On the eve of the Second World War, Leon Trotsky wrote in the 1938 founding document of the Fourth International:
All talk to the effect that historical conditions have not yet “ripened” for socialism is the product of ignorance or conscious deception. The objective prerequisites for the proletarian revolution have not only “ripened”; they have begun to get somewhat rotten. Without a socialist revolution, in the next historical period at that, a catastrophe threatens the whole culture of mankind. It is now the turn of the proletariat, i.e., chiefly of its revolutionary vanguard. The historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership.1
The second imperialist world conflagration was certainly such a catastrophe threatening to engulf all of mankind. The outcome of that war, centrally the defeat of Nazi Germany by the Soviet Red Army and the imperialist hegemony of the United States, set the international framework in which class struggles were waged for the next four and a half decades.
In the last several years, we have witnessed the spreading collapse of Stalinist regimes from East Europe to the Soviet Union. This, too, was long ago predicted by Trotsky, who insisted that in the absence of socialist revolution in the imperialist centers and proletarian political revolution in the USSR to oust the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracy, the Soviet workers state faced destruction at the hands of economically more powerful imperialism. But the effects on the workers and oppressed of the world of the destruction of these bureaucratically degenerated (in the case of the Soviet Union) and deformed workers states are no less devastating for having been foreseen long ago. Capitalism continues to decay, and the treacherous misleaders of the working class continue to betray, paralyzing the workers in the face of a worldwide counterrevolutionary offensive. Today, no less than when Trotsky wrote half a century ago, “the crisis of the proletarian leadership, having become the crisis in mankind’s culture, can be resolved only by the Fourth International.”2
Yet the Fourth International itself was destroyed as the world party of socialist revolution some 40 years ago, at the hands of a liquidationist current headed by Michel Pablo (Raptis). The Pabloists abandoned the fight for an independent Leninist-Trotskyist vanguard of the proletariat and instead chased after the Stalinists and a host of other petty-bourgeois and even bourgeois misleaders, justifying their capitulation by relying on the pressure of the supposed “objective revolutionary process.” The Spartacist tendency, now the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), has fought from its inception for the rebirth of the Fourth International through the political defeat of Pabloism by authentic Trotskyism. That requires a study of its origins and development, which we have addressed in numerous documents and in “Genesis of Pabloism.”3 The first appearance of the Pabloist revisionist current (though elements of it can be found earlier) came over the Tito-Stalin split in 1948, when the leadership of the Fourth International embraced the dissident Stalinist regime in Tito’s Yugoslavia.
For many years, those who laid claim to the heritage of the anti-Pablo forces grouped in the International Committee (IC), notably Pierre Lambert in France and Gerry Healy in Britain, virtually ignored the Yugoslav affair because of their own complicity. Thus in his 1966 pamphlet dedicated to justifying the expulsion of Spartacist from the London “International Committee” conference, Healy introduces Pabloism with the laconic comment: “Then, in 1951, came Pablo, at that time Secretary of the International, with his theory that because of the imminence of the third world war, the Stalinist parties could, under the impact of this war, transform themselves into revolutionary parties.”4 Pablo’s theory apparently dropped from the sky.
On the other hand, a number of small centrist groups, which split off from the larger by-products of the explosion of the Fourth International, have declared that it was the FI’s capitulatory line on Tito that marked its definitive political degeneration. The result, and indeed the purpose, of this is to turn the 1951-53 fight against Pabloism into an aftereffect, in order to declare both sides bankrupt, the Fourth International politically degenerated, and the revolutionary continuity broken. This, in turn, frees the born-yesterday centrists to pursue their eclectic, anti-internationalist lashups with abandon, combining and recombining with other denizens of the pseudo-Trotskyist swamp, while conveniently amnestying their own revisionist history. Hence the British Workers Power group claims:
The historical continuity of Trotskyism was shattered….The opposition in America, Britain and France that did emerge in 1952-3 was subjectively committed to opposing Pablo. However, they have to be judged not by their impulse but by their politics. Their “orthodoxy” was both sterile and based on postwar revisionism, prompted by the Yugoslav events. It was not authentic Trotskyism. Thus we cannot view either component of the 1953 split as the “continuators” of Trotskyism. Both were centrist.5
In contrast, we have sharply criticized the errors and failures of those, particularly in the American Socialist Workers Party (SWP), who opposed Pabloism, as we take their side in this crucial fight for the survival of Trotskyism. Key to reforging the Fourth International, we wrote two decades ago, “is an understanding of the characteristics and causes of Pabloist revisionism and the flawed response of the anti-Pabloists who fought, too little and too late, on national terrain while in practice abandoning the world movement.”6 But while recognizing the inroads of opportunism over the Yugoslav affair, we emphasized:
It is crucial that the organizational weakness, lack of deep roots in the proletariat and theoretical incapacity and disorientation which were the precondition for the revisionist degeneration of the Fourth International not be simply equated with the consolidation and victory of that revisionism. Despite grave political errors, the Fourth International in the immediate post-war period was still revolutionary. The SWP and the International clung to sterile orthodoxy as a talisman to ward off non-revolutionary conclusions from world events which they could no longer comprehend…. Pabloism was more than a symmetrical false theory, more than simply an impressionistic over-reaction against orthodoxy; it was a theoretical justification for a non-revolutionary impulse based on giving up a perspective for the construction of a proletarian vanguard in the advanced or the colonial countries.7
As we will show in what follows, based on an examination of the public and internal materials of the Fourth International, those who write off the FI over Yugoslavia are in fact renouncing the struggle for the Trotskyist world party and its program, the Bolshevism of today.
The “Tito Affair” Explodes
The Fourth International had indeed been confused by the fact that Stalinism emerged from World War II greatly strengthened, contrary to Trotsky’s prognosis. In Italy and Greece there were attempted revolutions, in France, Belgium and elsewhere there were great strike waves, but the Stalinists managed to douse these fires and thus save the bourgeoisie. Meanwhile, the Kremlin’s sway had been extended through the Red Army’s defeat of Hitler’s Germany. The resolution on “The USSR and Stalinism” at the Second World Congress of the Fourth International (1948) declared categorically about East Europe, “In the ‘buffer’ countries [‘glacis’ in French] the state remains bourgeois.” It listed seven factors determining the “capitalist nature of the economy” in East Europe, and ruled that “on so large a scale as half of Europe, structural assimilation [to the Soviet Union] of the ‘buffer’ countries was impossible,” in part because destruction of the bourgeois states “can take place only as a result of the revolutionary mobilization of the masses.”8
This was in April 1948, two months after the so-called “Prague coup” which was the benchmark for the Stalinist consolidation of power throughout East Europe. The revolutionary upsurge of the masses at the end of World War II had been suppressed in the interests of the pact with the “democratic” imperialists at Yalta and in agreement with the local bourgeoisies. But the American Marshall Plan in 1947 made it impossible for the “buffer zone” states in the Soviet sphere of influence to be maintained except by expropriating the bourgeoisie. In industrialized Czechoslovakia, with its traditionally strong Communist Party, this was accompanied by a bureaucratically controlled mobilization of the masses. In much of the rest of East Europe it was carried out in a completely “cold” manner by a police purge of the bourgeois parties (the Stalinists having everywhere controlled the political police since 1945). Within a year, the East European bourgeoisies had been liquidated economically and purged from the state apparatus except for purely symbolic tokens. At the time of the FI’s Second World Congress, the “people’s democracies” were bureaucratically deformed workers states in the process of consolidation.
With its disorienting position on the class nature of East Europe, the Fourth International was thrown into tremendous confusion by the bombshell of Stalin’s excommunication of Tito in the “Communist Information Bureau” (Cominform) communiqué of 28 June 1948. For the first time, an entire Communist party, and moreover one holding state power, was no longer under Kremlin control. The Cominform statement bandied about the spectre of Trotskyism, declaring that “slanderous propaganda about the ‘degeneration’ of the CPSU (B), about the ‘degeneration’ of the USSR, and so on, borrowed from the arsenal of counter-revolutionary Trotskyism, is current within the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia.”9
What did this signify? It is important to recall that this was the first time that a national Stalinist party had actually broken with the Kremlin, and thus a certain amount of disorientation was to be expected. For the Fourth International, this represented both a significant opportunity and a theoretical predicament. An opportunity, because many Communist Party members in East and West Europe would find it hard to swallow the overnight transformation of Tito from hero of the anti-Nazi Partisan struggle and shining star of the Cominform (whose HQ had been placed in Belgrade) to “Hitlero-Trotskyite” and even “fascist beast at bay.” A theoretical quandary, because Yugoslavia was supposed to be capitalist. Over the next three years, the International Secretariat (I.S.), the International Executive Committee (IEC) and the Third World Congress of the Fourth International declared that the Yugoslav Communist Party (YCP) had “ceased to be a Stalinist party,” but rather was centrist and indeed “left-centrist” evolving toward revolutionary.10
The leadership of the FI assumed that any split from Stalin had to be to the left. Yet, as Stalinism was based on the nationalist dogma of building “socialism in one country,” Trotsky had long foreseen the possibility of competing Stalinist nationalisms. Thus in his 1928 critique of the Stalin-Bukharin draft program of the Comintern, Trotsky wrote: “If it is at all possible to realize socialism in one country, then one can believe in that theory not only after but also before the conquest of power.”11 And after the 1938 Munich pact, he added:
Ten years ago it was predicted that the theory of socialism in one country must inevitably lead to the growth of nationalist tendencies in the sections of the Comintern….Today, we can predict with assurance the inception of a new stage. The growth of imperialist antagonisms, the obvious proximity of the war danger, and the equally obvious isolation of the USSR must unavoidably strengthen the centrifugal nationalist tendencies within the Comintern….Henceforth the Communo-chauvinists will have to worry about their own hides, whose interests by no means always coincide with the “defense of the USSR.”12
The Fourth International’s line of tailing after Tito was certainly the starting point for Pabloism, which became a full-fledged revisionist program ultimately explicitly liquidating the raison d’être of the Fourth International as the indispensable independent proletarian vanguard of the working class. Already in the first of two open letters sent to the Yugoslav Communist Party in July 1948, the International Secretariat led by Michel Pablo referred to the YCP as a “revolutionary workers party.”13 The second letter ended with the call: “Yugoslav Communists, let us unite our efforts for a new Leninist International!”14
There was turmoil and serious political disorientation over Yugoslavia throughout the Fourth International. But it would be a mistake to think that when the leaders and cadres of the FI picked up their morning papers on 29 June 1948, they were suddenly stricken with irremediable revisionism. In fact, the declarations of the FI are not at all uniformly opportunist. Thus a 30 June 1948 circular by the International Secretariat, “To the Leadership of All Sections,” notes:
Yugoslavia is the only country of the glacis where the government had not been imposed by the entry of the Red Army and the Soviet occupation, but which had been brought to power by the revolutionary movement of the masses.
Tito personally is a bureaucrat to the hilt, past master in the bureaucratic and GPU Kremlin machine….The reply of the Yugoslav party enables us, naturally without solidarising with it or Tito, to attack the resolution of the Cominform.15
The circular urged FI leaders to “follow with great interest but also with caution the evolution of the Moscow-Belgrade conflict.” Yet the initial “Open Letter to the Communist Party of Yugoslavia” issued the next day (1 July) did politically “solidarize” with the YCP leaders, calling on them to “Keep up your fight! Deepen the significance of your struggle with Moscow and its international machine!…Long Live the Yugoslav Socialist Revolution!” And by July 13, the I.S. had thrown caution to the wind in its second open letter, calling on the YCP to become the “mobilization point” for the “mass of revolutionary workers.”
The first two open letters on Yugoslavia by the International Secretariat could not have involved much consultation with the American SWP, which was initially a good deal less enthusiastic about Tito, as will be shown below. A third open letter from the I.S., dated September 1948, pulled back. In the meantime, the Yugoslav CP had held its Fifth Congress (July 1948), which took a purely defensive posture, and at the end of Tito’s report all those attending arose chanting, “Stalin-Tito!”16 At the congress, in response to the Cominform charges, Tito boasted that he knew how to handle “Trotskyist-fascists.” The YCP’s paper Borba (4 July 1948) reported: “A handful of Trotskyists, who showed their true faces in the war as collaborators and agents of the invaders, ended shamefully before the People’s Courts.”17 This may have given pause to those Trotskyists who were eagerly embracing the Yugoslav leader.
Thus the new I.S. letter to the YCP noted that “Your leaders and delegates at the Congress have reaffirmed the position, long held by your party, to the effect that Yugoslavia is already a country where socialism is being built and that it is possible to do this.” The letter polemicized against the Stalinist conceptions of “socialism in one country” and a “monolithic” party. It urged “Yugoslav Communists” to “institute a real regime of proletarian democracy in the party and in the country!” and to “call for the real proletarian revolution in other countries of Eastern Europe! And of all of Europe and the world!”18
After the initial rush of enthusiasm for Tito by the FI’s International Secretariat, there was nervousness over the implications. A resolution on Yugoslavia at the Sixth Plenum of the IEC, in October 1948, was relatively restrained. Yet it described “Tito and the leadership of the Yugoslav Communist Party” as representing, “thus far, the bureaucratic deformation of a plebeian, anti-capitalist revolutionary current,” and declared that “from the moment that there is a conflict and break between a Communist party and the Kremlin, this party ceases to be a Stalinist party like the rest.”19 These conclusions opened a breach in the Trotskyist program through which opportunists could drive a truck, and they did.
For a time, the positions taken by the Fourth International were notable mainly for their rampant confusion. Thus the IEC resolution adopted at the Seventh Plenum (April 1949) goes through a tortuous argumentation, calling the East European states a “hybrid transitional society in the process of transformation, with features that are as yet so fluid and lacking precision that it is extremely difficult to summarize its fundamental nature in a concise formula.” Opting for a “definition by description,” the resolution details a long list of factors, finally declaring the buffer zone countries to be “capitalist countries on the road toward structural assimilation with the USSR.” But the resolution quickly adds that this “does not at all imply that the bourgeoisie is in power as the dominant class in these countries”; indeed, a “military-political overturn” had “eliminated the big bourgeoisie and the bulk of the middle bourgeoisie.”20
A capitalist country in which the bourgeoisie is not the ruling class, and indeed has been largely “eliminated” as a political and economic force! As Max Shachtman once wrote (speaking of the American CP’s talk of a “labor party” that would be neither reformist nor revolutionary), such a phenomenon “has never been and never will be seen by God or man or beast or the elfin folk who see pretty near everything.”21
Only the elimination of borders, literally incorporating East Europe into the Soviet Union and making planning possible, would be a sure sign marking a qualitative social transformation, according to the IEC’s Seventh Plenum. On the other hand, the plenum noted that in Yugoslavia, unlike in the rest of East Europe, the bourgeoisie had largely been liquidated and the bourgeois state apparatus destroyed as a result of the Partisan struggle. The IEC took note of the possibility of “a real differentiation in the workers’ movement following the Tito crisis, despite the undeniable existence of a police regime in this country.”22 While the IEC hesitated to make the leap, Pablo insisted that the analysis presented “should logically lead to the conclusion that Yugoslavia has ceased to be a capitalist country.”23 The plenum formally opened up a discussion in the International on the Yugoslav question.
But as Stalin’s anti-Yugoslav offensive mounted, particularly with the Rajk trial in Hungary and similar purges throughout East Europe, Tito and his associates, their backs to the wall, began talking of “bureaucratic degeneration” in the Soviet Union, founding Titoist parties in Germany and Italy and a pro-Tito trade-union current in France. YCP theoretician Moshe Piyade wrote in the Belgrade party daily Borba (6 October 1949), “Since that very day when they proclaimed that Trotskyism was no longer a tendency in the international workers movement and had become an agency of fascism,” henceforth “there remains only physical extermination and the burning of heretics, all discussion being excluded.”24 The leaders of the FI jumped on these openings, producing paroxysms of praise, sending work brigades and trade-union delegations to Yugoslavia, publishing articles and interviews, and distributing books by YCP leaders.
At its Eighth Plenum (April 1950), the IEC fulsomely hailed “the progressive evolution of the Yugoslav CP,” which “surpasses the most optimistic forecasts,” and stressed “the depth of the revolutionary movement which bore this party to power and the remarkable qualities of its leading cadres”! This supposedly confirmed “the declaration made by our International upon the outbreak of the Yugoslav affair that the rupture of a Stalinist party with the Kremlin necessarily involves a differentiation from Stalinism, which under certain conditions can be highly progressive.”25 A separate resolution declared that despite continuing differences over the stages of development of the Yugoslav Revolution, with “the victory of the proletarian revolution in Yugoslavia, a workers’ state and a regime of the proletarian dictatorship exists in this country.”26 Yet what took place in Yugoslavia was not a proletarian revolution but a peasant-based revolution militarily organized by a Stalinist party, the majority of whose members were peasants, giving rise to a bureaucratically deformed workers state.
So whereas in April 1949 the IEC referred to “the undeniable existence of a police regime,” in April 1950 it saw in the evolution of the Yugoslav CP “an ever more clear and powerful affirmation (in the field of ideas and of the political and economic organization of the country) of the highly democratic essence of the dictatorship of the proletariat.”27 Indeed, while the IEC admitted that “bureaucratic deformations continue” in Yugoslavia, it declared that “a serious struggle is being conducted by the Yugoslav Communists against these deformations.”28 In addition to this remarkably clean bill of health for the Yugoslav workers state (in effect, no worse than the Soviet Union under Lenin ca. 1920-21), the Fourth International leadership saw a rosy future ahead for it:
To the degree that the Yugoslav CP persists along this road and, by ridding itself of the last ideological vestiges of Stalinism, it will renew the organic bonds between the unfolding Yugoslav and world revolutions, that will entail the regrouping of revolutionary forces on an international scale and it will become the most powerful springboard from which to launch the decisive assault against Stalinism in its crisis.29
The task the IEC laid out, therefore, was “to surround the Yugoslav revolution with a widespread and active sympathy by the international revolutionary vanguard and the conscious segment of the working class,” as well as to promote and regroup “the new Communist opposition” in the CPs “stimulated precisely by the Yugoslav example.”30
Belgrade’s “Right Turn” Over Korea
But at the same time that Tito & Co. were denouncing “bureaucracy” at home and in the Soviet Union, the imperialists were turning the screws on Yugoslavia. And then came the decisive event in the evolution of the Yugoslav affair: the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950. For a time, the YCP tops had sought to maneuver between the Kremlin and imperialism, but now that the issue of war was posed there was no escaping. Belgrade at first tried to take a waffling line of neutrality, speaking in the UN against labeling North Korea the aggressor and voting against the sanctions that gave a UN cover to the American expeditionary force in Korea.31 But Yugoslavia eventually caved in to Washington, criminally abstaining on the resolution authorizing General MacArthur to cross the 38th parallel into North Korea, and then opposing the resulting Chinese intervention and voting against the Chinese resolution demanding U.S. withdrawal from Korea.
The Fourth International responded with articles such as “Yugoslav Foreign Policy Continues Drift to Right.”32 A November 1950 appeal by the FI’s International Secretariat declared, “proletarian Yugoslavia appears to be abandoning its independent policy and seems to be lining up with the imperialist bloc led by Washington,” and called for an end to “the prostration of the Yugoslav Revolution before imperialism.”33 A series of circulars by the I.S. noted “widespread illusions [among the Yugoslavs] concerning the role of the UN” (June 1950), then a “combination of a leftist course internally and a course which has shifted to the right internationally” (September 1950), and finally a series of positions “which can no longer be considered errors resulting from political confusion, but must be regarded as the expression of a new course taken by the leadership of the YCP which…is tending to associate it with the imperialist bloc” (November 1950). The final circular concluded that “we don’t call yet for the constitution of an opposition tendency,” but rather called on the YCP as a whole to renounce its policy toward Korea.34
At the end of November 1950, the FI International Executive Committee held its Ninth Plenum and passed a resolution which was then adopted, with very few modifications, by the Third World Congress of the Fourth International in August 1951. This was the last major statement by the FI on Yugoslavia. The IEC resolution declared that there was a “Yugoslav proletarian revolution” (whose conquests were “generalized and legally consolidated in 1945-46”), and held that with the break from Stalin the YCP “ceased to be a Stalinist party in the full meaning of the word.” The resolution claimed that in Yugoslavia “Stalinism no longer exists today as an effective factor in the workers’ movement,” and went even further to assert: “The dynamics of the Yugoslav revolution confirms the theory of the permanent revolution on all points.”35
What about Trotsky’s insistence that “the realization of the revolutionary alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry is conceivable only under the political leadership of the proletarian vanguard, organized in the Communist Party”?36 The need for an independent, Bolshevik-internationalist vanguard party, the key to Trotsky’s program, was not mentioned, for the simple reason that this task had been ceded to the Stalinist YCP under Tito. The Workers Power obituary on the Fourth International claims that:
In 1951 the centrist positions of the Third World Congress on Stalinism, on Yugoslavia, and general perspectives (the impending “civil war” perspective) proved, beyond doubt, that a programmatic collapse of the Fourth International had taken place. The fact that no section voted against the Yugoslav resolution—the cornerstone of all the errors—is a fact of enormous significance. The FI as a whole had collapsed into centrism.37
In reality, while reflecting the deep inroads Pabloism had already made, the IEC resolution on Yugoslavia adopted by the Third World Congress was not quite so seamlessly opportunist as Workers Power would have it. Reflecting mounting disenchantment with the Tito regime, the resolution notes that the “right turn in Yugoslav foreign policy” over the Korean War had “in part vitiated the effects of the Yugoslav affair on the international crisis of Stalinism.” It also vowed to make “frank and uncompromising criticism of all the political errors and opportunist deviations on the part of the CPY.” In one of its few amendments to the IEC resolution, the Third World Congress insisted that these criticisms “should tend to impel the Yugoslav communists to replace their present opportunist leadership by a revolutionary leadership.”38
Moreover, the Third World Congress resolution on international perspectives declared that “we shall work for the creation of a Bolshevik tendency in the YCP, against the policy of surrender and capitulation of the leadership, and for its replacement.”39 So by August 1951 the Fourth International was calling, softly, for the ouster of the Tito leadership. The report on Yugoslavia to the congress by Harold Livingstone (George Clarke) was harder. While saying that “the Yugoslav revolution is not dead,” it declared “its progressive influence on the world labor movement—in deepening the crisis of Stalinism and in giving new impetus to the forces of revolutionary Marxism—is now a thing of the past.”40
While Clarke said that “we do not put a cross on the Yugoslav revolution,” in fact Yugoslavia hardly appeared after that in the press or statements of the Fourth International up to the split in 1953. An article reporting on the Third World Congress wrote of Yugoslavia that “the events which have occurred since mid-1950 have demonstrated all the profound opportunism of a leadership nurtured within the Stalinist camp, and the extreme danger this opportunism constituted for the preservation of the revolutionary gains.”41 And an article by Pablo summed up:
After a brief left-centrist period which followed their break with the Kremlin, the Yugoslav leadership in their attempt to safeguard the regime with the money, the military and diplomatic guarantees of Western “democratic imperialism,” has been liquidating the proletarian power in Yugoslavia bit by bit and preparing its total demise….It is now more necessary than ever that the revolutionary Marxists of the Yugoslav Communist Party organize into a Leninist tendency and align themselves against the treacherous policies of their leaders.42
For all of 1952 we found not one article on Yugoslavia in Quatrième Internationale, the press of the French Parti Communiste Internationaliste, or the press of the American SWP; for 1953 we found only one.43 Having been burned by their handling of the Tito affair, the FI leaders dropped it like a hot potato. They backed away from the Belgrade regime, but there was no reckoning with the theoretical and programmatic questions Yugoslavia had posed for the Fourth International. In early 1953, SWP leader Joseph Hansen could say: “Our co-thinkers now call for a political revolution in Yugoslavia such as we advocate against the Kremlin. This means that the Tito regime is judged to be politically counterrevolutionary.”44 But what happened to the earlier appraisal of the Tito regime as “left-centrist” and the “remarkable qualities of its leading cadres”? This was essentially swept under the rug.
At the time of the split with Pablo in November 1953, the document by the SWP plenum published under the title “Against Pabloist Revisionism” had only this to say:
Yugoslavia and China show that under certain exceptional conditions the leadership of a Stalinist party, caught between extermination by the counterrevolution and an extremely powerful revolutionary offensive of the masses, can push forward to power….But it would be unwarranted to generalize too broadly and hastily on this point. It should be remembered that while the Yugoslavs marched to power, the CP’s in other countries remained subordinate to the Kremlin and facilitated the work of the counterrevolution. Two Communist parties, the Yugoslav and Chinese, met the test in one way; the others in a directly opposite manner.
The specific conditions which forced the Yugoslav and Chinese CP’s onto the revolutionary road must be analyzed and understood.45
While the FI reaffirmed the need for a new revolutionary leadership of the proletariat, the study of the implications of the Yugoslav and Chinese revolutions did not take place. It took until 1955 for the SWP to characterize China as a deformed workers state, and even then it placed the qualitative transformation in 1951-53, when as a result of the Korean War (most of) the capitalists were expropriated, rather than in 1949 when the revolution took place.46 This was continuing the same methodology which had led to enormous confusion over East Europe. Yet the May 1957 SWP convention declared that “the Titoites have demonstrated throughout that they are in no sense to the left of the Soviet bureaucracy.”47 And an SWP resolution on the Hungarian Revolution said of Tito’s support for Moscow, “When the cards were down, the fact that Tito represents simply a variety of Stalinism proved decisive—despite his differences with Khrushchev & Co.”48 The fact that these issues were dealt with only empirically and the theoretical questions raised by the deformed workers states after WWII were never fought out was a major failure of the anti-Pabloists. This was later to feed into the SWP’s capitulation to Pablo/Mandel over Algeria and Cuba, facilitating the formation of the Mandelite “United Secretariat” (USec) characterized by its perennial search for “new vanguards.”
Who Opposed FI Capitulation to Tito?
But to recognize and criticize these weaknesses and failures, as we more than any other tendency have done, is far from dismissing the struggle against Pabloism. Those who use the Yugoslav affair in order to equate pro- and anti-Pablo groupings in the Fourth International, who talk of the definitive degeneration and political collapse of the FI during 1948-51, are throwing up a smokescreen to obliterate what the fight during 1951-53 was all about: the continuity of Trotskyism. To accomplish this they simply disappear all opposition to the tailing after Tito pushed by Pablo and adopted by the I.S./IEC. Thus Workers Power writes:
As the FI leadership’s world view became increasingly at variance with reality, so their orthodoxy became ever more fragile. All that was needed to dislodge the FI from the orthodox positions it held until 1948 was a sharp twist in world events.
That twist in events came almost immediately after the 1948 Congress. In the summer of 1948 the Tito-Stalin split was made public….Out of the Yugoslav events the FI developed centrist conclusions and positions….Pablo’s positions on Yugoslavia were adopted by the FI at its Third World Congress in 1951. They were subscribed to by all the major sections and leading figures of the FI.49
This picture of a uniform capitulation to Pablo is utterly false. To understand the real development of Pabloism it’s necessary to look at the opposition that did arise over the Yugoslav affair, and its weaknesses.
Naturally, from outside the FI there was criticism from Max Shachtman’s Workers Party. Workers Party leader Hal Draper wrote of the “galloping political degeneration” of the FI, concluding: “The Stalinotropism of the Fourth International leadership is flowering.”50 A similar tone was struck by the “Revolutionary Faction of the Mexican Section of the Fourth International.” Its “Critique of the ‘Open Letter’ of the I.S. to the Yugoslav CP” accuses the I.S. of “a grave opportunist deviation” as it “places Tito and the Yugoslav ‘Communist’ Party to the left of Stalin, thereby creating illusions about a future revolutionary role of a party that despite everything continues to be Stalinist.”51 True enough, but in the very next sentence, it lets the cat out of the bag, declaring, “in the USSR there is no workers state, however degenerated they portray it to us, but rather state capitalism.”
Somewhat later, in May 1951, Natalia Sedova Trotsky wrote to the American SWP, breaking all ties with the Fourth International to protest its stands on Yugoslavia, East Europe and the Soviet Union. She declared that “your entire press is now devoted to an inexcusable idealization of the Titoist bureaucracy,” which “is only a replica, in a new form, of the old Stalinist bureaucracy.” She rightly noted that “It is absurd to believe or to teach that the revolutionary leadership of the Yugoslav people will develop out of this bureaucracy or in any way other than in the course of struggle against it.” Yet while she was able to take to task the SWP and the FI for their opportunist line on Yugoslavia, her starting point was the declaration that “Stalinism and the Stalinist state have nothing whatever in common with a workers’ state or with socialism.”52 Natalia rejected Trotsky’s policy of unconditional defense of the Soviet Union, claiming it had become capitalist. Thus she refused to support the Soviet Union and North Korea (“the armies of Stalinism”) against U.S. imperialism in the Korean War.
So the purveyors of the thesis that the Soviet Union was a new exploitative class society, whether “bureaucratic collectivist” (Shachtman) or “state capitalist,” accused the I.S. of selling out to Stalinism. Of course, they wrote off the whole affair as a squabble between two bureaucrats. “Go to it, bandits! Deepen the rift between you!” wrote Shachtman,53 while Draper declared that “the conflict between the Yugo and the Commissar is over who is to benefit from the exploitation of the masses.”54 This is hardly surprising: their line was crystallized Stalinophobia. Thus Shachtman vituperated against “Stalinist imperialism,” while Draper opposed the Yugoslav call for a Balkan federation in denouncing “Yugoslav sub-imperialism.” Ultimately Shachtman’s line would take him from the mythical “Third Camp,” to pro-imperialist “neutrality” in the Korean War, to direct support for imperialism at the time of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and in the Vietnam War.
(Parenthetically, any honest believer in “state capitalism” should have realized the falsity of this construct by the time of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, when the Stalinist bureaucracy acted not as an exploiting class, which would have defended its property and class interests to the bloody end, but rather as a fragile, parasitic layer which quickly shattered, with whole sections going over to the insurrectionary workers. Today, as imperialist pimps, the “state caps” are enjoying the collapse of Stalinism. But if there were any shame among revisionists, by rights Tony Cliff et al. ought to be embarrassed into nonexistence by the stark revelation of the fallacy of their schema. If it’s only the change from one form of capitalism to another, then why the mass bloodletting in Yugoslavia, mass hunger in Poland, mass unemployment in East Germany, not to mention the emboldening of world imperialism for, e.g., the mass slaughter in Iraq?)
But there was plenty of unease over the Fourth International’s line on Yugoslavia from those who saw themselves as orthodox Trotskyists. The American SWP took a distinctly different tack at first from that of the I.S. An initial editorial in the Militant declared, “All that Tito and his clique are striving to defend are their own material interests, their power and privileges. All they ask is to be permitted to rule in Yugoslavia as Stalin rules in Russia.”55 In the same issue John G. Wright, a leading SWP cadre, sounded almost like Shachtman: “The Dictator-in-Chief in the Kremlin has decided to veto the Little Dictator in Yugoslavia.”56 This soon changed. Directly contradicting Wright’s rather Stalinophobic articles, Joseph Hansen declared: “Far more is involved than the fight between a big dictator and a little dictator. The struggle initiated by Tito…may well become the starting point for new, large-scale regroupments and developments in the international working class movement.”57 That was quite true.
A 3 August 1948 statement by the Political Committee of the SWP was not nearly so effusively capitulatory as the I.S. Open Letter of July 13. Nevertheless, the SWP statement was marked by the objectivism which was characteristic of much of the FI’s writings on Yugoslavia:
The course of events will work in favor of the revolutionists….The logic of the Stalin-Tito struggle is such that it is bound to impel the militants in Yugoslavia and elsewhere—not to the right but to the left. This will happen independently of whether Tito himself moves to the right, or whether he seeks to straddle the fence somewhere between the Kremlin and imperialism.58
Over the next year and a half, the SWP continued to keep some distance from the Tito regime. Thus in November 1948 Joseph Hansen wrote an article, “Tito Flounders with Stalin’s ‘Theory’ of Building ‘Socialism’ in One Country.”59 Nine months later a Militant editorial commented: “Thus far Tito has been fighting the Kremlin with measures and weapons borrowed almost exclusively from the arsenal of Stalinism,” to wit, the false claim of “building socialism” in one country, making deals with imperialism and “bureaucratic police measures” internally.60 However, in late 1949 the SWP began to shift when a National Committee statement declared: “Stalinist in origin and ideology, the Tito leadership has nevertheless been compelled by the logic of the struggle to question some of the fundamental premises on which Stalinism rests…. The Yugoslav struggle has given rise to a new form of centrism, a tendency between Stalinist reformism and revolutionary Marxism.”61
By the spring of 1950, the SWP had become positively euphoric over Tito. James P. Cannon sent a telegram to the YCP Central Committee hailing the latter’s May Day manifesto: “workers everywhere will acclaim your appeal to defend Yugoslavia and restore revolutionary movement to Leninism as opposed to Stalinism and Social Democracy.”62 An article in the same Militant proclaimed, “Above all, the Yugoslav manifesto indicates that the final crisis of world Stalinism is at hand.”63 (This paean was occasioned by a single reference in the YCP manifesto to “the struggle against the revision of Marxism and Leninism.”) Two months later, the Militant headlined “Tito Denounces Bureaucracy as Foe of Socialism,” and editorialized that Tito’s June 27 speech denouncing the “huge, bureaucratic, centralistic apparatus” in the USSR and attacking Stalin by name was “a great mile stone in the development of the international working class and socialist movement.”64
But as Belgrade lined up with imperialism over the Korean War, the SWP’s enthusiasm quickly cooled. From November 1950 to January 1951 the Militant published an eleven-part cautionary series by Ernest Mandel, who at the time wrote under the name Ernest Germain, titled “Yugoslavia Seen with Open Eyes.” This was followed by another four-part series by John G. Wright on “Yugoslavia’s Foreign Policy.” Wright accused the Yugoslav leaders of “more and more tending” to “trade away their democratic and socialist principles in exchange for material and military aid” from the imperialist West.65 “What blinds the Yugoslav Communists is that their own leaders themselves still cling to the illusory reactionary goal of building socialism within the confines of Yugoslavia, just as they keep clinging to the Stalinist conception of a ‘monolithic’ party,” Wright concluded.66
The policy of the French Parti Communiste Internationaliste (PCI) on Yugoslavia was broadly similar to that of the American SWP, although the swings were more pronounced since the issue was much more immediate in Europe. At the Fifth Congress of the PCI in July 1948, the majority led by Jacques Privas (Jacques Grimblatt), Michèle Mestre, Pierre Lambert, and Marcel Marin (Marcel Gibelin) passed a motion directly opposing the I.S. Open Letter of July 13 “for idealizing Tito and the Yugoslav CP,” while making clear their intention to abide by international discipline.67 The PCI motion insisted that the Tito-Stalin split was part of the general crisis of Stalinism in the buffer zone, which it attributed to “exploitation” of these countries by the Kremlin. The I.S. was supported by a minority led by Pierre Frank and Marcel Favre-Bleibtreu. At a PCI Central Committee meeting in late 1948, Bleibtreu and Frank fulsomely supported the Yugoslavia motion adopted by the October 1948 IEC plenum, insisting in particular that the YCP had ceased to be “a Stalinist party like the rest.” The majority of the PCI Central Committee, while viewing the relatively restrained IEC motion as a step in the right direction, still insisted that the IEC disavow Pablo’s August 1948 article, “The Yugoslav Affair,” as well as the Open Letter formulations which idealized Tito.68
On the other hand, during 1950, the French PCI practically became a publicity agency for the Yugoslavs. A January report on the PCI’s Sixth Congress declared that “above all the defense of Yugoslavia is the defense of a proletarian revolution”:
The reporter [Bleibtreu] fought the doubts and hesitations which threaten to weaken the intervention of the party. He showed:
—that it is wrong to speak of a Yugoslav bureaucratic caste of the same nature as the Russian bureaucracy;
—that it is wrong to accept the idea that the YCP has capitulated or is in the process of capitulating to imperialism. No vote of Yugoslavia in the UN, no trade agreement can justify such a claim.69
The resolution “Hands Off the Yugoslav Revolution” voted by the congress declared that the Yugoslav CP had “return[ed] to Leninism on a series of important strategic questions.” It characterized the YCP as representing “left-centrism in the process of evolving,” citing factors “which objectively push the YCP onto the road of the revolutionary program.”70
The PCI regularly advertised works by Yugoslav leaders such as Milovan Djilas and Edvard Kardelj (People’s Democracy in Yugoslavia) and urged readers to tune in to the broadcasts of Radio Belgrade. A headline proclaimed “The Magnificent Election Campaign of the YCP,” while the article declared: “The YCP and the Fourth International are hated for the same reason: because they express the greatest force of our epoch, the force of the proletarian revolution, the invincible strength of the working people of all countries.”71 On May Day 1950 a French delegation visited Belgrade; PCI leader Pierre Lambert reported, “I believe that I saw in Yugoslavia a dictatorship of the proletariat, led by a party which passionately seeks to combat bureaucracy and impose workers democracy”! (At the same time he reported that typical slogans carried in the demonstration were “Tito, Central Committee, Party, Yugoslav Peoples,” and “Tito Is with Us, We Are with Tito.”)72
The PCI held meetings in defense of Yugoslavia which had to be physically defended against Stalinist attacks. It also took the lead in sending youth work brigades (called the Jean Jaurès Brigades after the French Socialist leader) and trade-union delegations to Yugoslavia, which eventually totaled some 2,000 young workers. La Vérité bombastically headlined the report of one delegation, “Those Who Have Seen the Truth in Yugoslavia Say It: YES, This Is a State Where Socialism Is Being Built, This Is the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.” Denouncing reactionary and Stalinist accounts of a “police state” in Yugoslavia, the article declared, “This state is a WORKERS STATE, resolutely engaged on the road of SOCIALIST DEMOCRACY.” However, elsewhere in the reportage, La Vérité admitted that “the French delegation was struck by…a certain bureaucratic plethora,” and “a certain insufficiency of political life and discussion” in the ranks of the Yugoslav party and trade unions.73