This statement of the Workers League Political Committee originally appeared in the Bulletin newspaper on May 27, 1988.
The fourth Reagan-Gorbachev summit which opens in Moscow May 29 marks an unprecedented level of collaboration between US imperialism and the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union against the international working class.
The Workers League calls on all class-conscious workers to reject the flood of media propaganda about the summit and the signing of a nuclear weapons treaty representing an advance for the cause of “world peace.” Reagan and Gorbachev are brought together, not by their common fear of nuclear war, but by their common fear of the revolutionary struggles of the working class and oppressed peoples on a world scale.
The treaty for the elimination of Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF), whose signing is the pretext for the Moscow summit, will do nothing to prevent a nuclear holocaust. Imperialist war arises inexorably out of the contradictions of capitalism, and the only way to abolish the threat of war is to abolish the profit system through the world socialist revolution.
This requires the united action of the international proletariat—the workers of America, of the Soviet Union, of Japan, of every major country—against world capitalism and against the principal agency of imperialism within the workers’ movement, counterrevolutionary Stalinism.
Gorbachev is deepening the collaboration of Stalinism with US imperialism to defend world capitalism, summed up in the policy of “peaceful coexistence.” This means even more intensive joint efforts of Moscow and Washington to suppress revolutionary struggles of the working class and the oppressed semicolonial peoples throughout the world, from the Middle East to southern Africa to Central America.
The Soviet Stalinists have dropped their longstanding attempt to give a Marxist-sounding cover to “peaceful coexistence.” According to a report in Sovetskaya Kultura, a conference in Moscow decided to drop the previous formula that “peaceful coexistence is a form of class struggle,” in favor of an explicit repudiation of the class struggle.
The new Stalinist formula is that “the salvation of world civilization is the supreme interest that now faces all classes in society. Otherwise there will be nobody to be liberated.” This denies the existence of any fundamental contradiction between the USSR and world imperialism, between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.
The Moscow summit takes place in the shadow of the deepening disintegration of world capitalism, expressed in the collapse of world stock markets last October 19, and in the growing trade tensions between the major imperialist powers. It is an irony of history that Gorbachev has embarked on his procapitalist policy of perestroika at the point where the capitalist system faces its greatest-ever crisis.
The summit comes only weeks after the renewed strikes by the Polish workers, which raised anew before the Soviet bureaucracy the threat of the political revolution, not only in Poland, but by the Soviet working class itself.
For all the talk of peace, Reagan left Washington for Moscow with the capital abuzz with calls from leading bourgeois politicians, especially congressional Democrats, for a US invasion of Panama. No doubt one of the principal questions to be taken up by Secretary of State Shultz will be gaining Soviet acquiescence to any move by US imperialism to protect its vital interests in the Panama Canal.
The summit opens only two weeks after the beginning of the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Again, the abandonment of the Soviet bureaucracy’s reactionary intervention in Afghanistan has nothing to do with any “lessening of international tensions.” The bureaucracy must concentrate on the struggle against its domestic enemies. The troops pulled out of Afghanistan may soon be used against workers striking over price increases or factory shutdowns.
Combined with the betrayal of the struggles of the international working class, the Soviet bureaucracy has launched an unprecedented assault on the planned economy and nationalized property within the Soviet Union itself, the fundamental conquest which still remains of the 1917 October Revolution. Gorbachev’s policies of perestroika (“restructuring”) and glasnost (“openness”) are the road to the restoration of capitalism in the USSR and the transformation of Stalinist bureaucrats into capitalists.
Last week, the Supreme Soviet began debating a new draft law on cooperatives, which would legalize the large-scale employment of wage labor and the formation of private capital for the first time in almost 70 years. According to the text of the draft law, published three months ago, cooperative—i.e., private—property would be placed on an equal legal footing with state property.
Cooperatives will be empowered to employ wage-labor, to own means of production and to compete for business against state enterprises. They will be permitted to engage directly in foreign trade and accumulate bank accounts in foreign currencies, breaching the state monopoly of foreign trade which is one of the foundation stones of the planned economy.
In a speech opening the debate on the draft law, Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov said that 6,000 cooperatives have been formed since the draft law was published, and 20,000 in the last two years. He said the formation of cooperatives would be given top priority throughout the country, and denounced those who opposed the cooperatives, accusing them of “distorted ideas of socialism.”
The Stalinist bureaucracy sees the formation of cooperatives as a transitional step to the establishment of openly capitalist corporations, in which bureaucrats and their relatives will undoubtedly have the favored positions. The capitalist appetites of the Stalinist officials were brazenly displayed during the first day of debate on the draft law, as deputies to the Supreme Soviet from Estonia and Byelorussia criticized the bill, calling for lower tax rates on the cooperatives and state incentives for their formation.
Gorbachev’s policies of perestroika and glasnost are being hailed by the bourgeoisie and the capitalist press worldwide as the spearhead for the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and the deformed workers’ states of Eastern Europe.
On the eve of Reagan’s visit, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declared that Gorbachev deserved the support of Western imperialism, comparing his policies “to alter the economic system” with her own measures to dismantle the British welfare state and smash the trade union movement. “You’ve got to be openly encouraging of things that are moves in the right direction,” she said.
Gorbachev gave a lengthy interview to Mrs. Katherine Graham, the billionaire proprietor of the Washington Post, published in several pages of the May 22 edition, in what amounted to a presummit endorsement of his policies by one of the leading organs of the American ruling class.
In a column which followed the interview, Post associate editor Robert Kaiser commented approvingly that Gorbachev “has stopped talking about the inevitable victory of socialism over capitalism, and to judge by his public statements he may even have stopped believing in it.”
The movement of the Stalinist bureaucracy towards capitalist restoration is an international phenomenon, developing at a breakneck pace. In Hungary, the newly-installed Stalinist boss, Karoly Grosz, took over as general secretary with a speech demanding “efficient work and profitable production.”
In China, a leading daily reports the return of one of the most brutal aspects of capitalist exploitation, child labor. Three million children have quit school to work for private employers, with the tacit approval of the bureaucracy: “because some areas do not strictly enforce the law, employers exploit the system of hiring labor and take advantage of child labor to get rich.”
The crisis of the Soviet regime stems organically from the Stalinist policy of socialism in a single country, through which the Soviet bureaucracy rejects the program of world socialist revolution which was the basis of the taking of power by the Russian working class in October 1917.
Stalinism originated in the delay of the world socialist revolution after the 1917 victory of the Russian proletariat. The betrayals of revolutionary struggles throughout Europe, especially in Germany, by the opportunist Social Democratic leadership of the working class, left the Russian Revolution isolated economically and politically. This isolation, combined with the destruction wrought by years of civil war and imperialist intervention, and the economic and social backwardness inherited from czarism, created enormous social contradictions within the Soviet Union.
The backwardness of the economy meant the persistence of social inequality despite the victory of the working class. While the ownership of the means of production was in the hands of the workers’ state, the consumption of the goods produced necessarily remained on a bourgeois basis, with a growing gulf between the privileged layer of administrators and managers and the Soviet working class. A bureaucracy developed as a parasitic growth on the workers’ state, its function to regulate the unequal distribution of goods.
The bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet state produced an assault on Marxism within the Communist Party. In the wake of the defeat of the German revolution of 1923, Stalin advanced the theory of “socialism in a single country,” repudiating the most fundamental conception of Marxism, the international character of the proletariat and of the struggle for socialism. Under this banner, the bureaucracy usurped political power from the working class and transformed the CPSU and all the Communist parties internationally into direct instruments of counterrevolution.
The present economic crisis in the USSR, the driving force behind Gorbachev’s policies, is not the result of socialism, but of the artificially shut-in and nationally-limited character of the Soviet economy, the product of “socialism in a single country.”
In keeping with its social character as the privileged layer in Soviet society, the Stalinist bureaucracy seeks to integrate the Soviet Union into the world economy on a capitalist basis, through entering imperialist agencies like the International Monetary Fund, establishing convertibility of the ruble into capitalist currencies, and opening the planned economy to the penetration of imperialism.
From the standpoint of the Soviet and world working class, the Soviet Union must gain access to the international division of labor through revolutionary methods: by linking the struggle of the Soviet workers to those of their class brothers in the United States and internationally, and extending the planned economy on a world scale, through the world socialist revolution.
The Gorbachev policy of capitalist restoration means a revolutionary explosion in the Soviet Union, as the 100-million-strong working class fights the bureaucracy’s drive to bring back unemployment, inflation and the brutal exploitation of wage-labor, 71 years after the October Revolution and the overthrow of capitalism in Russia. The Soviet working class must answer perestroika by taking the road of the political revolution, the violent overthrow of the parasitic bureaucracy, to defend the socialist property relations and reestablish Soviet democracy.
The Stalinist bureaucracy is well aware that it faces the enormous and implacable opposition of the Soviet working class. In his speeches promoting perestroika and glasnost, Gorbachev has repeatedly attacked “leveling tendencies”—i.e., the anger in the working class over the rapid increase of the income of the bureaucracy and the widening pay differentials between workers and managers.
In his most recent speech, Gorbachev focused on the period of the early 1980s, denouncing the fact that workers’ wages rose more rapidly than productivity. He even made a vicious slur against milkmaids on Soviet collective farms, claiming these agricultural workers were overpaid.
Western capitalist journalists, in numerous commentaries on the political situation in the USSR, have conceded that Gorbachev’s efforts to legalize private property and encourage capitalist enterprises have met with widespread public disapproval, especially among workers.
The bureaucracy’s fear of the reaction in the working class has already led Gorbachev to postpone major price increases until 1990. Isolated strikes have already been provoked by attempts to speed up and intensify production while cutting wages, and the wave of strikes in Poland last month, provoked by price hikes of 40% to 200%, served as an additional warning.
Gorbachev has summoned an emergency party conference for late June, the first since 1941, to rally all sections of the bureaucracy behind his policies and prepare for the coming confrontation with the working class.
One spokesman for the bureaucracy, sociologist Tatyana Zaslavskaya, a close adviser of Gorbachev, announced plans for the formation of a new political organization outside the Communist Party, to fight for the success of Gorbachev’s policies. She suggested the
organization, the embryonic form of an openly capitalist political party in the USSR, could be called the Popular Front for Perestroika.
The Soviet bureaucracy’s turn towards capitalist restoration marks the definitive end of a historical epoch and the culmination of the struggle of Trotskyism against Stalinism. In the fiftieth year since the founding of the Fourth International, the perspectives fought for by Leon Trotsky have been completely vindicated. Only the Fourth International represents the traditions of the October Revolution, the mobilization of the international working class under revolutionary leadership to carry out the world socialist revolution. Only the Fourth International defends the nationalized property and planned economy of the USSR, the foremost conquest of the international proletariat.
The struggle to defend the perspective of world socialist revolution was undertaken by the Left Opposition under the leadership of Leon Trotsky, the co-leader, with Lenin, of the October Revolution. Trotsky correctly analyzed the bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet state and the Communist Party and fought to mobilize the working class against the bureaucracy.
Trotsky founded the Fourth International in September 1938 to defend the program of world socialist revolution which was the basis of the 1917 victory, and to build a new revolutionary leadership in the international working class.
The perspective of the political revolution in the Soviet Union against the parasitic bureaucracy was spelled out in the founding document of the Fourth International, the Transitional Program, written by Trotsky:
“The USSR thus embodies terrific contradictions. But it still remains a degenerated workers’ state. Such is the social diagnosis. The political prognosis has an alternative character: either the bureaucracy, becoming ever more the organ of the world bourgeoisie in the workers’ state, will overthrow the new forms of property and plunge the country back to capitalism; or the working class will crush the bureaucracy and open the way to socialism.”
The turn by the Soviet bureaucracy towards capitalist restoration demonstrates the historical correctness of the struggle carried out by the International Committee of the Fourth International against all forms of Pabloite revisionism.
The ICFI was founded in 1953 in struggle against an opportunist wing within the Fourth International, led by Michel Pablo, which claimed that the Stalinist bureaucracy was engaging in “self-reform” and called for the liquidation of the independent Trotskyist parties of the working class and the transformation of the Trotskyist movement into a left pressure group on Stalinism. Pablo’s closest collaborator, Ernest Mandel, is today in the front ranks of the apologists and defenders of Gorbachev.
Joining him are the renegades Michael Banda and Gerry Healy, who split with the ICFI in 1985-86 to go over to the camp of Stalinism and become cheerleaders for perestroika. The developments in the Soviet Union vindicate the stand taken by the International Committee of the Fourth International in 1985-86 against the renegades’ assault on all the fundamental principles of Trotskyism.
Only the International Committee of the Fourth International defends the perspective and program of world socialist revolution. The mounting resistance of the Soviet working class to Gorbachev and the Stalinist bureaucracy is one of the major component forces of this emerging world socialist revolution.
The Workers League fights for the unity of American workers with their class brothers in the USSR and throughout the world, on the basis of this revolutionary program. We are proud that while the leader of world Stalinism praises capitalism in Moscow, the Workers League presidential campaign raises the banner of world socialist revolution in the very center of imperialism.
Long live the October Revolution! Down with Stalinism! For the political revolution in the USSR!
Build the International Committee of the Fourth International! Forward to the world socialist revolution!