struggle against the regime.

The declaration of the Fourth International Executive that it stands unambiguously for the withdrawal of the Russian troops can only he welcomed. This can only mean that the main policy of the Fourth International parties in Central and Eastern Europe must he orientated towards shaping unity between the workers and the troops of the Russian army around the programme of the revolutionary overthrow of the Stalinist regime. A defeatist policy in the event of war follows with inescapable logic from this position. An unambiguous declaration should be added that, in this event, no ‘shift in emphasis’ is contemplated.

(2) The theory that the workers of the world should stand for the defense of colonial countries against imperialism, irrespective of the class nature of the native government or resistance movement, rests upon the following main propositions:

(a) Finance capitalism stabilizes the regime at home by utilizing a part of the super-profits derived from colonial exploitation to give concessions to restricted sections of the workers.
(b) Imperialism upholds the most reactionary elements of the native ruling classes; prevents the emergence of a clear-cut class struggle between the workers and the native bourgeoisie; holds the colony in a state of artificial backwardness by confining the development of the productive forces to complementary industries; supports the feudal relations in agriculture, etc., etc.
(c) Imperialist super-profits are derived from super-exploitation.
(d) The rule of imperialism violates the right of nations to self-determination.
Comparisons drawn between the position of Stalinist Russia and the position of the colonies in relation to capitalist imperialism overlook the essential difference that Stalinist Russia, occupying vaster territories and more highly developed economic areas than Czarist imperialism, is a main contender for the conquest of two continents.

Stalinist Russia, owing to its cohesion, vast resources, and the mass movements it utilizes beyond the confines of its state authority, is a world power of the first magnitude. The conquest of Asia and Europe would lead to the consolidation of bureaucratic collectivism – though not, naturally, to consolidation in the Burnhamite sense! A war between Anglo-USA imperialism and Russia would inevitably be a war of plunder and conquest on both sides. A victory for Anglo-US imperialism would lead to the elimination of the nationalized property forms and would throw the production level a long way back. Victory for the Stalinist regime would lead to the enslavement of Europe and Asia, and to the uprooting of productive forces as a preventive measure aimed at frustrating the resurgence of the bourgeoisie, or the emergence of a proletarian power.

(3) The defense of the planned economy is unquestionably the leading argument advanced by the defencist majority in the ranks of the Fourth International. The British majority comrades believe, however, that Russia is evolving more or less rapidly toward state capitalism. But a transition to state capitalism would represent, we repeat, purely a superstructural shift in property relations. The state-centralized economy would remain; and, beyond question, would have a higher efficiency than the existing ‘free’ monopoly capitalist forms of organization. Would our comrades then stand in favor of the defense of state capitalism, organized production and commerce? It cannot be argued that a basic property transformation would have taken place for working-class ownership of the means of production in the USSR long ago became a mere legal fiction. It is the superiority of state centralized production and commerce, and not the fiction of working-class ownership, which provides the defensists with their most serious argument in favor of defending the USSR. In other words, the defense of the material bases of a future workers' state.

If a military front with Stalin is justified on these grounds, however, then equally justified would be a military agreement with German nationalists, who, irrespective of their political and social ends, were fighting for the economic and political re-unification of Germany. For today, under the Potsdam terms, the accumulated skill of the German people is running to seed, and the heavy industries – material prerequisite for socialism – are being destroyed. What, however, would be our attitude toward national liberation formations under a chauvinist leadership? If substantial sections of the masses were rallied behind them we would enter these organizations to wrest the masses away from them. We would strive for the formation of proletarian organs of struggle. Between the proletarian military organizations and the bourgeois chauvinist formations, purely military agreements might conceivably be concluded without a break of socialist principles.

But supposing the formation of independent working-class organs of struggle proved a slow and difficult task. Would we then adopt the standpoint that since the victory of the bourgeois nationalists would lead to economic re-unification – socialism's material prerequisite – therefore, pending the emergence of socialist organs of struggle, we should strive to be the best soldiers within the existing formations? Of course we wouldn't. To fight within the nationalist military formations, while refraining from striving to disintegrate them with revolutionary socialist propaganda, would mean to hold back the emergence of a revolutionary movement, and would help make inevitable an ultimate renewal of German Imperialism's war of conquest.

Lenin advised the Bolshevik cadres entering the Czarist Army to become skilled in the trade of war:

(1) to prevent victimization on the grounds of alleged inefficiency;

(2) because military skill is a necessity in the proletarian struggle for power.
But was the Bolshevik the best soldier from the angle of the general war effort? Of course not. His revolutionary propaganda speeded the disintegration of the Czarist army.
To urge our comrades conscripted into the Russian army to acquire proficiency in the military arts is correct. To counsel them to refrain, in wartime, from forms of activity calculated to speed the Red Army’s disintegration would amount to giving political aid to Stalin. It would amount to turning away from the primary tasks or the revolution; for the soldier and worker masses will only begin to turn toward our programme when they are heading for revolution.

Our hypothetical military agreement between German workers and German chauvinists cannot be applied to the Stalinist regime. For while the underground chauvinist forces would be powerless to vent their hostility against the working-class units of the struggle, except in the form of sporadic murders, betrayals, etc., the Stalinist government, on the contrary, wields the strongest, most highly concentrated apparatus of repression in the world. Proletarian fighting units can come into being only amidst a life and death struggle with the Stalinist state machine. Without proletarian units of struggle the overthrow of Stalinism is impossible. Without pursuing the policy of undermining and disintegrating the Red Army by means of revolutionary propaganda no proletarian units can come into existence.

Naturally, only a few scattered adherents will be won to our programme until decisive shifts occur in the consciousness of the masses. The Bolshevik fighting formations will arise along-side the factory committees and the soviets. But whether the revolutionary events unfold in peace or during war, the policy must be the same: to disintegrate and smash the Stalinist state machine, irrespective of the military situation of the USSR.
Marx and Engels supported the Prussian war against France before it become a war of conquest. The stage of development of Prussian economy did not make a war of conquest inevitable. Today in the struggle waged between the major powers, wars of conquest, followed by the suppression of productive forces, are unavoidable. The victory of either Stalinist imperialism or finance-capital imperialism in a future war would lead to industrial suppression and political enslavement. Should the proletariat be too weak to prevent the outbreak of a third world war then the task of the workers on both sides of the military frontiers will be the revolutionary overthrow of their own immediate oppressors.


September 4, 1946.

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