Statement of the International Committee of the Fourth International
Globalization and the International Working Class

National state socialism

In rejecting an objective source of Stalinism’s crisis, the Spartacists are affirming their essential agreement with the Stalinist conception of socialism in one country. What they saw in Stalinism was the possibility of national-state socialism, a conception that has a definite appeal to the petty bourgeois radical. From Beatrice and Sydney Webb in the 1930s, to James Robertson in the 1980s, this socio-political layer saw in the Stalinist bureaucracy a “strong state” which would play a mediating role between the excesses of capitalism and the danger of revolution.

Spartacist’s use of the phrase “political revolution” has nothing to do with the perspective elaborated by Trotsky. Rather than the independent mobilization of the Soviet workers to overthrow the bureaucratic dictatorship as part of the world socialist revolution, Spartacist adhered to the perspective of “socialism” imposed by the rifle and the tank. It looked to sections of the bureaucracy itself to prevent capitalist restoration. It directed its appeal not to the working class, but rather to the hard-line Stalinist factions and the repressive forces, urging them to undertake a renewed crackdown.

Spartacist describes the Soviet Union as having been “the second strongest state in the world,” as if this should be a source of great pride to Marxists, who, on the contrary, associate the realization of socialism not with powerful states, but rather with the progressive dismantling of the state itself.

The Spartacists never explain that the main function of that powerful state was to repress the working class and exterminate its revolutionary leadership. It acted to insulate the workers within Russia from the international working class, to hermetically seal the borders of the USSR against the impact of cheap western commodities. Far from liberating the masses within its borders from the pressure of imperialism, the state within the Soviet Union and the semi-sealed character of those borders were the direct expression of the influence exerted by imperialism over the USSR.

The growth of this state corresponded to the ever greater differentiation between the interests of the privileged bureaucracy that administered it and the Soviet working masses. At the same time, the more Soviet industry developed, due to the advantages of planning and the nationalized economy, the more it required the most advanced techniques and the more dependent it became on world trade.

Where does the real blame for the collapse of the Soviet Union lie, in the view of Spartacist? In predicting the fate of the USSR, Trotsky gave a prognosis of an alternative character. He wrote prophetically that the issue would be decided according to whether or not the working class proved able to overthrow the bureaucracy before the bureaucracy devoured the workers state.

As it happened, the bureaucracy was able to devour the workers state. The leading sections of the bureaucracy proceeded to restore private property and transform themselves into capitalist owners. But for Spartacist, this equation was reversed. It saw the working class as responsible for counterrevolution and looked to the bureaucracy to suppress it.

The Workers Vanguard article states: “Widespread apathy and cynicism as well as, to a certain degree, illusions in Western-type bourgeois democracy among the masses allowed the ascendancy of the counterrevolutionary forces centered around Boris Yeltsin in Russia and around anti-Soviet nationalists in the non-Russian republics.”

Spartacist continues: “...our tendency unambiguously and consistently called for unconditional military defense of the Soviet Union and the deformed workers states against imperialism and internal counterrevolution, as we do today in regard to the remaining deformed workers states—Cuba, China, North Korea and Vietnam.” [1]

This slogan of “unconditional military defense” was the brainchild of Spartacist. Trotsky and the Fourth International always saw the defense of the Soviet Union as a tactic, subordinate to and conditioned by the strategy of world socialist revolution, which encompassed as well the overthrow of the Kremlin bureaucracy.

As was stated in the Manifesto of the Fourth International on the Imperialist War and the Proletarian World Revolution, drafted at the outbreak of the Second World War: “The Fourth International can defend the USSR only by methods of revolutionary class struggle.” [2]

Spartacist’s appeal for the use of “unconditional military” methods in defense of the Soviet Union and the other mentioned states was not directed to the working class, and this group certainly possessed no means of executing this tactic itself. Instead it amounted to an hysterical appeal to the Stalinist bureaucracy itself to pursue a more confrontational military stance abroad while using violent repression against its political opponents at home, principally the working class.


Workers Vanguard, February 21, 1997


Leon Trotsky, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1939-40, New York, Pathfinder, p. 199