National Sections of the L5I:

1989 Preface to the English Language Edition

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Preface to the English language edition

During 1989 the foundations of the world order were shaken. The magnitude of the upheavals in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union can scarcely be underestimated. They will profoundly affect the future of these states and Stalinism as a force within the world labour movement. Whilst the epicentre of this earthquake is found in Moscow its shock waves have hit Washington, Tokyo, Bonn and London. From Central America to Southern Africa the impact of Stalinism's crisis has been felt.

Beginning with the February electoral debacle of the Polish United Workers' Party and later the dissolution of the Hungarian Stalinist party, the concessions on civil liberties in these two states lit the fuse that was to explode the charges under the monolith of the Stalinist regimes in the German Democratic Republic and Czechoslovakia.

In these countries beleaguered circles of dissident intellectuals gave way to mass movements of millions in a matter of weeks. Without the support and even with the security of the Kremlin, Honecker and Jakes came crashing down from their bureaucratic pedestals. Oppositionists who had been imprisoned were invited into dialogue and negotiations. An era of power sharing, pluralism and free elections was promised.

These events reverberated in the "west". German imperialism stepped forward to voice its own project of a reunited capitalist Germany. The US administration and its British adjunct were caught without a policy beyond a visceral desire to restore capitalism in Eastern Europe. They recognise in Gorbachev and the "reformers" people willing to assist them in the dismantling the planned property relations. But the imperialists are deeply uncertain as to how far to go with economic aid and the dissolving of alliances.

Even if the USA had the resources equivalent to the Marshal Aid Programme that saved Western Europe for capitalism in the 1940s, Pouring this volume of investment into states where the capitalist class has yet to be re-established would be a gamble of major proportions.

Likewise, to undertake a dismantling of NATO in conditions where a return to power of the hardliners is far from impossible is a risk they dare not take. Yet if they make no concessions of substance, what will happen to the reformers' uncompleted market "reforms"?

For these reasons the first flush of rejoicings amongst the imperialist leaders who launched the new Cold War has given way to dark mutterings about the dangers of instability. They preach the need for caution and the preservation of alliances-even or rather especially those of the "enemy". The governments of Bush and Thatcher, Kohl and Mitterrand clearly fear the spectre of revolution even when it appears to be bearing the gift of capitalist restoration. Why? Because they fear the unleashing of class struggle in these countries above everything-a struggle in which they may be obliged to take sides, a struggle which will open the rifts and conflicts of interest amongst themselves.

The USA, Britain and France clearly fear that Germany and Japan their defeated rivals of forty years along ago-may begin a whole new career of political and military independence and rivalry. For the Anglo-Saxon powers any fundamental change is likely to be for the worse.

Yet if the forces of world imperialism are obliged to temper their public rejoicings with private anxiety, the forces of world Stalinism are in open disarray. Those, like the Euro-communists who had during the mid­1970s period of detente come close to Social Democracy, welcome not only the collapse of the unbridled dictatorship of the bureaucracy, but also shout for joy at the impending collapse of planned property. Like all converts they try to outdo the old believers in the fervour of their devotion to the "mixed economy", to market forces-in short, to capitalism. No abuse is too strong to hurl at the god who failed. Not only Stalinism but the October Revolution itself is vilified. The most important political event in twentieth century history is now an embar­rassment to those who wish to fly headlong into the arms of the Social Democrats.

The erstwhile Stalinist parties of Eastern and Western Europe are forming an excited and disorderly queue at the portals of the Socialist International. The "party of Gramsci and Togliatti" can scarcely wait to transform itself into the Italian Labour Party and to bury the symbols of its past, the hammer and sickle.

Yet these unseemly celebrations cannot but alarm the vanguard workers who had falsely identified Stalinism with a more militant, class struggle policy and thought of it as some sort of builder of socialism. This anxiety will be shared by many on the left wing of Social Democracy and subjective revolutionaries who, whilst they never thought the USSR and its satellites were a socialist heaven on earth, at least saw them as bastions against the unbridled dominance of world capitalism. In the semi colonial world national liberation fighters also look with the gravest concern on the collapse of powers which, however capriciously and self-servingly, did occasionally supply them with arms, with training and with a place of exile.

Yet to all these vanguard fighters we have to say-it is not the god of socialism, communism or the planned economy that has failed, but the monstrous idol of Stalinism. For half of this century it stood apparently unshakable. Yet there was one voice that predicted its downfall-that of Leon Trotsky.

Trotsky analysed the fearful contradictions that lay beneath the monolithic facade. He predicted-albeit on too short a time-scale-its disintegration. But his error was of time-scale not one of substance. It was an error similar to those made in an earlier period by Marx, Engels Lenin and with all those for whom theory is a guide to revolutionary practice and not a form of intellectual consolation. It was Trotsky who realised that no bureaucratic tyranny erected on post-capitalist property relations could survive. The latter only made sense, could only develop and expand, could only conquer capitalism on a world scale if they were the tools of the conscious, revolutionary proletariat. He insisted against the combined forces of Stalinism and imperialism, against the Third and the Second Internationals that Stalin was not the continuer of Lenin's work, but its destroyer; not the great leader of world revolution, but its grave-digger.

As a result the Trotskyists had to be annihilated in the USSR, as indeed they were, by the tens of thousands, fifty years ago. Stalin's murderous hand was to reach out to the leaders of the young and weak Fourth International and finally to strike down Trotsky himself. Yet history, however painfully and slowly at times it seems to work, undermines and brings to destruction everything, no matter how powerful and imposing, that is based on force and fraud. Stalinism has proved itself an illegitimate, temporary setback in the proletariat's struggle for its own emancipation.

Amidst the thunder and crash of its disintegration we, the Trotskyists, have least of all cause for pessimism or mourning. Neither shall we indulge in the smug self-satisfaction of the venal leaders of Social Democracy. We turn-full of revolutionary optimism-to the workers of the

degenerate(d) workers' states. They are being roused to struggle for elementary civil liberties, for a decent standard of living, against the obscenity of bureaucratic privilege and are impelled to recreate a living workers' movement, factory councils and trade unions. We turn to these workers recognising that in the first instance the leaders they may find will be more or less hidden agents of the world bourgeoisie. But if this bourgeoisie successfully enters the workers' states, it will bear not only the offerings of consumer society, but also gross inequality, unem­ployment, and mass poverty. This ensures that if capitalism were to triumph then the class struggle will continue against the bourgeoisie and its agents.

Here and now we sound the alarm bells against the surrender of the nationalised economy, the monopoly of foreign trade and the centralised plan. With them goes the partial and inadequate commitment to full employment and the right to work. With them goes the equally inade­quate social services and welfare system. These insufficient gains discredited even by the Stalinists identification of them with "actually existing socialism"-must be built on and not abandoned. They are the prerequisites for the transition to genuine socialism and can be used as such once they are £reed from the grip of the bureaucratic tyrants.

For actually existing capitalism is not the consumer dream-realised only to some extent in the lives of the west's bloated middle classes and labour aristocracy. It is the poverty, exploitation and starvation of three quarters of humanity. The fate of most of the workers' states, if the working class fails to defend its gains, will be similar-semi-colonial servitude and super-exploitation.

The working class can and will rise to this task and there is only one programme adequate to this task, that of the Trotskyists. Yet, this programme, as Trotsky wrote it, has long been abandoned by most of

those who now call themselves his followers. This programme-the Transitional Programme-has long gathered dust on their bookshelves whilst his successors have aped and parodied every passing fad and fashion in the world labour movement: Stalinism, Labourism, Maoism, Cas­troism, Sandinism, feminism and ecologism. Like chameleons they have appeared only in the colours of their surroundings. Consequently for forty years the programme of Leon Trotsky has made no solid conquests. This situation was historically explicable given the temporary strength of Stalinism and Social Democracy and the treason of the epigones such as Mandel, Lambert and Healey. But the historic changes now taking place open the road for the triumph of the Trotskyist programme. The pre-conditions for this are that this programme should be developed and elaborated to meet tasks not existing fifty years ago and that an internationally organised force of cadres exists to fight for new revolutionary parries and a new international. But the most essential pre-condition is that the defenders of this pro­gramme and the builders of this international party "disdain to conceal their views and aims", in Marx's words, and that "they openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions".

Today, these conditions include imperialist capitalism and moribund Stalinism. Our manifesto, our programme, is for the resolution of the long crisis of leadership that Stalinism and Social Democracy inflicted on the world labour movement. It is the programme for the revolutionary self-emancipation of the working class and for the liberation of the whole of exploited and oppressed humanity. Workers-in the semi-colonial, Stalinist and imperialist countries forward to the world socialist revolution!

London, December 1989