National Sections of the L5I:

Against Capitalist Restoration! For Proletarian Political Revolution!

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Despite nearly half a century of military and economic rivalry between the USSR and the USA, the Soviet Union formed one of the two central pillars of the imperialist world order.

From 1945 to 1991 the Kremlin, its satellites and indeed its Stalinist rivals, acted again and again to divert and abort the development of a world-revolutionary wave that could have isolated and eventually defeated imperialism. The counter-revolutionary role of Stalinism was concealed from millions by limited wars with imperialism in Korea and Vietnam, by the logistical support given by Stalinist states to national liberation struggles, and above all by the overthrow of capitalism by Stalinist parties. Today the downfall of the USSR appears as an unmitigated catastrophe for many fighters against imperialism and capitalism world-wide.

The collapse of the USSR, and other degenerate workers’ states, represents an enormous material and moral victory for imperialism. But it is a victory fraught with contradictions. It involves not only the near destruction of the historic economic gains of the October revolution, but also the elimination of a counter-revolutionary agency of imperialism within the movements of the exploited and oppressed throughout the world. The counter-revolutionary consequences of imperialism’s victory are immediate and obvious. The Pyrrhic nature of this victory will emerge relentlessly in the decade to come. The crisis now being encountered in the very process of restoring capitalism is contributing greatly to the deepening period of general crisis which characterises the end of the twentieth century.

After 1945 the prestige of the Kremlin was immensely enhanced by its victory over German imperialism and its consequent territorial expansion into Eastern and Central Europe. The vital role played by the planned economy—a key conquest of the October Revolution—in bringing about both the USSR’s victory, and its post-war survival and reconstruction, formed the material precondition for the creation of a whole series of new degenerate workers’ states, the political and economic duplicates of the Soviet Union. The very existence of the USSR, and the defensive manoeuvres carried out by the Stalinist bureaucracy against imperialism in the period of the first cold war, led to the defeat and overthrow of a number of weakened capitalist classes in Eastern Europe and later in the colonial and semi-colonial world.

These overturns of capitalism took place either through the agency of the Soviet Armed Forces or by Stalinist parties and guerrilla forces under their leadership. In the case of Cuba, an originally petit-bourgeois nationalist movement assimilated itself to Stalinism and transformed the island into a degenerated workers’ state. Under Stalinist control, however, these victories over capitalism did not result in the international spread of the proletarian revolution. Rather, they created a relatively stable balance of power between the USSR and imperialism. The Stalinist parties ensured that all elements of independent working class organisation were destroyed prior to the liquidation of capitalism. For the world proletariat the overall consequences of these social overturns were counter-revolutionary.

The circumstances and pace of each bureaucratic social overturn necessarily differed, one from another. But they held a number of essential features in common. In each case Stalinist parties, or proto-Stalinist national liberation movements, came to lead powerful armed forces in the struggle against fascist or “democratic” imperialism. The armed forces of the bourgeois state were defeated and disintegrated by the Stalinist forces. The bourgeoisie was deprived completely, or in large measure, of political power.

Having seized political power, the Stalinists moved to crush all independent working class organisations, preventing the creation of healthy workers’ states based on workers’ democracy. In this way they ensured the establishment of political regimes identical to the bureaucratic tyranny established by Stalin in the USSR.

Despite widespread nationalisations of industry and the expropriation of the semi-feudal landowners, there was at first no systematic expropriation of the bourgeoisie as a whole. Faithful to their counter-revolutionary programme of a revolution by stages, the Stalinists initially had no intention of overthrowing capitalism. On the contrary, they sought to preserve it by forming an open or concealed popular front—an alliance with the national or local bourgeoisie—and by trying to maintain an alliance with the imperialist powers. The “peoples democracies” they established were not intended to be “socialist” states.

Throughout this phase, the Stalinists actively prevented any attempt by the working class itself to take power from the virtually prostrate bourgeoisie. In Eastern Europe, the Soviet occupation authorities systematically liquidated the revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat and indeed, any independent political parties, trade unions, factory committees or proto-soviet bodies. They defended capitalist property relations whilst seeking to exploit them for the reconstruction of the Soviet economy through nationalisations and joint enterprises.

The armed forces of the bourgeois state were defeated and smashed by the Stalinist forces. Yet the states which resulted from the Stalinist victories were not workers’ states. The Stalinists’ intention was to maintain the existence of capitalism. This they proceeded to do. Stalin’s objective was merely to ensure the utter subordination of these states to the USSR, forming a buffer zone, or a type of defensive glacis. The Stalinist bureaucracy carried out a pre-emptive bureaucratic counter-revolutions against the working class and the poor peasantry, aborting the nascent revolutionary situation that had been created by the collapse of Nazi power. Whilst carrying out this anti-working class task the Stalinists could still rely on the active support of the indigenous bourgeoisie and the imperialist powers. In this way a form of dual power was established, with the armed power of the Stalinists replacing that of the bourgeoisie.

This situation did not and could not last. The Stalinists’ abortion of the post-war revolutionary wave and crushing of any independent proletarian class forces necessarily encouraged a renewed offensive from imperialism and the remaining forces of the bourgeoisie in Eastern Europe. The continued pressure of Stalinist forces in the Balkans (without Stalin’s approval) and the inability of British imperialism to stem it unaided, gave the new US administration a pretext to launch an economic and military campaign to strengthen the bourgeois states of the European continent.

Truman launched Marshal Aid as the carrot—and returned large numbers of US troops as the stick —to prevent any further successes for the Stalinists and even to encourage a roll-back of their power in Central and Eastern Europe. But the first attempts of local bourgeois forces in Eastern Europe to use the contradictions of dual power and the popular front governments to pressure the Stalinists to accept Marshal Aid, or relax their grip on the armed forces, produced a defensive reflex from the Kremlin. This proved fatal for capitalism in Eastern Europe.

At this point the Stalinists, using their control of the repressive forces of the state, acted to remove the threat from imperialism and its indigenous bourgeois agents. They expelled the representatives of the bourgeoisie from government and expropriated the capitalist class as a whole. The transitional Stalinist governments which were the agencies of these bureaucratic social overturns can best be described as “bureaucratic anti-capitalist” variants of the “workers’ government” category developed by the Comintern. By a series of bureaucratic and military measures the capitalist system was uprooted. Industry and land was nationalised and a system of bureaucratic command planning was established, modelled directly on that of the USSR.

These bureaucratic social overturns destroyed capitalism. But because the working class as an independent and conscious force was excluded from this process, the revolution in property relations did not result in the creation of healthy workers’ states. For genuine revolutionary communists (Trotskyists) the consciousness, the fighting capacity and the revolutionary action of the working class itself are all decisive for the carrying through of a successful proletarian revolution. Had it proved possible, limited united fronts between revolutionary proletarian forces and the Stalinist parties and regimes during these bureaucratic revolutions would have been permissible. But the strategic aim of Trotskyists would have been to break Stalinist control over the destruction of capitalism, to fight for genuine organs of workers’ democracy and to force the withdrawal of the Soviet Armed Forces from Eastern Europe. Only this way could the road to socialist transition have been opened, rather than blocked, from the outset.

The bureaucratic social revolution, despite seizing the means of production from the bourgeoisie, was essentially a counter-revolutionary act. It took place against the rhythms and flow of the class struggle. It could only take place because both the working class and the bourgeoisie had previously been disarmed, leaving the state forces in the hands of the Stalinists. Nevertheless, the expropriation of the entire capitalist class and the suppression of the operation of the law of value meant that the property relations defended by these states were proletarian, albeit controlled by a totalitarian bureaucracy. Like the USSR, by whose direct or indirect agency they were created, these states were degenerated workers’ states. Unlike the USSR, they had never been healthy workers’ states based on the power of workers’ councils. They had not undergone a process of degeneration from the condition of a healthy workers’ state—they were degenerate from birth.

Throughout the process of establishing these states, the Stalinist governments prevented independent working class mobilisations. These might have taken advantage of the impetus created by the overthrow of the bourgeoisie to challenge the political dictatorship and parasitic privileges of the Stalinists, thereby opening a political revolutionary crisis in which workers’ councils could pose an alternative state power to the totalitarian dictatorship. The overturns were carried out by the Stalinist forces as a defensive reaction against imperialism and as a pre-emptive measure against a proletarian social revolution. The bureaucratic social overturns were, at one and the same time, political counter-revolutions against the proletariat. Their outcome blocked the transition to socialism. They attempted to realise the reactionary utopia of “socialism in one country” rather than the international revolution. They were counter-revolutionary from the standpoint of the historic and strategic goals of the proletariat

In Cuba the key role, in an essentially similar bureaucratic overthrow of capitalism, was played by the July 26 Movement (J26M) centred around the caudillo figure of Fidel Castro. This was a popular front comprising both bourgeois nationalist and left Stalinist wings. During its march to power and its first phase in government, the overall tactics and programme of the movement remained those of revolutionary petit bourgeois nationalism. Implacable US hostility to its victory, and to its attacks on US investments in Cuba, led to a counter-offensive by the Cuban bourgeoisie in mid-1960. This forced Castro to side with the left Stalinists in the J26M, to seek first an alliance and later fusion with the Cuban Communist Party and massive economic and military assistance from the Soviet bureaucracy. The Kremlin was willing to support this development for its own military-strategic purposes (the siting of nuclear missiles), as well as to increase its ideological influence in the “Third World”. From mid-1960 to early 1962 a bureaucratic anti-capitalist workers’ government expropriated the native Cuban bourgeoisie as well as the imperialist holdings. The regime instituted bureaucratic planning and created a degenerate workers’ state.

Although the degenerate workers’ states were not created in the same manner as the USSR, each of them shared its counter-revolutionary character. In the USSR, initial bureaucratic deformations grew within the healthy workers’ state until a qualitative leap—the Soviet Thermidor, or political counter-revolution—transformed the state into a degenerated workers’ state. The other states were established as replicas of the USSR, degenerate from their very creation. Consequently, the programme of political revolution developed by Trotsky as the only proletarian strategy against the bureaucratic dictatorship of Stalin was fully applicable to these states from their very establishment. As with the USSR the bureaucracies of these states have consistently acted to hold back and to divert anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggles around the world. Their strategic goal was peaceful coexistence with imperialism.

Stalinism cramped each of the new planned economies within the confines of “socialism in one country”. It actively prevented the spread of proletarian revolution to the more economically developed areas. They cut the economies of the degenerate workers’ states off from the benefits of access to the highest concentrations of the means of production, and from integration into an international division of labour. The state monopoly of foreign trade provides indispensable protection for the workers’ state against competition from cheaper capitalist goods. But the aim of this monopoly cannot be to reproduce within the borders of each workers’ state every branch of agrarian and industrial production that can be found in the rest of the world. This path proved utopian (as in North Korea and Albania) and led to unnecessary and useless sacrifices being made by the working class. Only the spread of the social revolution to the centres of world capitalism will allow a decisive breakthrough to socialist construction and a world planned economy. The narrow, nationalist programme of “socialism in one country” served to retard the development of the productive forces— at first relatively, but eventually absolutely.

Precisely because it suppressed proletarian democracy, the bureaucracy ensured that its own planning was ill-informed and ignorant of both the needs of society and the actual operation of the economy. It scored impressive successes in its first decades, when it was primarily a case of extensive industrial development. Increasingly, however, innovation and constant technological renewal proved beyond the capacities of bureaucratic planning. Having abolished the dynamic mainspring of competition the ruling caste was unable and unwilling to replace it with the creative, self-interested participation of the direct producers in the planning process. The result was an inevitable decline in labour productivity and a further catastrophic falling behind in relation to imperialist capitalism.

The bureaucracies could marshal economic resources to meet the needs of their own lavish consumption and to defend their tyrannical rule. But the further removed particular sectors of production and distribution were from these priorities, the more endemic shortages and poor quality goods became the norm. The military and defence sectors, including the maintenance of a vast police apparatus, received top priority for spending and performed relatively efficiently. But when it came to the consumption needs of the masses, bureaucratic planning mechanisms proved unable to provide high quality and plentiful goods, to lighten or shorten labour both in production and in the home, or to increase the amount and quality of leisure. After some striking initial successes in the sphere of education and social welfare, even these fell victim to the stagnation of bureaucratic planning. The experience of failure and decline eventually undermined the very idea of “planned” production in the consciousness of the working class, nationally and internationally. Bourgeois propaganda has spread with ever greater success the “lesson” that this was the necessary result of any attempt to plan an economy.

But the Stalinist bureaucracy was not, and is not, an expression of the logic of planning itself. Effective planning presupposes the control of production by the centralised and conscious will of the producers themselves. The goals of Stalinist command planning were drafted by a tiny core of planners, themselves dictated to by a Bonapartist clique of top bureaucrats. The operation of the plan was repeatedly thrown out of balance and disrupted by rival layers of the party and managerial bureaucracy. The atomised and alienated work force, who neither decided nor understood the goals of the plan, increasingly viewed production with apathy. In the mid 1980s chronic stagnation turned into a critical situation throwing the ruling bureaucracies into ever deeper political crisis.

From Moscow to Beijing, from Belgrade to Hanoi, they divided into warring factions. All attempts to revive their system by admixtures of “market forces’ and so-called market socialism were doomed to failure. First in Hungary and Yugoslavia and then, most spectacularly, under Gorbachev in the USSR these measures disrupted and disorganised bureaucratic planning without creating a real capitalist economy. Dislocation and collapse of production, a rampant black market and corruption, gigantic state budget deficits and enterprise bankruptcy staved off only by hyperinflation, all mark the terrible final death agony of the bureaucratically planned economies.

For the working class, the purpose of post-capitalist property relations is the transition to a classless, communist society. They make possible the planning of production to meet human need, to end oppression and progressively eradicate inequalities. But to do this requires the conscious and active participation of the proletariat, as producers and consumers. Planning needs the sovereignty of the direct producers themselves who, for the first time in history, have an immediate interest in unleashing the productive forces as well as the creative ability to do it.

A plurality of workers’ states must follow a path of progressive economic integration and common planning in order to make the most effective use of the international division of labour, which remains necessary even for an economy building socialism. The Stalinist bureaucracies were not capable of taking advantage of this. The first step in this direction for healthy workers’ states would be the formation of common planning bodies for important branches of production, common plans for groupings of states together with a common currency. Such a system can only be created by the revolutionary action of the working class itself, conscious of its goals and objectives. Though everywhere bureaucratic planning is in its death agony, late twentieth century capitalism has shown no capacity to step in rapidly and fund the restoration process. An extended period of crisis in which the moribund planning system—shorn of its central co-ordination—obstructs the definitive triumph of the law of value, creates the opportunity for the working class to shed its illusions in the market and rediscover the programme of democratic planning and workers’ council democracy.

The Stalinist bureaucracies are historically illegitimate castes with no title to their privileges. From their birth they tended to develop factions and wings in response to the long term pressure upon them from both imperialism and the working class. In the USSR, Hungary, Yugoslavia and China factions developed—and finally became dominant—which sought to dismantle central planning altogether and determine prices, wages and production by “market mechanisms”. They sought to put an end to the “social wage“, represented by subsidised foodstuffs, social services and amenities that have directly benefited the workers as a result of the abolition of capitalism.

These advocates of decentralisation, the free market and the opening of the economies of the degenerate workers’ states to the imperialist multinationals became ever more openly restorationist. They came to despair not only of the central plan, but eventually of their own ability to retain political power.

This faction was closely enmeshed with the managerial strata and hoped to emerge as direct agents, if not members, of a new capitalist class. Such conscious restorationists were able to shed their Stalinist skins with remarkable speed, as events in the USSR after 1990-91 demonstrated. They rapidly took on Social Democratic, Liberal, Christian Democratic, and proto-fascist colours.

In the late 1930s Leon Trotsky expected a small revolutionary faction of the bureaucracy to emerge, one that would side with the working class in a political revolution. He never accorded this grouping any independent role, let alone that of leading the political revolution. Fifty years on, no such faction has materialised during the death agony of Stalinism; neither was it nor is it inevitable that one should develop.

In 1938 Trotsky could point to the figure of Ignace Reiss, who defected to the Fourth International from the KGB in 1937. Trotsky believed he represented such a wing of the bureaucracy. At the other extreme he could point to Fyodor Butenko—a Soviet diplomat in the Romanian embassy who defected to Mussolini’s Italy in 1938—as the representative of a proto-fascist restorationist wing of the bureaucracy. Trotsky saw the majority of the bureaucracy under Stalin as trying, by ever more savage totalitarian means, to avoid being crushed either by restoration or proletarian political revolution. Whilst estimating that Stalin’s trajectory was taking him nearer and nearer to the restorationist camp (in its fascist form), he did not rule out the possibility of Stalin and his faction resisting an open restorationist attack. In such conditions Trotsky held that there would be a need for revolutionary communists to form a limited military united front for the defence of the USSR.

This latter perspective proved to be correct. The defencist united front became necessary after Trotsky’s murder, when German imperialism invaded the USSR during the second imperialist war.

The death agony of Stalinism was postponed for forty years by the victory of the USSR in the Second World War. The factional line-ups within the Soviet bureaucracy and the other workers’ states changed profoundly during this period.

The triumph of the imperialist democracies in the war and the post-war expansion of the productive forces for three decades or more, gave a new life and vitality to liberal, free market capitalism. This in turn exerted a different pressure on the bureaucracies of the Soviet Union and those of the new degenerate workers’ states. Eventually this created a pro-marketising faction which became increasingly preponderant in the conditions of stagnation and crisis during the late 1970s and the 1980s. The passage of time and the destruction of the revolutionary generation of 1917-23, the crisis of revolutionary leadership, including the destruction of Trotsky’s Fourth International in the late 1940s and early 1950s, contributed to the disappearance of the ”faction of Reiss”. Only a profound development of independent class organisations in a political revolutionary crisis and the recreation of a significant international revolutionary force could lead to the re-emergence of such a wing of the bureaucracy. But such a development is not, nor was it for Trotsky, an essential part of the perspective or programme for political revolution.

The preponderant faction of the bureaucracy during the post-1985 death agony of Stalinism was the “Market-Socialist ”wing. At the same time, openly restorationist forces became ever stronger within and outside the bureaucracy. Gorbachev, echoing elements of Bukharinism, did not seek the restoration of capitalism. He aimed at first to utilise market mechanisms to shore up the dictatorship of the bureaucratic caste, which would still be based on post-capitalist property relations. But the measures he took, and his alliance with openly restorationist forces, eventually fractured the party dictatorship. This created a duality of power within the old bureaucracy. In his last two years Gorbachev was forced to raise himself more and more above the opposing camps, giving rise to a weak form of bonapartism. Possessing only a utopian economic and political programme of its own—one incapable of realisation—Gorbachev’s bonapartism manoeuvred between the two camps, drawing strength in turn from one camp to resist the pressure of the other.

Finally, in August 1991 the heads of the CPSU party bureaucracy and interior security services attempted an abortive coup to forestall the rise of open pro-imperialist and comprador forces led by Yeltsin, forces that favoured the disintegration of the USSR. The abortive coup revealed the lack of a solid social base for the conservative bureaucracy in the population at large. It also demonstrated a profound lack of belief in their own mission by the hard line elements of the bureaucracy themselves. As a result of this failure Yeltsin inherited the presidential executive machinery created by Gorbachev, increased its powers and used them in the service of a fast track “shock therapy” for capitalist restoration. But the failure of the coup and Yeltsin’s seizure of the executive still did not resolve the duality of power between the rival sections of the bureaucracy. It merely heightened this contradiction, bringing the factions into direct confrontation with each other, free from the restraining effect of Gorbachev’s Bonapartism.

In the degenerate workers’ states of Eastern Europe the policies of Gorbachev after 1985 acted as a catalyst to quicken the tempo of developments in the economy and to hasten the showdown between the conservative bureaucracy and the bourgeois restorationists. In 1989 Gorbachev signalled that the Soviet Armed Forces garrisoned in Eastern Europe would play no role in protecting the national bureaucracies from domestic protests and demands for radical reform. The swift rise of amorphous “democratic” mass movements provided a solid base for the democratic intelligentsia and marketising wing of the bureaucracy—social layers far larger in Eastern Europe than in the USSR. In 1989 and 1990 throughout Eastern Europe, the party apparatus, secret police and armed forces crumbled in the face of mass protests. Between 1989 and 1991 parliamentary elections brought to power governments made up of bourgeois forces or parties, popular front multi-class governments or reform factions of the Stalinist parties (as in Romania and Bulgaria). This process included the secession of the Baltic republics from the USSR. The only exception was Serbia. Unlike in Russia, dual power and the fracturing the state superstructure did not last long. In the successor states of the Soviet Union the protracted nature of the restoration process has been entirely due to the objective economic difficulties of converting the principal means of production into capital.

In China, in contrast to Gorbachev’s strategy of combining restructuring (perestroika) with openness (glasnost) and eventually democratisation, Deng Xiaoping has attempted to combine radical marketisation with resolute defence of party dictatorship, resorting to bloody repression in Tiananmen Square. The Chinese bureaucracy has a shortlived opportunity to combine these measures. They involve police dictatorship over the workers and the urban intelligentsia on the one hand and a near free market for the peasantry with enormous concessions to capitalism in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) on the other. The historic factor which created this opportunity is the huge size and social weight of China’s peasantry within the population, and its role not only on the farms but in the barracks. Deng has allowed a nearly total market economy to develop in the countryside. His faction has won, for a limited period, the passive if not the active support of the peasantry, thus securing the historic foundation stone of Bonapartism. But the whole logic of the rapid growth of market forces in rural China, and in the Special Economic Zones, will act to pressurise and fracture the Chinese bureaucracy. When it splits, and is forced to take its internecine warfare onto the streets, as it did in the 1960s and 1970s, and again at the end of the 1980s, China will face the stark alternative of social counter-revolution or proletarian political revolution. In China too, revolutionary leadership will be the factor that determines the outcome of the crisis.

The experience of China, Russia, and other workers’ states confirms that not all advocates of shock-treatment and rapid restoration from within the Stalinist bureaucracy are bourgeois democrats or liberalisers.

Neither are the majority of the authoritarian bureaucratic conservatives committed to the defence of planned property relations. In the USSR for example, the conservative faction of the bureaucracy has evolved rapidly into a Great Russian Chauvinist and anti-semitic force, using populist and nationalist slogans to mobilise the most backward sections of society against the democratic rights of the workers and oppressed minorities. Fascist and proto-fascist parties have arisen with direct links to the former KGB and the army. Groups like Nashi and Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party reject collaboration with Western imperialism. They do so only because their programme aims to restore a specifically Russian imperialism.

The most authoritarian elements within the bureaucracy recognise in such proto-fascist parties a bulwark against the threat of proletarian revolution and a potential alternative to future domination by foreign capital. The growth of fascist and semi-fascist forces was most clearly reflected in the electoral successes of Zhirinovsky in the Duma elections of December 1993. Whether Russian fascism develops as an organised mass force depends in part on the degree of revival by the workers’ movement in the coming years. If working class resistance mounts to the economic and political attacks of the restorationists, the danger of the latter turning to a mass fascist movement to crush resistance will increase. Another factor spurring its growth would be a continuing of the weakness of the embryonic Russian bourgeoisie and the prolonged stagnation of the restoration process itself. This could strengthen forces within the bureaucracy which support a state capitalist road to restoration. To provide themselves with a mass base, these forces may then turn to mobilising the lumpenproletarian and petit-bourgeois masses behind chauvinist and fascist slogans, using them to smash both their rivals within the bureaucracy and to crush the threat of an explosion of working class resistance.

The restorationist governments all look to imperialism for assistance. But imperialism, though it ardently desires the final and complete restoration of capitalism in the degenerate workers’ states, simply does not possess the resources to assure a rapid transformation, one free of revolutionary crises. Only in one state, the German Democratic Republic (GDR), was such a rapid restoration possible and this has placed a tremendous strain on the strongest European imperialist power. Despite the installation of restorationist governments there still exists an extended period in which the programme of political revolution can and must be combined with an anti-capitalist programme against restoration.

The historic gains which remain within the workers’ states must be defended to the bitter end. As Leon Trotsky said, only those able to defend former gains will be able to make new ones. Not only the working class of the degenerate workers’ states, but that of the entire world, will suffer as a result of their wholesale destruction. On a global scale this would leave the working class, at least for a certain period, disoriented and ideologically disarmed. In addition, the anti-imperialist struggles within the semi-colonies lose in this process an important, if ultimately an inadequate, source of weapons and aid. Unlimited imperialist access to the raw materials, cheap labour and markets of the degenerate workers’ states could open the way to a new, albeit limited, period of expansion within the imperialist epoch. However this could also itself heighten inter-imperialist rivalry and intensify a new division of the world. Such a process would be ridden with conflict, re-raising the twin spectres of inter-imperialist war and revolution.

As bureaucratic planning disintegrates, only proletarian political revolution can defend, restore, and then extend again the planned property relations, thus preventing such a revitalisation of imperialism.

The world proletariat must stand alongside its brothers and sisters in the degenerated workers’ states in defence of the remaining planned property relations. The state monopoly of foreign trade, the nationalisation of industry and the principle of planning must be defended against internal restoration and imperialist attack. In defending these economic conquests we are defending the pre-requisites for the transition to socialism, not the bureaucracy that presides over them.

At present the imperialists are relying primarily on economic levers to engineer the restoration of capitalism. But any halt, any serious reverse in the process of social counter-revolution could lead to direct military intervention to complete it against working class resistance. The world proletariat must continue to stand for the unconditional defence of the degenerate workers’ states against imperialism and its agents. We therefore oppose any reductions in their military capabilities, whether nuclear or conventional, that would make them more vulnerable to military or diplomatic coercion.

For the working class, the best defence of planned property is an attack on the Stalinist bureaucracies who have led and are leading them to ruin.

The programme for proletarian political revolution, as well as for the struggle against imperialism, is not one of mere “democratisation” of the existing state. It cannot be reduced to demands for “people’s power” which do not identify which class should hold power. It is a programme of revolution, a programme for the establishment of the full proletarian dictatorship against the bureaucrats, restorationist “democrats” and imperialists.

For the political revolution!

The essence of the programme of political revolution in the degenerate workers’ states, like that of the programme of social revolution in the capitalist states, lies in linking the ongoing struggles for the immediate needs of the working class to the fight for political power. By combining intransigent defence of working class interests with the tactics of mass mobilisation, independent political organisation and the imposition of workers’ control, revolutionaries can prepare the working class for the seizure of power. In all arenas of struggle, the proletariat must become conscious of its separate interests and identity, it must become a class for itself.

For independent workplace organisation!

Because of the nature of the degenerated workers’ states, any independent mobilisations of the working class immediately collide with the power of the bureaucratic state machine. Whatever issues lead to such mobilisations of the workers, this collision poses the need for the working class to win the right to organise. Independent class organisation and consciousness is a precondition for the workers acting as an independent force within the broad mass movements of opposition to Stalinism.

The social power of the proletariat is rooted in production and the class must be organised at the point of production. Within every workplace, democratic mass meetings must become the highest authority. Workers’ committees, elected and recallable by mass meetings, must fight to impose workers’ control on every aspect of life in the plant, including the right to strike and the right to veto management and state plans.

For free trade unions!

Beyond the workplace, the proletariat must have trade unions independent of the Stalinists, as a central component of its organisation as a class. Whether these are formed as the result of a thorough purging of the existing “state” unions or are created anew in struggle, they must be accountable to, and controllable by, their members. All officials of the unions must be elected and recallable, free from the ”leading role of the party”, and must be paid the average wage of their members.

From democratic rights to a real workers’ democracy

In the struggles that heralded the death agony of Stalinism, the masses were drawn into battle against the bureaucracy behind demands for key democratic rights. The task of constructing a revolutionary party involves pushing the working class to the head of this struggle, to lead the struggle and to use revolutionary and working class forms of organisation to achieve its goals. In this fight the workers must not allow the bureaucracy or any section of it to decide who can and cannot be afforded democratic rights. The bureaucracy—in part or in whole—has proven itself to be the chief agent of restoration and can in no way be trusted to act as the guardian of the post-capitalist property relations. The bureaucracy is interested only in conceding as much democracy as will allow it to strike coalitions with other forces, with the aim of becoming a new exploiting class. The working class has every interest in the fullest and most revolutionary expansion of democratic rights in order to forestall this and to hasten the development of its own class consciousness, to enable it to recognise its enemies and its allies.

Where the Communist Parties still monopolise the media and electoral process we fight to end this.

• Down with the bureaucracy’s censorship laws. The workers themselves must decide what is to be published or broadcast.

• For access to the press, radio and television for all working class organisations under workers’ control. Workers must enforce their own ban on fascist, pogromist, racist propaganda. Likewise they should allow no freedom of the press or access to the media for pro-restorationist forces that are organising to overthrow the workers’ state by force.

• All candidates in elections must clearly account for their electoral funding. The masses should fight for a veto over any candidate receiving clandestine financial support from the regime or from counter-revolutionary agencies such as the CIA, the churches, or reactionary NGOs (non-governmental organisations).

• Any new legal code that the “reformist” wing of the bureaucracy proposes must be freely discussed by workers. Any code must place elected workers’ courts at the centre of the legal machinery. For the release of all political prisoners to workers’ courts to decide on their future.

• For the freedom to form political parties, except for fascists, pogromists, racists, for those restorationists (including those originating from within the bureaucracy) who are actively organising for civil war; and those which for other reasons have received the veto of the workers’ movement. We will not defend these parties from repression by the conservative Stalinist regimes or from bourgeois restorationist governments. But neither do we recognise such governments’ right to judge who is a counter-revolutionary. Only a revolutionary workers’ government can do that. The workers themselves, not the bureaucracy, must decide which parties they recognise as loyal to their own state power.

• We fight to expose the anti-working class programme of confused or covertly restorationist parties and, by political struggle, to deprive them of mass support. We would advocate careful surveillance of their activities and severe measures against any attempts to overthrow the proletarian dictatorship. For the right of any group of workers and small peasants to put forward candidates in any elections.

• For the smashing of the bureaucracy’s repressive state apparatus, the instrument of tyranny against the working class and the instrument used by the Stalinists for capitalist restoration. This apparatus has been fashioned by the bureaucracy in the image of the capitalist state machine. The political revolution must smash it on the road to the creation of healthy workers’ state. For full political rights for soldiers, the right to hold meetings in the barracks to elect soldiers’ councils free of all control by the officers and commanders. For their right to publish newspapers and have access to the media. We fight for the right of rank and file soldiers and sailors to elect their own officers. For the right of all returning soldiers stationed abroad to have decent affordable housing for themselves and their families and the right to retraining and a new job after being demobilised.

• For the dissolution of the secret police and the punishment of all those guilty of crimes against the workers. A democratic workers’ state needs no secret police. The plots of counter-revolutionary forces can be countered by workers’ security commissions on the lines of the revolutionary Cheka of 1917. Dissolve the standing army of the bureaucracy and replace it with a revolutionary workers’ army linked to workers’ territorial militias.

Down with privilege and inequality!

One of the earliest indications of the victory of the Stalinist political counter-revolution in the USSR was the arrogant condemnation of egalitarianism as a petit-bourgeois deviation. On the contrary, as Trotsky predicted, the desire for equality and the hatred of privilege are instinctive and fundamental elements of proletarian class consciousness. On the road to the final elimination of bureaucratic rule the workers must fight to end abuses now. They must mobilise to end the grotesquely privileged lifestyle of the bureaucracy.

l The special shops must be closed and the sanatoria, health resorts and leisure facilities currently reserved for the bureaucracy must be thrown open to the workers and poor peasants. The role of a party or state official must cease to be a route to privilege and luxury. No party or state official should earn more than the average wage of a skilled worker. In the workplaces a fight must be launched for the right of the workers to dismiss all officials and managers known to have profited from corruption or to have persecuted workers.

Workers’ control of production and the plan

Economic decisions in a planned economy are not hidden behind a smokescreen of “market forces” as they are under capitalism. They are political decisions taken by the bureaucracy. Consequently any fight against the bureaucracy’s decisions, in whatever sphere, are inherently challenges to the right of the bureaucracy to control the economic plan. As that control breeds stagnation and decline, so the marketising wing of the bureaucracy and other restorationist forces attempt to divert working class struggle away from the state by encouraging workers to demand ”self management” of their enterprises, free from the bureaucratic interference of the central plan. This doctrine of “market socialism” is a reactionary diversion, designed to strengthen the narrowest forms of factory isolationism, to divide the proletariat as a class force and to break up the central plan itself. Against it revolutionaries must fight to make every working class struggle a conscious challenge to bureaucratic power by raising the demand for workers’ control of the plan.

• At workplace level this must start with opening the books to workers’ inspection and be carried on at a local, regional and national level. This fight must draw in the workers of the planning ministries to expose the real priorities of the top bureaucrats and their swindles, corruption and sheer incompetence.

By fighting to defend itself against the bureaucracy’s plan and imposing its own class priorities on planning, the working class will not only safeguard its living standards and conditions but create organisations which will form the very foundations of a revolutionary workers’ state. These organisations will be the mechanism through which the workers’ state will achieve a democratically centralised planned economy. An isolated revolutionary workers’ state will have to coexist with, and utilise, market forces at the same time as seeking to overcome them. Without a doubt elements of the Stalinist bureaucratic elimination of the market have actually served to retard the development of sectors of the Soviet economy. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in agriculture and the meeting of the consumption needs of the masses. In these sectors our programme must be based on the following elements:

• Down with the serfdom of workers on the state and collectivised farms. For collective farms run by the toilers themselves. Down with any return to private family farming.

• For the democratic re-organisation of the farms, based on the democracy of the rural toilers, not on the whims of the functionaries. For councils of agricultural workers comprised of farm workers representing working units, and directly accountable to them. Agricultural production must be integrated into the national plan of production.

• For a massive injection of funds to raise the material and cultural level of the countryside to that of the cities, thereby overcoming the glaring inequalities in the conditions of life between town and country.

• Against all reforms which increase the influence of imperialist finance capital on the economies of the workers’ states; against the abandonment of the state monopoly of foreign trade, against joint ventures in which workers’ rights are reduced in comparison to those existing in state run plants. We oppose the bureaucracy’s policy of subordination to the IMF. The disastrous consequences of this for the working class are already clearly visible in, for example, Yugoslavia, Poland and Hungary.

• We demand that the bureaucracy repudiate the debts it has incurred to international finance capital. A revolutionary workers’ government will judge what obligations to honour from the point of view of revolutionary expediency. A workers’ council state will call on the exploited masses worldwide to mobilise for the total renunciation of the external debt and the expropriation of the imperialist multinationals.

Parliamentary elections and assemblies

The consequence of decades of political repression and economic incompetence of the bureaucracy have created widespread illusions in bourgeois parliamentary democracy. Both the bureaucracy and the pro-bourgeois opposition have used these illusions to block the self-organisation of the working class, and in particular to obstruct the creation of workers’ councils, such as arose most clearly in the Hungarian revolution of 1956 but also existed in less developed forms in Poland and in Czechoslovakia during the political-revolutionary situations of the 1950s, the 1960s and 1980-81. Only in Romania during the 1989-90 uprising did the embryos of workers’ committees develop and play an important role in the strikes which helped bring down the Ceaucescu regime. Elsewhere multi-party parliamentary elections were hastily improvised to block the road to working class self-organisation, direct democracy and mass participation in politics.

Our programme is not for the creation of bourgeois parliaments in workers’ states. Elected by an atomised electorate, incapable of holding their representatives to account, and separated from the executive power, parliaments can never be an adequate expression of workers’ power. These institutions directly aid the restoration plans of the bureaucracy or the nascent bourgeoisie. Parliamentary representatives, not recallable by their electors, are eminently corruptible by those who have wealth and power. When the ruling bureaucracy attempts to stabilise its rule through the organisation of parliamentary elections, we counterpose to this the proletarian democracy of workers’ councils. We fight for their formation as organs of struggle against the bureaucracy and as the organs of the democracy of a revolutionary workers’ state.

But where and when such revolutionary slogans find, as yet, no echo in the consciousness or experience of the masses it would be sectarian bankruptcy to rest content with this. We must seek out every way of organising the working class to actively intervene as an independent political force in the existing situation. If, contrary to our wishes, this is the terrain of parliamentary elections, then it is there that the workers must fight.

• We oppose every attempt of the bureaucracy to manipulate or restrict the electoral process by exercising a veto on lists of candidates or parties which are allowed to stand. We fight against the bureaucracy’s rigging of elections We fight to impose the principles and certain of the forms of proletarian democracy. We fight for workers to stand their own candidates, elected by workers’ assemblies in the workplaces and the workers’ districts. We fight for them to stand on a workers’ programme against bureaucratic rule and privilege and against restoration in all its forms. This fighting action programme must take up the defence of the rights of national minorities and defend all the workers’ rights and gains. We fight for all candidates to be directly responsible to workers’ assemblies and to be paid no more than the average wage of a skilled worker.

Revolutionary communists do not bear responsibility for the existence of bourgeois parliamentary forms in a workers state.

The Volkskammer in the German Democratic Republic, like the fraudulently named Supreme Soviet in the USSR, was the creation of the Stalinists. They either destroyed or dared not create genuine soviets of workers’ delegates. But we are obliged to seriously address the democratic illusions of the masses, especially when the nascent bourgeois forces seek to utilise the “democratisation” of such parliaments to create a permanent and stable instrument for the restoration of capitalism. Our aim is to prevent the creation of such a stable parliamentary regime. When the restorationists try to create a legal and institutional basis for capitalist rule by means of Bonapartist plebiscites or votes by existing undemocratic assemblies, and where the workers have as yet no experience of soviets or where their very memory has been obliterated, revolutionaries can and should return to the revolutionary democratic demand for a sovereign constituent assembly. This is not to call for a parliament (a permanent legislative body, part of a division of powers within a bourgeois regime), but rather to create an arena within which representatives of the conflicting classes will meet and fight over the political form and the very class basis of the state—as embodied in its constitution. We do not believe that the fight between capitalist restoration and proletarian power will be decided in any assembly. But the disguised and open agents of restoration can be exposed there to the masses .

The task in such situation is for revolutionaries to become the vanguard of a revolutionary democratic struggle, in order if possible to tear the very weapon of political democracy out of the hands of the inconsistent (semi-Bonapartist) bourgeois democrats. We should advance the slogan of the Constituent Assembly in order to outflank the restorationists who will try and monopolise democratic slogans, while in reality seeking to heavily restrict the powers of the parliament and surround it with Bonapartist controls in case it comes under the pressure of the masses. We can do this by fighting for the revolutionary democratic right of re-call.

• Every deputy must be subject to immediate recall by a majority of their electors. We must fight to ensure that as much of the electoral campaign takes place before mass meetings in the workplaces where candidates can be cross-examined in detail on their programmes. We must fight for free and equal access to the media for all candidates, except those of fascists or those seeking to overthrow planned property by force.

Of course, any actual Constituent Assembly can prove to be a force for counter-revolution, for the destruction of the workers’ state’s property relations. In such circumstances we must expose its intentions to the masses and mobilise the workers to dissolve it.

For workers’ council democracy

For the working class to overthrow the dictatorship of the bureaucracy it must forge its own means of exercising state power. The independent organisations generated in the struggles against the bureaucracy must be welded together into genuine workers’ councils. It will be these councils which will organise the mass insurrection of the working class, and their allies amongst the rural poor, to smash the whole repressive machine of the Stalinist state apparatus, which is the means of maintaining the political dictatorship of the bureaucracy over the proletariat. Like the bourgeois state, upon which it is modelled, the essential elements of the Stalinist state machine are the “special bodies of armed men” and their apparatus of spies, gaolers and torturers. As the massacre of Tiananmen Square once again confirmed, even when the bureaucratic caste is internally divided, so long as the faction favouring resistance has control of this apparatus they will use it to defend themselves against the insurgent masses. The spearhead of the programme of political revolution is the formation of workers’ councils and the arming of the proletariat.

As the Russian Revolution demonstrated, the workers’ council is the form through which the working class exercises state power in a healthy workers’ state. Rooted in the factories, the working class communities and the oppressed layers of society, they organise the great mass of the once-exploited to become rulers of their own state. Workers’ council deputies will be directly elected by mass workers’ meetings. They are responsible to their electorates and, therefore, permanently recallable by them. Workers’ councils are organs of class power: capitalists are excluded from the elections. The ruling sections of the bureaucracy must be also denied the right to vote. We fight politically against those representatives of the bureaucracy in whom the working masses still have illusions. The political revolution will only be successful if the bureaucrats are driven out of the workers’ councils.

The workers’ council combines in itself both executive and legislative functions which enable a living workers’ council democracy to control the state bureaucracy, reduce it, and in the long term replace it altogether with the self-administration of society. Such bodies have nothing in common either with the Soviets installed in the USSR in 1936, which had a mock parliamentary form, or with the “popular committees” of Cuba, which exist to rubber stamp the decisions of the bureaucracy.

Down with social oppression!

Thermidor in the USSR marked not only the establishment of bureaucratic tyranny over the economy and the state but also the reversal of many of the reforms introduced after 1917 to counter social oppression. The re-introduction of reactionary legislation and moral norms has since served as a model for the other degenerate workers’ states.

The victorious bureaucracies have sought to strengthen the bourgeois family and to determine its size in accordance with their immediate economic and military requirements. Bureaucratic planning abandoned the goal of the socialisation of child care and domestic labour. Women remained oppressed by the triple burden of job, household and child-rearing. Nor do the “reformers” intend to reverse the effects of Stalin’s Thermidor on the family. On the contrary, Gorbachev’s policy of perestroika, for example, strengthened a reactionary image of women. The “reformers” want to reduce women’s principal roles to those of wives and mothers and to force them out of certain branches of production.

Youth are taught their “rightful place” in the educational establishments, they are stultified by the reactionary morality of Stalinism, they are denied free cultural expression. Likewise the great gains made by the October Revolution in legally defending the rights of homosexuals have long since been abolished and the daily experience of lesbians and gay men from Cuba to Eastern Europe and the CIS is one of repression and persecution. Against oppression on the grounds of sex or sexuality we fight:

• Against the oppression of women—for real socialisation of housework. For the plan to provide the crèche facilities that can make this possible. For a massive programme to build restaurants, canteens and social amenities in order to lift the burden that women bear.

• For a woman’s right to work and equal access to jobs not subject to protective legislation. In order to fight the legacy of male chauvinism and oppression, a legacy preserved by the bureaucracy, we fight for an independent working class based women’s movement.

• No limitation on abortion rights, but for the provision of free contraceptive devices for all to give women real control over their fertility. No to any enforced family size imposed by the bureaucracy.

• Abolish the reactionary laws against homosexuality and release all those imprisoned or condemned to psychiatric “hospitals” on this basis. For an end to all forms of discrimination against lesbians and gay men. For open recognition that AIDS exists in these states; for a state funded programme of research, treatment and education, to treat those with AIDS and prevent or contain the spread of the disease.

• Down with the oppression of youth. For control of the schools by students, parents and all education workers. For committees elected by young people to control their own entertainment, sporting and cultural facilities, clubs etc. Down with censorship which, far from protecting youth from reactionary ideas, cripples their intellect and fighting spirit and thus leaves them prey to such ideas. Abolish all laws that discriminate at work or in society against youth.

Against all national oppression!

From its foundation, the revolutionary Soviet state had a federal character. As with every other aspect of Bolshevik political practice, Stalinism retained the form but emptied it of revolutionary content. Far from being a voluntary federation of peoples, the USSR became a prison house of nations.

The pattern of denial of the rights of minority nationalities has been repeated in other degenerate workers’ states, whether they have a federal character (as in ex-Yugoslavia), are unitary states with supposed “autonomous regions” (as in China) or give no constitutional recognition to the existence of minorities (as in Romania). The Kremlin also oppressed nations outside the borders of the former USSR and launched invasions to crush proletarian revolts against bureaucratic rule. Opposition to the ruling bureaucracies has thus frequently taken on a nationalist character. Amongst these oppressed peoples, revolutionaries champion and fight for the democratic rights of the oppressed nationalities as part of their struggle for the political revolution.

• We oppose every manifestation of Great Russian, Chinese or Serbian oppressor nationalism. We support the right to the full cultural self-expression for all oppressed nationalities. This means full support for their right to use their own language in all public and state business as well as the right to be educated in their own language. We fight against any discrimination in jobs. We stand for the right of oppressed nationalities to veto immigration policies determined by the bureaucracies of the oppressor nationalities. We oppose any reverse discrimination against former majorities now turned into national minorities in newly independent states, such as the Russian populations in the Baltic states.

• For all multinational workers’ states to be free federations of workers’ republics. In general we do not seek the fragmentation of the degenerate workers’ states into their component nationalities, both because we are in favour of the largest integrated territories to advance the development of the productive forces, and because nationalism divides the working class and blinds it to the need to destroy the bureaucracy and imperialism. It can lead workers to side with “their own” national bureaucracy or to a belief that it is possible to achieve “independence” through capitalist restoration and with the aid of imperialism.

The capitalist offensive is attempting to disintegrate every element of class identity and collectivist consciousness, and develop in their place individualistic, religious and nationalist-ethnic ideas. In various republics, regions, small areas and even enterprises the restorationists are trying to spread the idea that only total independence from the official state will give them better access to the international market, better prices for their exports and better conditions for purchasing imports and attracting investments.

The USSR has disintegrated into fifteen independent republics and there are many further autonomous republics and regions within them which have serious separatist tendencies. The bureaucrats and nationalists that are behind these independence movements are trying to create miniature bourgeois semi-colonies. In most of them other ethnic minorities suffer discrimination and oppression. In the Baltic states, for example, the Slavic minorities are not recognised as citizens and suffer a new apartheid. In former Yugoslavia, in the Caucasus, Moldava, Central Asia and other former states of the “socialist bloc”, reactionary inter-ethnic wars have broken out.

Genuine independence for any of the presently oppressed nationalities in the workers’ states is only achievable on the basis of democratically planned proletarian property relations. “Independence” under the leadership of restorationists can only lead to the subordination of the newly established states to imperialism, to their becoming semi-colonies. The working class would be ever more directly exploited by international capitalism, their democratic aspirations brutally suppressed in the interests of profit. We do not advocate secession because it weakens the workers’ state and hampers the development of the productive forces. But, in the concrete circumstance in which the great majority of the working class within a particular oppressed nation has illusions in separation, we raise the slogan for an independent workers’ council republic.

Which side the workers should take in the case of a military conflict between an independence movement within an oppressed nation and the centralised Stalinist apparatus must be decided after considering all the concrete circumstances. If a national movement was carrying out pogroms against other national minorities or was in an alliance with imperialism to make war against a degenerate workers’ state, it would be necessary to side with the Stalinist central apparatus without giving it any political support. We could do this whilst simultaneously raising the slogan for an independent or autonomous workers’ council republic, as was the case in Azerbaijan in 1990.

On the other hand where, as in Lithuania in 1990/91, a legitimate national movement is based on the working people, we could take the side of the independence movement against military repression by the Stalinists, without supporting either its political aims or its popular front leadership.

The alienation of so many nationalities from the degenerate workers’ states is the product of decades of vicious national oppression. The vanguard of the political revolution must seek to allay the fears of these peoples by the most vigorous means and win them to the side of the preservation of their own planned property. This must be done by unconditionally supporting their right to self determination, including to secession.

Where the majority of the people concerned call for independence, in mass demonstrations or workers’ assemblies, in elections or plebiscites we will support the winning of such independence by all means. To do otherwise would be to cut ourselves off from the democratically expressed will of masses of workers and, therefore, to ensure they will fall under the leadership of reactionary forces. However, only proletarian political power and proletarian property relations can guarantee the independence to which such mobilisations aspire. Therefore our positive slogan in these conditions is for an independent workers’ council state.

Even where existing separatist movements have espoused an overt social counter-revolutionary platform, we defend the right to state independence whilst continuing the struggle against restoration. The restoration of capitalism is not an event which occurs simultaneously with the winning of national independence. The ending of national oppression will begin to untie the bonds between the working class and the representatives of opposing class interests. In newly independent states revolutionary communists must continue to organise the workers for armed defence of the post-capitalist property relations. However, in conditions of war (external or civil) in a workers’ state, communists may be obliged to temporarily subordinate the right of secession for a national minority to this state’s defence against attack from the forces of imperialism and counter-revolution.

As an expression of our opposition to the reactionary utopia of building socialism in one country, we stand for the widest possible federation of workers states, starting with regional federations. The victorious political revolution will re-unite on a voluntary and equal basis, the republics of the former USSR, Eastern Europe and beyond. In the regions where Stalinism and its successors have sown national antagonisms and wars, we fight for federations of workers’ states (e.g. in the Balkans and Indo-China) as a step toward their integration into a World Socialist Republic.

Return to the proletarian internationalism of Lenin and Trotsky!

The Stalinists sullied the slogan of proletarian internationalism by identifying it with submission to the state interests of the Soviet bureaucracy. The foreign policy of a revolutionary workers’ state has as its aim not primarily its own defence, nor even the defence and support of other workers’ states but the interests of all those struggling against capitalism and imperialism. The defence of any single workers’ state or any grouping of such states is a part of, and must therefore be subordinated to, the world revolution. This is the unfalsified programme of proletarian internationalism. It is the polar opposite of the foreign policy of the degenerate workers’ states over the last half century which were geared to Stalinism’s attempt to achieve peaceful co-existence with imperialism.

The Stalinists cynically manipulated and betrayed the struggles of the working class and colonial peoples around the world. Side by side with strengthening market mechanisms and capitalist forces inside the workers’ states, the remaining ruling bureaucracies are globally in retreat in the face of imperialism. Stalinism has always pursued an essentially counter-revolutionary policy at home and abroad. In the 1980s in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Central America, Southern Africa and the USSR played a counter-revolutionary role, both in the manner in which it provided support for progressive forces and in its shameful desertion of those forces in the course of its surrenders to imperialism.

The secret diplomacy operated by the Stalinist bureaucracies must be abandoned completely. This policy was part of the bureaucratic monopoly of information in the degenerate workers’ states and only served to misinform and deceive the working class. Negotiations between workers’ states and capitalist states or other workers’ states have to be carried out in view of the working class. The demands from both sides should be made public. Negotiations have to be used to make revolutionary propaganda. The nature of the negotiations have to be revealed to the masses.

Relations with capitalist states also have to be used as a weapon by a workers’ state. Diplomatic ties and trade relations with each country have to be examined carefully. Stalinists used diplomatic ties with capitalist countries to excuse the drowning of the workers’ movements in these countries in blood and to raise the prestige of these butchers (e.g. China’s relations with Pinochet). This was a common practice among the Stalinists. Diplomatic and trade relations must be used assist the building of a workers’ state and must not limit or harm the formation of any revolutionary movement.

In a situation of direct military attack on a workers’ state, in or out of a political revolutionary crisis, it is legitimate to seek an armed united front with the armed forces of another degenerate workers’ state. In that united front the working class must not allow its forces to be subordinated to those of its allies, but must struggle for arms and assistance to be put under the control of its organisations and argue amongst the forces of the allied degenerate workers’ state for internationalist political revolution.

We defend the right of the degenerate workers’ states to possess nuclear weapons and, in wars with imperialism, to use them when it is militarily necessary for the defence of the workers’ states. We oppose the bureaucracy’s overall defence and military policy which has as its aim the realisation of the utopian goal of peaceful coexistence with world imperialism.

The foreign policy of a workers’ state has to be subordinated to a revolutionary International. A genuine International can place the foreign policy of a workers’ state in its rightful context within the pursuit of the world revolution. Only an International can effectively defend workers’ states against imperialist intervention by co-ordinating the mobilisation of the working class across various imperialist countries.

Build Leninist-Trotskyist parties!

The programme of political revolution combines both a linked system of demands and the strategic and tactical means of achieving them. It cannot be arrived at by the spontaneous struggles of the working class. The tragic experiences in Hungary, Poland and China show that, just as under capitalism, spontaneity must be harnessed to scientific class consciousness in the organisational form of a revolutionary party. Although the first small nuclei of such a party may originate amongst the intelligentsia, the test of their “communism” will be their recognition of the need to win and organise the working class vanguard emerging from the anti-bureaucratic struggle. All the norms of membership, organisation, internal life and external activity developed by the Leninist Bolshevik Party and, later, by the Left Oppositionists and the Trotskyists, will be applicable.

We reject the “leading role” of the Stalinist parties. They are parties of the bureaucracy not the proletarian vanguard. However the experience of the Czechoslovak Communist Party in 1968 and of the “horizontal movement” within the Polish Workers’ Party during the height of Solidarnosc’s struggle, suggests that proletarian mobilisations will find a reflection within the ruling Communist Parties. This is so because a large number of workers are captive members of these parties. But we reject the illusion that the ruling parties can be reformed or can peacefully evolve into centrist formations. These parties must be broken up as instruments of mass mobilisation in support of the repressive and privileged bureaucracy. Nevertheless, we do not ignore the fact that in an escalating political revolutionary situation, the leadership may come under challenge from sections of the party membership or the proletariat in general. The united front tactic, levelled at these forces and at opposition groups outside the party, will be vital in breaking the masses from these misleaders, new or old. Where we cannot directly win rank and file working class elements to the ranks of Trotskyism, and in view of the fact that such opposition will often be the first expression of political independence by such workers, we should encourage them to put the Communist Party, which they remain within, to the test by demanding:

• Elections at every level, based on open platforms and political competition in open debate. For the lifting of the ban on the formation of factions and on the circulation of their platforms, which was imposed as a purely temporary measure in the Russian Communist Party of Lenin and Trotsky in 1921, but which was turned into a repressive norm under Stalin.

• The revolutionary party, forged anew in struggle, must inscribe onto its banner the overthrow of the Stalinist dictatorships, the creation of a democracy of workers’ councils, the installation of a democratic plan and above all the extension of the revolution internationally. If the workers’ states undergo revolutionary regeneration then the death knell of imperialism and class rule will sound across the globe. Turn the bureaucratic prison houses once more into fortresses of the world revolution!

The programme during the restoration process

Due to the accumulated betrayals of the Stalinist bureaucracy and the prolonged crisis of revolutionary leadership, a new transitional period has opened up—the transition from degenerate workers’ state to capitalism. The task of revolutionaries is to re-orient their programme to guide a struggle against the remains of bureaucratic tyranny and disorganisation and against the restoration of capitalism.

The road to restoration has most frequently been opened by the rise to power of a faction of the bureaucracy that then sets in train a series of concessions to the market. These have been advocated, with ever greater insistence by economic “experts” from within the bureaucracy, from the 1960s onwards (Liberman, Ota Sik etc). They were carried out first, on a significant scale, in Hungary. They centred on step by step weakening and narrowing of the scope of the central plan, the creation of real or simulated market mechanisms between the enterprises, the puncturing of the state monopoly of foreign trade and entry into the economic institutions of world capitalism, such as the IMF. The utopian aspect of this programme was the notion that it would increase the efficiency, the level of technical innovation or the responsiveness of the economy to the needs of the consumers. Instead it hampered and disrupted the working of the planned economy. The continued existence of the planned economy obstructed the development of a real market, creating instead a massive “black economy”. It created a vast criminal class before it created a bourgeoisie.

Both in those states where the marketising faction of the bureaucracy tried to carry out this programme with democratic reforms, and in those where it tried to maintain its political dictatorship intact, the result was and will be the same—a severe political crisis in which three fundamental alternatives are posed:

(a) return to the bureaucratic dictatorship and a halting or slowing of market reforms;

(b) the seizure of power by an openly restorationist regime that sets about the destruction of the central planning system and institutes a rapid transition to the operation of law of value as the dominant force within the economy;

(c) a proletarian political revolution introducing workers’ democracy and a democratically planned economy.

Only the latter two alternatives were and are fundamentally viable. Bureaucratic dictatorship—however bloodily it is restored or maintained—can never solve the death agony of bureaucratic planning. It alienates the masses, pushing them into the arms of the democratic restorationists. Although in China, Korea, Vietnam and Cuba the bureaucracy is trying, by repressive means, to avoid the fate of Gorbachev, the development of pre-revolutionary and revolutionary situations is inevitable in these countries. The outcome of these crises will be a situation of dual power—of a lesser or greater duration—in which the forces of the old bureaucracy will shatter and in which the forces of political revolution and bourgeois counter-revolution must engage in a life or death struggle. If the forces of political revolution fail to develop and take power, then sooner or later, capitalist restoration will be inevitable.

To date the forces consciously seeking to defend the planned economy and other proletarian gains are weak. This has resulted in the seizure of power by a series of bourgeois restorationist governments. Their first task has been to resolve any remaining duality of power by purging the state apparatus. This purgation will vary according to the degree of political homogeneity of the armed forces. Where an important part remains convinced of the viability of bureaucratic rule, the purging may take a violent form, even leading to civil war.

The resolution of this dual power, and the prevention of the working class from intervening to establish its own organs of power, is vital to the success of the restoration process. But even the establishment of a reliable state machine, which not only resembles the form of the bourgeois state but actively defends the growing elements of capitalism and attacks the disintegrating remnants of the planned economy, does not bring the restoration process to a close. Only when the laws of the capitalism predominate over those of the bureaucratic plan, only when the economic foundation of the workers’ state has been destroyed, can we say that the process is complete and capitalism has been restored.

The economic programmes of capitalist restoration have been extremely varied. The one immediate “success” was the integration of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) into the West German imperialist state, via a prolonged combination of state capitalist and privatisation measures after the central organs of the planned economy were abolished. In the other states—where the resources of a major imperialist power have not been available—neo-liberal shock therapy has been applied. This has meant freeing prices, dissolving the central planning and resource-allocation institutions, abolition of the old state bank monopoly and its replacement with a fully commercial credit system under which loss making enterprises can and must go bankrupt, and the transformation of the enterprises into private and/or state capitalist trusts.

The massive economic slump which is the result of the implementation of this policy gives rise to repeated political crises and pre-revolutionary situations. Only a deepening class consciousness and militancy of the proletariat and the emergence of anti-restorationist defenders of workers’ democracy can turn such crises into a fully developed revolution. This revolution must have a combined character. It must be a political revolution in the sense that the expropriation of a social class—the bourgeoisie—is not its central task. But such a revolution would nevertheless have enormous social, i.e. anti-capitalist, tasks. Though it remains a political revolution it is nevertheless aimed at the overthrow of a bourgeois regime which holds all or part of the state power. It will have the task of seizing state power and establishing a workers’ state based on soviets.

In the moribund degenerate workers’ states, in which governments are in the process of carrying out the restoration of capitalism, revolutionary communists must fight for a programme of immediate and transitional demands to halt and reverse the social counter-revolution, a programme which in its totality can only be the programme of a revolutionary workers’ government.

• For a basic living wage that guarantees the purchase of a shopping basket of goods as determined by rank and file workers’ organisations.

• For a sliding scale of wages—an automatic, equivalent rise in wages for every rise in prices determined by elected committees of workers, particularly women and pensioners—to fully compensate for every increase in prices.

• Stop all price rises! The costs of food, clothing, transportation, rents and fuel must be prevented from rising. The only currency reform that will serve the interests of the toilers, rather than those of the speculators, will be one carried out by a workers’ government.

• Put all private and state warehouses and food storage under the control of armed workers’ detachments, under workers’ inspection and distribution. Confiscate all goods hoarded by the bureaucrats, the black marketeers, or private businesses. Workers must control and distribute any aid received from imperialist countries.

• Elected committees of workers must inspect the accounts of the enterprises and the planning ministries, the bureaucracy’s special shops and the accounts of the new speculators. Only then will the scale of corruption, siphoning off and theft of the produce of the workers’ state be known, the culprits punished and a new plan of production and distribution be possible.

• Organise direct exchange between the cities and the countryside. The rural and urban workers should together work out fair exchange ratios, and even prices, between the products of industry and agriculture.

• Restore the right and opportunity to work. The existing unemployed must be offered work or paid at the average industrial wage. No to all redundancies without equivalent work at equivalent pay. Occupy all factories, mines, shops or offices declaring redundancies or attempting closure. Demand that the idle members of the bureaucracy, the enterprise managers and the parasitic speculators perform useful work in the factories and on the land at the average wage of a worker.

• For workers’ management in every enterprise. No to privatisation even in the form of alienable shares distributed in whole or in part to the workers themselves. In a workers’ state the factories already belong, by law, to the workers. No to expropriation of the workers’ property.

• No cuts in the social services. For a massive programme of housing repairs and construction of new dwellings, crèches, schools and clinics. No one should be unemployed and no one should be idle whilst people lack these elementary necessities.

l For a minimum living wage for all; all pensions to be no lower than this and protected by a sliding scale.

• For emergency action to alleviate the housing shortage. Seize the dachas and the big apartments of the former bureaucrats and the new rich. Occupy all state buildings that are not serving the collective good of the working class and convert them to accommodation for young families and the unemployed.

• Workers’ committees must draw up an inventory of all state property as it stood before the restorationist governments came to power. The misappropriation and hoarding of the former bureaucracy must be brought to light and all the resources of the workers’ state restored to collective ownership. All the “expropriation” of state property must be reversed.

• Down with national chauvinism. Summary execution for the organisers of pogroms and ”ethnic cleansing”. Merciless repression of the fascists and anti-semites, racists and chauvinists that organise attacks on national minorities and on women, lesbians and gay men and the workers’ organisations. No platform, no “democratic rights” for these vermin.

• Respect the decisions of minority nationalities to independence if that is their choice. Unconditionally defend the democratic rights of all the nationalities against old style Stalinist or new style nationalist or religious repression. Just as we defend the democratic rights of all minorities inside ex-Yugoslavia, China or the states of the former USSR, we should defend the democratic rights of all Great Russian, Serb and Han Chinese workers in areas in which now they are minorities and may suffer oppression.

• For a workers’ militia to protect the workers’ struggles, to crush the fascists and pogrom organisers and to smash armed insurrections of the counter-revolutionaries.

To prevent the restoration of capitalism the workers face a combined task, a struggle against a bourgeois executive power and a struggle to save the remains of the planned, state-owned means of production and distribution. To do the latter they must take up the struggle to overthrow the restorationist governments and put into power workers’ governments based on workers’ councils. The restorationist forces cannot be removed by peaceful means alone—the more decisively and the more determinedly the workers mobilise the less costly will such a victory be. A workers militia must in turn win over the rank and file soldiers.

There is no shortage of arms or the opportunity to acquire them. Most workers have undergone military service. The workers can and must arm themselves. Arms in hand workers can snuff out the flames of national hatred, protect all minorities, protect strikes and occupations. As soon as the opportunity of seizing power arises armed units attached to the workers’ councils can carry this through and establish a workers’ government. The workers’ government would have to organise the election of workers’ tribunals to try all those who have committed crimes against the working people either under the Stalinist dictatorship or under the restorationist regimes.

The central tasks of a workers’ council government will be the crushing of the restorationists’ plans and the rallying of the world working class movement to its defence against inevitable imperialist pressure and blockade. The workers’ government will have to develop and implement an emergency plan to save the economy from total disintegration. This must be drawn up by the workers’ representatives and put into action by the working class itself. The most urgent measures for such a plan should be:

• Restore the state monopoly of foreign trade; for control of all international commerce by elected organs of workers’ inspection. The seaport, airport, communications and banking workers can rapidly decide on what trade is in the interests of the workers’ state and what is speculation or harmful profiteering. Urge the workers’ movements of the capitalist countries to force their governments into undertaking trade agreements that will benefit the emergency plan.

l Halt all de-nationalisation of the large scale means of production and renationalise all sectors already sold off. Close down the stock exchanges and the commodity exchanges. Inspect all previous dealings and punish those guilty of profiteering.

l Restore a state monopoly of banking. Nationalise all private banks installing workers’ control and inspection. The dollar hoards of the speculators, the joint ventures, the pseudo co-operatives and the private accounts of the bureaucrats must be confiscated by the workers’ state.

• Refuse to recognise the foreign debt, stop all payments and break all the chains to the IMF, the World Bank and the “European Bank of Restoration”. Kick out all the imperialist “economic advisers”.

• Carry out a monetary reform in the interests of the toilers. Money as a measure of value must, as accurately as possible, gauge the labour time embedded in the products of industry and agriculture. The inflation of the last years of bureaucratic mismanagement must be brought to an end so that workers can undertake rational accounting without which planning is impossible.

• Transform the collective farms into genuine democratic co-operatives on a one-worker-one-vote basis. Establish workers’ control in the state farms. Aid the small farms towards co-operation by the provision of collective resources.

• Small sized private businesses, industrial production, distribution, retail trade and services should be left to operate, and even to expand in number, in spheres where the state and the co-operatives cannot meet demand. This sector of private small capitalists and petit-bourgeois can even be useful to the workers’ state providing their workers are all unionised and have their working conditions and hours regulated by the local workers’ councils, providing their accounts are subject to inspection and taxation is levied for the benefit of the workers’ state.

• Re-organise a Central Commission for the Co-ordination of the Plan and create similar commissions at local, regional and city levels. The skilled statisticians, economists and administrators must be assembled and put to work under the control of elected workers’ representatives. There must be no re-emergence of bureaucratic privilege. No expert should earn more than the wage of a skilled worker and all planning organs must carry out the decisions of the appropriate organs of workers’ democracy.

• The Emergency Plan must provide for a massive construction programme to improve the social infrastructure: house building and repairs, clinic and hospital building, expansion of the nurseries, schools and higher education.

• The Emergency Plan must rapidly improve the communication, distribution and transport system. Military vehicles and aircraft must be drafted into an improved freight system so that food does not rot before it can reach the consumers. A longer term programme of road and railway construction, upgrading the telecommunication systems, creating a nationwide network of warehousing, cold storage, and freezer plants can ensure that the labour of the farmers is not shamefully wasted.

• The Emergency Plan must set as one of its central goals a series of measures that improve the condition of women. Improvements in the quality of goods, distribution and retailing must remove from women the crushing burden of the search for food and endless queuing. Improvements in housing, in crèche and childcare facilities, in care for the sick and the elderly should be combined with a renewed struggle to socialise domestic toil and liberate women so they can at last play a fully equal role in social and public life.

• For a woman’s right to work, with equal pay for work of equal value; defend maternity leave and pay and the protection of women from harmful work. Resist moves to force women to work part time with lower pay and poor working conditions—reduce the working week for all workers. Defend the rights of women to abortion, and extend the availability of contraception.

• The churches, temples and mosques have begun to make claims to organise schools and to censor culture and education. They must have no control over the schools, the hospitals or the media. For scientific and rational education on sexuality free from clerical superstition and taboos.

For international solidarity

The workers’ government must break resolutely from the counter-revolutionary policies of the Walesas, the Yeltsins and the Havels, not only at a national but at an international level. The allies of a workers’ state cannot be the imperialist devourers of the world, the exploiters of the proletariat of the capitalist countries.

The victorious political revolution must appeal for direct aid and support to the workers’ movements of the entire world and particularly to the rank and file.

The victorious Russian Revolution in 1917 rallied massive support in Europe, Asia and the Americas, such that the heroic resistance of the Russian workers could successfully beat off imperialist intervention. The international policy of the victorious political revolution must in return offer economic and military support to the struggles of the world’s workers and oppressed peoples.

• Imperialist hands off Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea and the other bureaucratically ruled workers’ states. Military and economic assistance against the US embargoes, blockades or intervention. For a socialist reunification of Korea; no to a reunification based on capitalist restoration in the north.

l Aid to the workers of these states to make a political revolution. Only revolutionary workers’ and peasants’ council governments will be able to save them. For a world wide alliance and ultimately a federation of workers’ states. For economic co-ordination of the plans of all the workers’ states.

• Support for all national liberation struggles against imperialism. Support for all workers and oppressed peoples who are fighting austerity and privatisation plans dictated by the IMF.

• Opposition to the sell-out deals and betrayals in the Middle East, Southern Africa, South-East Asia, Afghanistan and Central America.

• Support for the struggles of the workers of Eastern Europe against capitalist restoration.

• Support for both the immediate and the revolutionary class struggles of the workers of the entire capitalist world.

• For a new voluntary federation of socialist republics of the former USSR; for a new voluntary federation of socialist republics in the Balkans.

• For a world socialist federation of workers’ council republics.