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Fourth International 1990: The end of the Soviet Union

Resolution Three: On the Defense of the Working Class in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union

This resolution was adopted at the World Conference of Workers against Imperialist War and Colonialism, held in Berlin on November 16-17, 1991 under the auspices of the International Committee of the Fourth International.

The International Workers Conference of the Fourth International assures the workers in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China of its unswerving solidarity in their difficult struggle against both the Stalinist criminals and the capitalist gangsters who equally threaten their vital interests.

The wave of mass demonstrations, strikes and uprisings which swept China, the Soviet Union and all of Eastern Europe in 1989 has sealed the fate of the Stalinist bureaucracy, which for more than 60 years has committed unparalleled crimes against the working class, liquidated an entire generation of Marxist revolutionaries and systematically undermined the conquests of the October Revolution.

From April to June 1989, the Chinese workers and students rose up against the regime in Beijing and destroyed whatever credibility it may still have had. Only through the bloody massacre on Tiananmen Square was it able to temporarily defend its power. In July, hundreds of thousands of Soviet miners went on strike, and in the following weeks, one Eastern European regime after the other collapsed under the onslaught of the masses: in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and finally Romania, where the Stalinist dictator Ceausescu ended his life on Christmas day 1989 with a bullet in his head. One and a half years later, the Stalinist coup of August 19, 1991 ended with a defeat for the Moscow bureaucracy from which it will never recover.

All the credit for the overthrow of Stalinism goes to the workers, but others have reaped the fruits. A new layer of parasites has betrayed the working class and has exploited its legitimate hatred of Stalinism for its own aims. The Yeltsins, Walesas and Havels replace the dictatorship of the Stalinist bureaucracy with that of international capital and assume the role of a comprador bourgeoisie.

While the Stalinist bureaucracy, in the interest of its self-preservation, had been forced to preserve important gains of the October Revolution like the nationalization of the means of production, the emerging bourgeoisie now strives to smash whatever remains of the nationalized industry and to transform the workers into starving pariahs with no rights.

They have already created a multi-millioned army of unemployed and, through galloping inflation, are rapidly destroying the livelihood of broad layers of the population. The balance sheet of the past month is a devastating indictment of their policies.

Since the reunification of Germany one year ago, 40 percent of all jobs in the former GDR have been destroyed, and the wave of layoffs is continuing unabated. In Poland, the annual national income shrunk by one-quarter in 1990, the average level of real wages went down 30 percent, and the number of unemployed will reach two million by the end of this year. In Hungary, workers are now working an average of 18 hours a day because many workers need two or three jobs at a time in order to survive. In the Soviet Union, production will drop by at least 10 percent this year. Yeltsin has announced the lifting of all price controls and a wage freeze at the same time. Inflation is already running at two to three percent per week.

A study by the World Bank and the IMF estimates that within five years, there will be 52 million unemployed in Eastern Europe. In order to provide these people with the means for survival, about $72 billion would be needed annually—but these states are bankrupt. According to a study of the International Labor Organization in Geneva, millions in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe will soon lack the most elementary protection by society. “The national health services and social programs cannot survive the economic reconstruction and the social changes bound up with it,” the study says.

Even the new middle class, upon which the ideologues of capitalist restoration had placed such great hopes, cannot develop under conditions of economic collapse. Only a tiny layer of crooks and mafiosi are enriching themselves without any bounds. In Hungary, this layer of nouveaux riches, according to a recent study, encompasses a mere five one-thousandths of the population.

The demonstrations of the miners in Bucharest and the massive rate of abstentions during the recent elections in Poland are the first signs of the growing resistance of the working class. Capitalist restoration can only be effected through bloody violence against the working class.

Already, the bourgeoisie has begun to drop its democratic mask and is holding up fascists like Pilsudski in Poland and Horthy in Hungary as shining examples. In Russia, Yeltsin is claiming for himself unlimited dictatorial powers and—74 years after the revolution—welcomes the Romanovs back. The old Stalinist apparatus of oppression is being carefully preserved in order to use it for the future oppression of the working class in the name of the bourgeoisie.

Everywhere, rival capitalist cliques are stirring up nationalism and chauvinism, in order to incite the workers against each other and to preempt an uprising against the old and new oppressors. The bloodbath in Yugoslavia is a result of these policies. This war has nothing to do with the right of nations to self-determination. Serbian and Croatian nationalists are merely fighting to secure for themselves a larger portion of the exploitation of the working class.

Stalinism bears the main responsibility for the present catastrophe.

For six decades, the Stalinist bureaucracy justified its rule by claiming that it defended “socialism” and the heritage of the October Revolution. But this was a lie. The rise of the Stalinist bureaucracy during the twenties marked the beginning of a counterrevolution, which today leads to the open restoration of capitalism.

The October Revolution resulted from the contradictions of capitalism on a world scale. Its further development depended on the support of the international proletariat. But due to the defeat of the German revolution, world revolution was delayed. The isolation of the Soviet Union led to the emergence of a cancerous growth, the bureaucracy, which found its most perfect embodiment in Stalin.

This bureaucracy rose to power on the dead bodies of the revolutionaries of 1917 and destroyed the Bolshevik Party by transforming it into the apparatus of a privileged bureaucracy. It turned the Communist International into an instrument of its self-serving foreign policies, caused innumerable defeats of the international working class, and murdered an entire generation of socialist revolutionaries.

Gorbachev’s perestroika is the logical outcome of this counterrevolutionary tradition. It marks the transition from “socialism in one country” to capitalist restoration. The bureaucrats chose Gorbachev as their leader in 1985 because they could no longer uphold their privileges as a parasite in the workers state and were searching for a new social pillar in the form of private property. Many high-ranking bureaucrats have meanwhile—like Yeltsin—gone over directly to the camp of the new bourgeoisie.

Within the bureaucracy there are no differences on the aims of perestroika. Those who led the coup in August 1991 supported the introduction of private property no less than that wing of the bureaucracy around Gorbachev and Yeltsin. They are merely fighting over the division of the booty. While the leaders of the coup seek to maintain the privileges of the old nomenklatura, Yeltsin speaks in the name of the rising comprador bourgeoisie.

The international policies of Stalinism have acquired a new counterrevolutionary dimension, too. As before, they seek to split the Soviet proletariat from its international class brothers; and in addition, Gorbachev is looking for the active support of imperialism for his civil war against the Soviet working class. This is why he supports every imperialist crime from the war against Iraq to the betrayal of the Palestinians to the sellout of Cuba. The Soviet foreign ministry is today little more than a propaganda agency of the US State Department.

The political forces which have risen to the top of society on the shipwreck of Stalinism have no future to offer to the masses of the population except mass unemployment, misery and war. The workers of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China will never accept this. A new revolution is absolutely inevitable. Its outcome will depend on the working class drawing the lessons of the crimes of Stalinism and returning to the traditions of the October Revolution, which are today embodied in the Fourth International.

  • Fight the restoration of capitalism! Stop the sell-off and the destruction of nationalized industry! Build factory committees and take control over production!
  • Down with the Stalinist bureaucracy and the new bourgeoisie! Form a workers government based on soviets, in which there is no place for the bureaucracy or the mafia.
  • Replace the reactionary international policies of the bureaucracy with the policies of proletarian internationalism!
  • Build sections of the Fourth International in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China!