The Workers Vanguard series contains a retrospective glorification of the Kremlin bureaucracy. The same nationalist outlook which characterizes all of Spartacist’s conceptions underlies this organization’s long-standing attraction to Stalinism.
Following the collapse of the middle class protest movement of the 1960s and 70s, the Spartacist League turned sharply toward the Stalinist bureaucracy, promoting its supposed revolutionary potential and apologizing for its crimes.
In 1979 Workers Vanguard praised the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan under the headline “Hail Red Army.” With the confrontation between the Solidarity independent union movement and the Jaruzelski dictatorship in Poland it called for Moscow’s military intervention, pledging in advance to defend whatever atrocities the Stalinists might commit against the Polish workers. And, in 1984, it marked the death of the former KGB and Soviet party chief Yuri Andropov with a black-bordered death notice on its front page. The collapse of the Stalinist regimes has by no means dampened Spartacist’s adulation of Stalinism.
In its attempt to deny the significance of the globalization of capitalist production, Spartacist maintains that the vast changes that have taken place in class relations on a world scale have their source, not in these economic processes, but rather, in the collapse of the Soviet Union.
It declares enthusiastically that the Moscow bureaucracy developed “the second-strongest state in the world” and functioned as a “counterweight” to the “global hegemony of American imperialism.” The disappearance of this counterweight, Workers Vanguard argues, paved the way for the “triumph of capitalist ‘globalization’“, which Spartacist understands as merely an increase in capitalist investment in the former colonial countries.
According to its thesis, the absence of Soviet support left the bourgeois nationalist regimes defenseless in the face of “the devastating power of the Pentagon war machine” and they therefore surrendered to the penetration of foreign capital. This changed relationship was supposedly signaled by the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
As we have already seen, Spartacist’s elevation of the role of armed force to the principal motor of history is a hallmark of its petty-bourgeois politics. In this case, to advance the Gulf War and the Soviet Union’s dissolution as the catalysts for the changes in economic policy by the former colonial countries is patently absurd. In reality these changes were well under way during the period in which Workers Vanguard was hailing the Moscow bureaucracy’s reactionary adventure in Afghanistan and clamoring for the massacre of Polish workers.
The foreign debt crisis combined with the collapse in commodity prices beginning in the early 1980s reconfirmed the overwhelming dominance of the world market over the backward economies of the former colonial countries. One regime after another abandoned national development schemes in order to comply with IMF and World Bank structural adjustment programs.
It was not fear of US cruise missiles which motivated the economic changes introduced by the national bourgeoisie in these countries. Rather, the global integration of capitalist production had rendered the old nationalist policies unfeasible and an attempt to sustain them would have threatened the power and privileges of the national bourgeoisie itself.
When the International Committee explained in 1992 that the Soviet Union had been liquidated and could no longer be considered even a “degenerated workers state” the Spartacists denounced this as a “betrayal”. Now they have been forced to adapt themselves to the logic of the facts and refer to the “destruction of the Soviet bureaucratically degenerated workers’ state” without ever explaining how this came about.
While Spartacist makes the liquidation of the USSR the source of all of the changes in world economic and social relations, it offers no materialist explanation for this world historic event. The Workers Vanguard articles explicitly reject any attempt to trace the crisis of Stalinism to underlying economic and social contradictions.
Instead, they insist, the Soviet Union’s collapse is to be blamed on Gorbachev and... the Trotskyist parties of the International Committee of the Fourth International. The former for having organized “the retreat of Soviet global power” and the latter for “having done all within their power to promote counterrevolution in the Soviet Union and East Europe.”
Having placed the ICFI at the center of a conspiracy to bring down the USSR, Spartacist denounces it for having the gall to suggest that the restoration of capitalism there was “objectively determined.”
They quote a passage from the 1993 perspectives document of the Workers League, The Globalization of Capitalist Production and the International Tasks of the Working Class, which states the following: “The collapse of the Soviet Union was only the first major political convulsion produced by the transformation of the forms of production. The qualitative advances in the integration of world economy dealt the final blow to the autarchic national policies of the Stalinist regime.”