International Committee of the Fourth International
Fourth International (1990): 50 years since the assassination of Trotsky

Following the East German elections: The working class faces sharp attacks

Published originally in the Neue Arbeiterpresse, weekly newspaper of the BSA, on March 23, 1990.

The election victory of Kohl’s “Alliance for Germany” in the elections for the Volkskammer is the opening shot for unparalleled attacks by the West German corporations and banks on the working class in both the GDR and the Federal Republic.

The capitalists believe that the road has now been cleared for their takeover of GDR enterprises, the establishment of brutal capitalist exploitation, the destruction of all social achievements in the GDR. Their goal is the utilization of cheap wage labor in the GDR to finally mount a more comprehensive attack than before on the wages, jobs and rights of the working class in West Germany as well, and thus be better able to position itself for the trade war on the world market.

The day after the election, the magazine Der Spiegel published an interview with the general director Voigt of IFA, the GDR vehicle-making state trust In answer to a question as to whether there was a threat of mass layoffs, he answered: “Counting just the 65,000 of our workers employed in the factories of the passenger car section of IFA, 60 to 70 percent of them could lose their jobs. I see a similar dramatic situation in the many small plants working for us. After all, you have 85,000 people on the payroll there. In the sector making the Trabi and Wartburg cars, there are 100,000 jobs at stake.” Voigt stressed that matters were no better in other industries and, if anything, even worse in the electronic branch.

Under the headline “Buying Up and Cannibalizing,” Der Spiegel outlines how in recent weeks, especially at the Leipzig Fair, general directors of the Stalinist bureaucracy and West German corporate representatives have been making preparations of all kinds for the capitalists to take over the GDR enterprises. It writes, “Contracts are already being prepared for Day X. It will come soon after the election.... Then they’ll be permitted to swallow up, take over and cannibalize.”

In many of the trusts and state-owned enterprises, layoffs and the destruction of social gains and rights, such as day care centers and plant cafeterias, have already begun. These actions expose the Volkskammer elections for what they have been and what the BSA has said all along: a fraudulent maneuver by the ruling Stalinist bureaucracy, together with the Western imperialists, to catch the working class off guard and pave the way for the program of capitalist restoration.

However, this program can be imposed on society neither by elections nor by contracts and secret conversations, but only by violent class battles. What the working class requires in preparation for these battles is a sober stock-taking of the relationship of forces and the political problems confronting the workers’ movement as they were expressed in the election results.

The high number of votes cast for the lackeys of Kohl and Waigel in the GDR, for the CDU and the DSU, reveals one fact: the colossal nationalist campaign, through which the right-wing petty bourgeoisie, the rabble around the Stasi collaborators Ebeling, Schnur and de Maziere, was mobilized, and through which especially illusions in the “blessings” of capitalism were propagated, actually swept along a considerable section of the working class as well. How was this possible?

Stalinism, this cancerous ulcer on the international labor movement, bears primary responsibility for this situation. The countless crimes by the Stalinist bureaucracy against the world proletariat since its rise during the 1920s, committed in the name of “socialism,” have discredited the perspectives of socialism in the eyes of millions of workers.

The betrayal of the KPD (German Communist Party) in 1933, enabling Hitler fascism to seize power without a struggle, the Stalin-Hitler pact in 1939, the splitting and oppression of the German and European working class by means of police states of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the GDR and throughout Eastern Europe—these were the milestones in the decades-long collaboration between Moscow and the imperialist powers against the international working class.

Since then, with the collapse of the Stalinist policy of “socialism in one country” resulting from the effects of the capitalist world crisis on Eastern Europe, and with the triggering of mass uprisings against the ruling Stalinist bureaucracies, the latter seek everywhere to crown this counterrevolutionary work and to defend their power and privileges by reintroducing capitalism just like Gorbachev is doing in the Soviet Union.

It was Modrow and the SED-PDS who invited Kohl and the West German bankers and corporate heads to Dresden, Leipzig and Berlin, so as to prepare this war against the working class and its social conquests, which were won in struggle by the workers in spite of and in opposition to the rule of the Stalinist bureaucracy.

These crimes of Stalinism have resulted in a sweeping political and ideological disarming of the working class with respect to imperialism. Not only has the working class been deprived of any independent political sentiment and organization by the 45-year-long police oppression, but above all, because of the damage done to the consciousness of the working class by Stalinism, the working class in Eastern Europe has been stripped of a clear class orientation against the capitalists and thus of an organization of its own capable of doing battle. Even such elementary class organizations as trade unions must be rebuilt in the GDR.

This political and organizational disarming of the working class has led to a situation in which, following the overthrow of Honecker last fall, it was not the proletariat, but the petty-bourgeois parties and organizations such as the New Forum, the SPD and the United Left, among others, that were able to take over control and continue keeping the working class under their domination.

The parties gathered at the round table represent with their programs the petty-bourgeois and bourgeois layers, not the working class. Nor do they attack the Stalinists from the left, but rather from the right, from the standpoint of the bourgeoisie. Even organizations which, like the United Left, still refer in words to the “interests of the workers” or, like the SPD, to “old traditions of the labor movement,” all of them like the SED-PDS propagate the introduction of a capitalist market economy, the capitalist “performance principle,” the entry of bourgeois “democracy,” i.e., capitalism.

This capitalist domination of the working class by the “democratic” petty bourgeoisie of the round table, which works in common with the SED-PDS government, has in turn led to a situation in which the West German imperialists and their government in Bonn have been able to mount an offensive since the start of the year and to seize the initiative on behalf of their nationalist campaign.

Now, after sufficient confusion had been sewn by the Stalinists, the SPD and the petty-bourgeois “democrats,” the rightwing and bourgeois parties of the CDU and CSU/DSU saw that their hour had struck.

The fact that the SED-PDS and SPD as well as the CDU have in their program openly welcomed the capitalists, including the resulting election consequences, is a dramatic expression of the central problem facing the working class: the crisis of its consciousness and, thereby, the crisis of its political leadership.

To solve this crisis, Leon Trotsky founded the Fourth International in 1938 in order to construct a new Marxist leadership of the world proletariat in a struggle against the Stalinist and social democratic bureaucracies and their revisionist props in the petty bourgeoisie. Today the Fourth International is led by the International Committee of the Fourth International founded in 1953, when an opportunist tendency around Ernest Mandel and Michel Pablo broke with Trotskyism and attempted to destroy the Fourth International.

The causes of the crisis of revolutionary leadership in the working class and, hence, the way to overcoming this crisis cannot be understood without grasping the counterrevolutionary role of this opportunist tendency, called Pabloism after its leader Pablo, in the history of the Fourth International.

Stating that the Stalinist bureaucracy was a progressive force and that capitalism was a stable system, in which no socialist revolution could be expected for generations, Pabloism took care to subordinate the working class again and again to the Stalinist bureaucracy or to one of its wings in the name of ‘Trotskyism,” and the organizations of the Fourth International were liquidated in Eastern Europe.

Today in the GDR Pabloism has again created a front organization, the United Left, and Ernest Mandel publicly appears in the GDR press as an adviser and defender of the SED-PDS regime.

In this way Stalinism has been and is still given a “left” cover by Pabloism, by the latter’s attempt to prevent the overcoming of the crisis of revolutionary leadership in the working class.

Without solving this crisis, without rediscovering socialist consciousness, the working class can neither prevent the entry of capitalists into Eastern Europe nor, connected with it, the intensification of exploitation in Western Europe and the danger of new imperialist wars and fascist dictatorships.

The Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter has from the beginning intervened in the election campaign only from a single standpoint and with only one objective, that is to solve this crisis of consciousness in the working class and to build a new revolutionary party on the basis of proletarian internationalism and the program of socialist world revolution.

The small number of votes for the BSA—it received 374 votes in precinct 1 (Berlin), where it ran two candidates—is an indication of the great extent to which the working class has become confused by Stalinism and the petty bourgeoisie at the round table, and hence, has succumbed to the ideological pressure of the West German bourgeoisie.

Yet, just as the present mood gripping the working class is of a temporary nature, so too the success of the BSA’s work to establish socialist consciousness in the working class is not to be measured simply by the votes it received in the election.

Measured by the degree to which our program, our predictions and aims have been proven correct and thus met with a response in the working class, the BSA’s intervention in the election campaign of the GDR was a historic step forward for the Fourth International.

Two days after the overthrow of Honecker, the BSA published an appeal, in which there was not only a call for the complete overthrow of the Stalinist bureaucracy by the proletariat, but a warning as well that unless this was done, the Western bourgeoisie would exploit the Stalinist crisis for its own benefit and together with the Stalinist bureaucracy could organize the reintroduction of capitalism in the GDR. At the mass demonstration on November 4 in Berlin, this appeal was circulated in the thousands and the basis laid for the construction of the organization.

The next major step was the publication of the Neue Arbeiterpresse as a weekly paper from the first of this year in order to analyze week by week the political developments and to arm the working class with a Marxist understanding and program for its tasks. Tens of thousands of copies of the paper have since been sold in the GDR.

In the same way, tens of thousands of copies of our program, which the BSA had adopted and published at the end of January bearing the title “For the International Unity of the Working Class in the Struggle against Stalinism and Capitalism! For the United Socialist States of Europe!” were distributed.

Hundreds of thousands of workers learned of the existence of the BSA and the Fourth International through the election broadcasts on radio and television.

In addition, innumerable writings of Leon Trotsky and the International Committee of the Fourth International were distributed. In the midst of the election campaign the BSA published Trotsky’s basic work, The Revolution Betrayed, through its own publishing house, and exhibited it at the Leipzig Book Fair.

In the meantime, more than 500 letters have been received by the BSA, with workers and youth expressing their interest in becoming members of the BSA and seeking to learn about the party, its program and history.

In all this the BSA has created a powerful basis for sinking the roots of the Trotskyist party in the working class and for overcoming the blow that Pabloism had dealt the working class and the Fourth International.

The building of the Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter and the Fourth International is the most important task in preparing the working class for the inevitable, rapidly approaching class battles.

The BSA is the only party that turns directly to the working class and mobilizes it for the following program:

Occupy and strike the factories that are to be taken over and destroyed by Western corporations!

Elect workers’ councils and committees of occupation to guide this struggle! Prevent all layoffs, plant closings, all price hikes and rent increases!

Drive out the bureaucrats, their general directors and managers from their positions in the state and economy! Abolish their privileges!

Demand that the leadership of the SPD and the trade unions instantly end their collaboration with the Kohl government, that they immediately end their support to the imperialist plans for unification!

Force the leadership of the SPD, SED-PDS and the unions in the BRD and GDR to wage a common struggle against the capitalist banks and corporations, against the reintroduction of capitalism in the GDR!

Unite internationally in the struggle against Stalinism and capitalism! Fight for the United Socialist States of Europe!

Back to Marxism, to the revolutionary traditions of Marx and Engels, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, Lenin and Trotsky!

Rally to the world Trotskyist movement, the Fourth International and its program of socialist world revolution! Become a member of the Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter!