The dissolution of the Soviet Union

On December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union — which had emerged out of the socialist revolution of October 1917—was formally dissolved by the Stalinist bureaucracy.

The Trotskyist movement, organized in the International Committee of the Fourth International, was the only political tendency at the time that was not taken by surprise by the events unfolding in the USSR. Basing itself on Leon Trotsky’s analysis of the counterrevolutionary role of Stalinism, the ICFI, from the very beginning, provided an extraordinarily prescient analysis of the crisis of the Stalinist regimes. The Trotskyist movement also intervened powerfully in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. It fought for the defense of the conquests of the October Revolution through a political revolution by the working class against the bureaucracy, and the international extension of the revolution, as the only alternative to capitalist restoration.

The ICFI developed this work based on the political and theoretical conquests made in the aftermath of the split with the national-opportunists of the Workers Revolutionary Party in 1985-1986. The expulsion of the Pabloites from the Fourth International provided the basis for a renaissance of Marxism within the ICFI.

On this page, readers will find the most critical documents from this intervention. This unique record testifies to the power of the Trotskyist perspective and Marxist analysis. Three decades later, in a new period of social and political upheavals, it will help educate new generations of revolutionaries in Marxism and the critical experiences of the working class in the 20th century.

US President George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev formally recognizing the dissolution of the Soviet Union
Gorbachev’s “perestroika” and the crisis of Stalinism

When Mikhail Gorbachev, the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, proclaimed the policy of “perestroika” (“reconstruction” or “restructuring” in English) in 1985, virtually the entire petty bourgeois left hailed it as a move toward a “self-reform” and toward genuine socialism by the Stalinist bureaucracy. 

The ICFI developed an entirely different assessment: Basing itself on Trotsky’s analysis of the nature of the Soviet Union and the counterrevolutionary role of Stalinism, it recognized that, with perestroika, the bureaucracy was preparing the wholesale restoration of capitalism.

Soviet miners on strike, July 1989
The collapse of Stalinism in Eastern Europe and the GDR, 1989

In 1989, the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe and Eastern Germany suffered a rapid collapse. This page documents the ICFI’s analysis of the restoration of capitalism in Eastern Europe in 1989 as well as the extensive intervention of the German section of the ICFI, the Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter (BSA), in the crisis of Stalinism in East Germany.

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David North’s November 1989 trip to the Soviet Union

In November 1989, David North traveled to the Soviet Union on behalf of the International Committee of the Fourth International. It was the first such official visit of a representative of the Trotskyist movement since the expulsion of the Left Opposition in 1927 and the mass murder of Trotskyists and socialists in the Great Terror of the 1930s.

In the course of his two-week visit, North was able to meet with trade unionists, students and socialist activists in Moscow and Leningrad and give lectures that were attended by hundreds of people.

North aboard the Aurora battleship in Leningrad on November 12, 1989, during his trip to the Soviet Union. (The blank shots fired by the Aurora at the Winter Palace in October, 1917, initiated the Soviet seizure of power.) To his right is the captain of the ship.
Letters to the Soviet Union

An important component of the intervention of the ICFI was an extensive correspondence that David North conducted with workers, youth and intellectuals in the USSR from 1989 into the early 1990s. We are publishing a selection of these letters here, many of them for the first time. 

August-December 1991: The final months of the USSR

In the night of August 18-19, 1991, a faction of the Stalinist bureaucracy, based in the military and KGB, launched a coup to overthrow the government of Mikhail Gorbachev. The coup suffered an ignominious collapse three days later, on August 21. The ICFI welcomed the collapse of the coup as another major nail in the coffin of Stalinism, but warned:

“The implacable opposition of the socialist working class to the military-KGB coup must retain its complete independence from the political aims of the imperialists and their political and economic agents within the Soviet Union. ... Without the independent intervention of the working class on the basis of a socialist program, the collapse of Stalinism in the Soviet Union will lead to even more brutal forms of repression and social devastation. Six decades of Stalinist terror will be replaced by the terror of capitalism.”

In the aftermath of the collapse of the coup, the bureaucracy moved rapidly toward the final liquidation of the USSR.

Tanks at Red Square in Moscow during the coup attempt
The 1991 Berlin Conference of Workers against Imperialist War and Colonialism

The Berlin World Conference of Workers against Imperialist War and Colonialism was held by the ICFI on November 16–17, 1991. It was the IC’s response to the US invasion of Iraq in January 1991. Carried out with the full backing of the Soviet bureaucracy, “Operation Desert Storm” marked the beginning of decades of imperialist wars.

Reports and resolutions
The end of the USSR
After 1991: The defense of historical truth and the fight for socialist consciousness

In an analysis of the origins of the dissolution of the USSR and the tasks of the Fourth International, David North stressed in March 1992: 

“Stalinism set out to destroy the greatest conquest of Marxism: the development of the revolutionary political consciousness of the working class, the transformation of an oppressed and exploited mass into a conscious historical force. ... It falls upon the Fourth International, led by the International Committee, to reestablish within the working class the great political culture of Marxism. That is the only foundation upon which a genuine revolutionary workers movement can be built.”

Based on this assessment, in the 1990s, the International Committee developed a comprehensive campaign to restore and defend the historical truth about the October Revolution and the struggle of Leon Trotsky and the Left Opposition against Stalinism. A critical component of this campaign was a world lecture tour with Soviet historian Vadim Rogovin in 1995–1996, which attracted thousands of workers and youth in Europe, Australia and the United States. It also involved the publication of documents of the Left Opposition and the memoirs of Nadezhda Ioffe. Many critical essays and assessments of the International Committee of the most central experiences of the 20th century — from the October Revolution to fascism and the Holocaust — were developed in those years in conscious opposition to the postmodernist rejection of history and the historical falsifications in bourgeois academia.

Lenin and Trotsky at a celebration of the second anniversary of the October Revolution
Vadim Rogovin with Helen Halyard, then the assistant national secretary of the Workers League, upon his arrival in Detroit in February 1995. (c) WSWS Media
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