28/10/2018 by socialistfight
Mistakes of Trotskyists post-WWII
By Gerry Downing
The Paris Commune of 1871 – the first attempt of the working class to found a workers’ state.
The history of workers’ states is the history of the elementary attempts of the working class to overthrow capitalism and create a new egalitarian, communist society of full human liberation; social and economic equality for everyone. This is a basic human aspiration, part of our species essence, so ideologically it was always necessary to propose equality in heaven after death when the material means were absent on earth. The proposition that this new Jerusalem was possible came with the development of capitalism as a global system, and particularly the development of the imperialism in the last quarter of the 19th century. The Paris Commune of 1871 was the first attempt at this but that proved premature and limited to one city, so the reaction of French imperialism crushed it savagely.
The next attempt was in Russia in 1905 where much stronger trade unions globally resulted in a far more developed social consciousness of the working class evidenced in the formation of soviets, workers’ councils including not only the organised working class but all the oppressed and their organisations. It too fell because the Russian peasantry was not ready to rise under the leadership of the working class and the new revolutionary leadership was not yet sufficiently experienced or theoretically developed to lead it to victory.
The next attempt in 1917 was successful but the Bolsheviks had to experiment before they reached the political conclusions of how it should function. The healthy workers’ state under Lenin and Trotsky came to a definite end by the mid-1920s. Between October 1917 (old style) and late 1918 they experimented with workers’ control but the absence of a cultured working class with a long history of struggle and then the losses in the Civil War, the assumption of state administration posts and the consequent withering of the soviets meant that full-scale nationalisation had to be imposed from above in 1919.
But even without direct workers’ control, the Bolshevik aspiration for the world revolution designated the state as a healthy, internationalist workers’ state. The victory of the anti-Marxist ‘socialism in a single country’ perspective by 1927 was an essential characteristic of a degenerated workers’ state, but nonetheless still a workers’ state. Because the economy was planned for need and not profit and Lenin’s last struggles had established the monopoly of foreign trade and so prevented the penetration of imperialist finance capital, with all its corrupting influences.
The USSR remained a degenerated workers’ state until October 1993. From 1939 Eastern Poland became a deformed workers’ state because of the occupation by the Red Army and the incorporation of its economy into the USSR by the expropriation of the Polish capitalist class and the planning of its economy. The brutal manner that this was carried out did ten times more damage than good according to Trotsky, because of the deleterious effect on the consciousness of the working class internationally, but nonetheless once done it was necessary to defend those property relations:
“The primary political criterion for us is not the transformation of property relations in this or another area, however important these may be in themselves, but rather the change in the consciousness and organisation of the world proletariat, the raising of their capacity for defending former conquests and accomplishing new ones. From this one, and only decisive standpoint, the politics of Moscow, taken as a whole, completely retains its reactionary character and remains the chief obstacle on the road to the world revolution.”
Tito (left, in left photo) and Hoxha (right in right photo) during WWII in Yugoslavia and Albania. Both states defeated the fascist armies themselves, so had relative independence for the USSR, much to Stalin’s displeasure.
Post-WWII is more difficult and created many theoretical problems for Trotskyists. The occupation of Eastern Europe by the Red Army did NOT create workers’ states of any type. Neither did the victory of the peasant Red Armies in Yugoslavia, Albania or China immediately initiate DWSs but bourgeois forms of rule were first tried:
Yugoslavia: “On 7 March 1945, the provisional government of the Democratic Federal Yugoslavia (DFY) was assembled in Belgrade by Josip Broz Tito, while the provisional name allowed for either a republic or monarchy. In November 1945, Tito’s pro-republican People’s Front, led by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, won the elections with an overwhelming majority, … On 29 November 1945, King Peter II was formally deposed by the Yugoslav Constituent Assembly.” (Wikipedia)
We can take the latter date as the initiation of the DWS in Yugoslavia.
Albania: After Hoxha liberated Albania with the defeat of the fascist army on 29 November 1944, “The Democratic Front, dominated by the Albanian Communist Party, succeeded the National Liberation Front in August 1945 and the first post-war election was the held on 2 December. The Front was the only legal political organisation allowed to stand in the elections, and the government reported that 93% of Albanians voted for it. On 11 January 1946, Zog was officially deposed and Albania was proclaimed the People’s Republic of Albania.” (Wikipedia)
The latter date signifies the initiation of the DWS in Albania.
China: Mao’s Red Army took state power in 1949 but he did not initiate a workers’ state and had no intention of doing so. His perspective was the Bloc of Four Classes, the working class, the peasantry, the urban middle class and the nationalist bourgeoisie, who were supposed to be anti-imperialist, as oppose to the comprador bourgeoisie, those who were more obviously pro-imperialist. The nationalist bourgeoisie were on no account to be appropriated. So, the state remained a capitalist state. In 1950 the Korean War began, and Mao initiated the ‘Three Antis’ in late 1951 to expropriate the comprador bourgeoisie. Mao had sent his Red Army to Korea in late 1950 and the nationalist bourgeoisie grew very wealthy by supplying the Red Army from its inception but now in war its loyalty was very questionable. If the US/UN army came across the border into China a fifth column existed in China to assist and threaten the regime itself.
So, the nationalist bourgeoisie was proven as unreliable as the comprador and also had to be expropriated via the ‘Five Antis’, an extension of the ‘Three Antis’:
“Eventually the Communist Party revealed that it would no longer protect private business, and that Chinese capitalists would receive treatment no better than foreign (the CCP acknowledgement that the nationalist bourgeoisie were no better than the comprador bourgeoisie – SFG). The Korean War initially provided opportunities in Northern China, giving rise to a new class of capitalists, many of whom would be prosecuted under the Marxist policies of the Communist Party.” 
Although almost no native capitalists remained behind what was later to be dubbed the Iron Curtain Stalin retained capitalist property relations in the ‘Peoples democracies’ there up to late 1948 and early 1949.
Likewise, with North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, these economies were only cloned with the USSR when the absolute necessity of political and personal survival dictated. After late 1948, when the revolutionary post-war upsurge ebbed, Marshall Aid was introduced by the US in Europe because western imperialism no longer needed Stalin to crush revolutions in Poland, Czechoslovak, Italy, Greece and Vietnam directly by crushing workers’ uprisings himself of in conjunction with imperialism or the eight popular front governments in western Europe where the Communists parties participated. So now Marshall Aid was offered to the people’s democracies and many were willing to accept so deformed workers’ were then initiated, most often by a controlled mobilisation of the working class to oust the capitalist-minded managers as the owners had already been expropriated by the Nazis and the remaining Nazis sympathetic once fled the advance of the Red Army.
Cuba: Castro’s entry into Havana on 8 January 1959 did not initiate a DWS and most serious Marxists admit that now. It was not enough for Castro to expropriate the pro-imperialist bourgeoisie, albeit the vast majority, in the Summer and Fall of 1960, it was the institution of full state planning of the economy for perceived human need after the Bay of Pigs in 1961. The Spart Family position is: “Cuba became a deformed workers’ state with the pervasive nationalizations in the summer and fall of 1960, which liquidated the bourgeoisie as a class”  but they did not consider state planning as an essential element of the DWS; Castro did not abandon the prospect of rapprochement with the USA until after the Bay of Pigs and did not clone the state with the USSR until after that. This may seem hair-splitting at the time, but it is vital for the understanding what happened when the process went the other way from the late 1980s and early 1990s.
What is a workers’ state?
The LTT/WIL observed in 1995 in The Marxist Theory of the State and the Collapse of Stalinism:
“The cutting edge of distinction between bourgeois states and workers’ states is not some decisive degree of nationalisation (Militant/CWI), nor the existence of “central planning” (Workers Power/LRCI), nor the alleged “commitment” of the state apparatus to defend the socialised forces of production (ICL and IBT), but which class interests the economy and the state apparatus ultimately serve.” 
In 2009 In Defence of Trotskyism No. 1 we wrote:
“If the IBT, along with the rest of the “Family” were to ask that very empirical question, what relations of production does the Chinese state defend? then they could give only one answer – the Chinese Stalinist bureaucracy use statised property to defend and develop capitalist property relations. This is the total opposite to what Lenin did via the NEP and what all USSR bureaucrat did, even Gorbachev up to late 1990; they used a certain measures of controlled capitalist production and distribution to guard and develop collectivised property relations. The IBT theory is a reversion to the old Grantite/Militant theory that a workers’ state is defined by the degree of nationalisation.” 
The Marxist Theory of the State and the Collapse of Stalinism says:
“Underlining this approach, Lenin argued in early 1918 that: “No one, I think, in studying the question of the economic system of Russia, has denied its transitional character. Nor, I think, has any Communist denied that the term Socialist Soviet Republic implies the determination of Soviet power to achieve the transition to socialism, and not that the new economic system is recognised as a socialist order.” 
“Thus, despite the fact that between 1917 and 1918, the Bolsheviks ruled over a bourgeois economy, only economistic pedants would deny that the infant soviet regime was a workers’ state. Not only did workers hold state power directly through soviets, but the Soviet regime was committed to expropriating the bourgeoisie.
“Elsewhere, we have attempted the following definition: “At root, a workers’ state is one in which the bourgeoisie is politically suppressed, leading to its economic expropriation as a class. This is what such apparently disparate events as the October Revolution of 1917 and the bureaucratic overturns in Eastern Europe, Asia and Cuba after 1945 have in common . . . We reject both purely “economic” and purely “political definitions of a workers’ state.’” 
It is very important not to identify occupation by a ‘Red Army’ as the initiation of a workers’ state; this occupation did not result in workers’ states in pre-war Finland of post-war Austria or Afghanistan when the Red Army invaded in Christmas 1979. Together with the expropriation of the bourgeoisie the actual economic production of wealth for need according to a plan rather than production for the profit and the market must be initiated consciously for a workers’ state to come into being. This is the error committed by the Spart Family by going on surface appearances of mass nationalisations alone, it is also the error of Ted Grant who lumped together various capitalist states with genuine deformed workers’ states in the following hilarious list: “In Vietnam, Laos, Kampuchea, Burma, Syria, Angola, Mozambique, Aden, Benin, Ethiopia and as models, Cuba and China (which in their turn had the model of Eastern Europe as a beacon showing the way) there has been a transformation of social relations”. Not only state power and the expropriation of the pro-imperialist bourgeoisie but all capitalists and the planning of the economy for need, i.e. the proletarian mode of production based on the dictatorship of the proletariat, however, distorted, is necessary to define a DWS.
We have followed the LTT/WIL’s The Marxist theory of the state and the collapse of Stalinism closely in arriving at our definition. The LTT’s The Marxist Theory of the State made this point:
“According to Trotsky’s succinct definition, ‘the class character of the state is determined by its relation to the forms of property in the means of production’ and ‘by the character of the forms of property and productive relations which the given state guards and defends’. This implies a dialectical rather than a mechanical relationship between base and superstructure: it is not merely a question of the existing forms of property but of those which the state defends and strives to develop.”
But what is or was the state in all the deformed and degenerated and workers’ states? Following the withering of the soviets by the early 1920s in the USSR the workers state remained healthy as long as the party, forced to substitute itself for the class as we have observed, still defended great measures of internal party democracy, despite the banning of faction by Lenin at the 10th party Congress because of the famines and the Kronstadt uprising. Trotsky’s Left Opposition, as well as oppositionist groups around Nikolai Bukharin and Grigory Zinoviev, functioned until 1927 when Trotsky and Zinoviev were expelled on November 12, 1927, and internal party democracy was snuffed out by Stalin. This was now a degenerate workers’ state.
In democratic bourgeoisie states there is a real separation of powers, the Executive (government), the Legislature (parliament) and the Judiciary (including the police and prison services). In a military dictatorship these separations, which are a reflection of the organised strength of the working class, primarily in trade unions and working-class political parties, are blurred, in a fascist state they are eliminated. After a successful socialist revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat also eliminates these separations, except the working class rules via its soviets, workers’ councils, and if these withers away it still rules via its revolutionary party. When this party degenerated, and Stalin imposed bureaucratic tyranny fully after 1927-8, nevertheless the dictatorship of the proletariat still remained because the bureaucracy defended proletarian property relations as the source of its privileges. All positions of state administration were appointed by Stalin and his bureaucracy; the Communist party now WAS the state.
Similarly, with the cloned deformed workers’ states after WWII. When the Communist party decided to initiate a DWS, because the USA no longer needed them to defeat the post-war revolutionary upsurge, and they had eliminated all opposition to this within the state, as in late 1948 and early 1949 behind the Iron Curtain, these states then became DWSs. The actual tasks of achieving this, state planning, nationalisations (a great part of these economies were nationalised even before WWII) were a matter of time, but the course was already decided. Similarly, with all the rest of the DWSs apart from Romania and China, where political revolutions had to be defeated to restore capitalist states.
How the film began to run the other way
During WWII the Nazi invasion overturned property relations in a large part of the USSR post-war but these were restored with the defeat of the Nazis. The beginning of the end of the deformed workers’ states began in Vietnam in 1986:
“In a historic shift (in 1986), the reformers implemented free-market reforms known as Đổi Mới (renovation), which carefully managed the transition from a command economy to a Socialist-oriented market economy. With the authority of the state remaining unchallenged, private ownership of farms and companies engaged in commodity production, deregulation, and foreign investment were encouraged while the state maintained control over strategic industry… Vietnam is now the largest producer of cashew nuts with a one-third global share, the largest producer of black pepper accounting for one-third of the world’s market and second largest rice exporter in the world after Thailand… Vietnam was accepted into the WTO on November 7, 2006.” (Wikipedia).
The deformed workers’ state was transformed into a capitalist state controlled by a CP government when they decided to promote capitalism as the source of their privileges and state planning was directed at that object.
But the mass ending of workers’ states began with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and proceeded throughout the Iron Curtain to the USSR itself in August 1991 and then to China, which restored a capitalist state at the 14th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on 12-18 October 1992.  How did these collapses happen? The fall of the Berlin Wall was caused by a mass uprising, encouraged by Gorbachev. Initial small demonstrations in St Nicholas Church in Leipzig that had been taking place every Monday for years to pray for peace led by the pastor began to grow exponentially. On 9 October 1989, the congregation was joined by a huge crowd of approximately 70,000 which now targeted the regime itself. There was great apprehension that the Stasi would stop the demonstration by a massacre. Although huge numbers of armed police threatened death at the last minute they stood back, and the demonstration proceeded. Taking confidence from this the ‘colour revolution’ now spread to all East German cities with massive demonstrations every Monday until after a month the Berlin Wall fell on 9 November 1989, with all its reactionary consequences.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989 the crucial transformation was the decision of that state to restore capitalist property relations; when the Stasi did not open fire on the Leipzig demonstration on 9 October that may be designated as the moment when the bureaucracy decided to let the DWS go. Prior to that event demonstrations there and in other cities demanded reforms, not the overthrow of the regime.
Moscow. August coup. Press conference of the acting President of the Soviet Union Gennady Yanayev in the Ministry of Foreign Affaires. Boris Pugo (L) and Gennady Yanayev. Photo ITAR-TASS / Vladimir Musaelyan; Alexander Chumichev (Photo by TASS via Getty Images)
The Yanayev Coup, the Yeltsin counter-coup of August 1991 and the ‘constitutional crisis’ of 1993
But first let us deal with the knotty problem of how a capitalist state, or states, were restored in the USSR. When Gennady Yanayev launched his coup from 19-22 August 1991 he overthrew Gorbachev’s regime. He did NOT set out to defend the degenerate workers’ state but was determined to maintain the rule of the Communist party in the restoration of capitalism. He was determined not to go the road of East Germany and Leipzig on 8 October 1989; he would not have flinched in ordering that massacre. Yeltsin’s restoration programme turned out to be the more vicious than Yanayev’s because it destroyed the economy by mass looting and opened it up to western imperialism.
The coup on 19 August announced a government led by Gennady Yanayev, which had the hard-liner Vladimir Kryuchkov as KGB head, Dmitry Yazov as Minister of Defence and Boris Pugo as Minister of Interior. He declared a state of emergency for six-month because ”extremist forces have set out to dismantle the Soviet Union.” He banned all strikes and demonstrations; state control was announced over everything from ”major state and economic facilities”. All Soviet mass media was now under his control, 250,000 pairs of handcuffs were ordered and 300,000 arrest forms. Kryuchkov doubled the pay of all KGB personnel, called them back from holiday, and placed them on alert. The prisoners in Lefortovo Prison were sent elsewhere to prepare for new political prisoners. 
We should have rejected political support to both the Yanayev coup and the Boris Yelstin counter-coup because both were capitalist restoration and if a political bloc was to be made with anyone it was with Gorbachev in defence of the degenerate workers’ state. However this possibility never arose. Moreover, it was impossible to expect the working class to support their own repression, like we would not support the crushing of the Tiananmen Square uprising on 4 June 1989; Deng also declared that was in defence of communism. A military bloc was possible with Yeltsin for the brief 3 days of the coup when the outcome might well have been a civil war.
The WIL/LTT has argued thus on that 3-day crisis in, The Marxist theory of the state and the collapse of Stalinism :
“Is a military bloc the same as the united front?
“The scope for a military bloc ‘with the devil and his grandmother’ is considerably wider than the criteria of the united front. A military bloc does not presuppose the ability of the ‘partner’ of the working class to defend workers’ interests, even to a limited extent. It merely amounts to an agreement to fire in the same direction against a common enemy. In the case of an attempted coup, such an agreement could be concluded with sections of the bourgeoisie, or even with ‘loyal’ army units. But to talk of a ‘united front’ with such forces would be ridiculous.
“Along such lines we have argued that, while a military bloc with Yeltsin and his supporters would have been appropriate had the August Coup developed into a civil war, there could have been no united front with a restorationist government bent on the destruction of the workers’ state. Even to pose the question of joint struggle to defend wages, jobs etc to such a government reveals its lack of realism.”
True under Yanayev’s programme, the same as the one actually carried out by Deng in China after October 1992, the workers would have suffered far less than the appalling devastation inflicted in them by Yeltsin.
Trotsky makes the following observation on the pre-war Soviet bureaucracy:
“All shades of political thought are to be found among the bureaucracy: from genuine Bolshevism (Ignace Reiss) to complete fascism (F. Butenko). The revolutionary elements within the bureaucracy, only a small minority, reflect, passively it is true, the socialist interests of the proletariat. The fascist, counterrevolutionary elements, growing uninterruptedly, express with even greater consistency the interests of world imperialism.”
Following increasing tensions between Yeltsin and the parliament a constitutional crisis arose when he declared it dissolved on 21 September 1993. Constitutionally he did not have this power. The parliament then rejected Yeltsin’s decree, impeached him and declared vice president Aleksandr Rutskoy to be acting president.
The parliament mobilised popular support, which Yanayev never could, but Yeltsin did to a limited degree in August 1991. By 3 October they tore down police barricades around the parliament, occupied the Mayor’s offices and attempted to take over the Ostankino Technical Center and television studio. The army had vacillated up to then but now they accepted Yeltsin’s orders and their tanks opened up on the White House, blowing huge holes in the building. Snipers replied from inside and a 10-hour battle ensued before the defenders surrendered in the early hours of 4 October after the troops stormed the building and arrested the leaders. A “Reiss Faction” did arise in 1993 but Yeltsin crushed it.
Muscovite build barricades in Moscow during the theconstitutional crisis of 3-4 October 1993.
Then the crack-down on dissident factions in the army and oppositionists in civil society:
“President Boris Yeltsin moved swiftly last night to stamp his absolute power on Russia by suspending a range of political movements and closing opposition newspapers after the surrender of his main parliamentary opponents in the wake of the assault on the Russian White House.
“The National Salvation Front, the Russian Communist Party, the United Front of Workers and the Union of Officers were banned, while Pravda, the former organ of the Soviet Communist Party, and a number of other papers were told to cease publication. An overnight curfew was also imposed throughout Moscow. The indiscriminate exchanges of fire left hundreds injured and an unknown number of dead. The assault set fire to the riverside front of the building and reduced whole floors to rubble. At 4.50pm local time 300 people, many of them deputies, came out with their hands over their heads, and walked in single file down the steps to waiting buses. Gunfire still crackled overhead.
The ten-day conflict became the deadliest single event of street fighting in Moscow’s history since the Russian Revolution. According to government estimates, 187 people were killed and 437 wounded, while estimates from non-governmental sources put the death toll at as high as 1,500.” 
Just three died in the Yanayev coup; the decisive battle was avoided. Some see October 1993 as the point of transformation to a capitalist state and I now agree with that judgement. Identifying the Yanayev coup or the Yeltsin counter-coup as the point of transition did not take every factor into account in what determined a DWS. The October 1993 struggle showed that the opposition within the bureaucracy and therefore the state and within the working class had now been defeated – all states are instruments of class struggle and that one was not over until the defeat of the parliament on 4 October 1993.
The parliament building under siege and bombardment on October 3, 1993, in Moscow.
We will leave the debate over whether China is still a deformed workers’ state, an advance semi-colony or imperialist to the next document. When I wrote In Defence of Trotskyism No. 1 China: deformed workers’ state or rising world imperialist power? Reply to the International Bolshevik Tendency and the Spart “Family”, in 2009 I had not yet arrived at a definite conclusion that China was not imperialist. I did so in discussion with our comrades in Brazil and Argentina.
 Wikipedia, Three-anti and Five-anti Campaigns, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-anti_and_Five-anti_Campaigns
 Here the Sparts acknowledge that it was NOT Castro’s entry into Havana in 1959 which initiated the DWS, rather it was the far vaguer ‘the victory of the revolution’. So why does this criterion not apply to the Iron Curtain, Yugoslavia, Albania, China, North Korea, North and South Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos? Because Castro was then a self-declared left nationalist and did not call himself a communist at all, these latter were so much better because they called themselves communists; Stalinophilia!
 In defence of Marxism, Theoretical journal of the Leninist-Trotskyist Tendency, No. 3,1995. The Marxist Theory of the State and the Collapse of Stalinism, https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/document/ltt/ltt-idom3.htm
 In Defence of Trotskyism No.01 Winter 2009, China: deformed workers’ state or rising world imperialist power? Reply to the International Bolshevik Tendency and the Spart “Family”, https://socialistfight.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/in-defence-of-trotskyism-no-1.pdf Also available in French.
 V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 27, Moscow, 1965, p.335.
 CWG / LTT Fusion Declaration, Workers News, No. 44, Mar-Apr 1993.
 Initially we had identified the point of transition as when President Jiang agreed to Deng’s programme in In Defence of Trotskyism No. 1: “The development of capitalist property relations was prioritised consciously by the entire bureaucracy and state in 1992 when (President) Jiang capitulated to Deng. China then ceased being a workers’ state in any way” but now believes we must identify the 14th Congress, 12-18 October 1992, a few months later, as the point when the entire bureaucracy signified its agreement. Workers Power had taken this position I discovered later and Richard Brenner admitted to me at the same meeting that it was the WIL/Richard Price’s work in The Marxist theory of the state and the collapse of Stalinism that convinced him of the correct method of identifying a deformed workers’ state and he had applied it to China as I had done and reached the same conclusion, apart from that minor difference.
 GERALD NADLER UPI ARCHIVES AUGUST 19 1991, Soviet coup leaders struggle to consolidate control,
 Wikipedia, 1993 Russian constitutional crisis, hh