Letter to the Internationalist Group

Stalinists and Counterrevolution

International Bolshevik Tendency
New York

9 September 2004

Internationalist Group
New York


In your recent article ("Post-Soviet SL/ICL: New Zigzags on the Centrist Road," Internationalist No. 19) you falsely characterize our position on the Stalinists’ role in the destruction of the Soviet bloc:

"Lo these past eight years, since January 1996 to be exact, it has been the official story of the Spartacist League and its International Communist League that the Stalinists ‘led the counterrevolution’ in East Germany (the DDR).

"The SL/ICL in effect took up the line that ‘Stalinism is counterrevolutionary through and through’ which it had fought against tooth and nail in the past. This was the logic of the Stalinophobic ‘Bolshevik Tendency,’ who held that the ‘main danger’ in East Germany was the SED regime, thereby whitewashing the actual counterrevolutionary threat of the West German bourgeoisie and its social-democratic lieutenants, and on that grounds accused the SL/ICL of having a ‘Stalinophilic tendency’."

Unlike the SL, we never asserted that the Stalinists led the counterrevolution in the DDR or anywhere else. This position was just the flip side of the ICL’s earlier political adaptation to the Stalinist bureaucracy:

"In this period [the winter of 1989-90] the ICL did not focus on attacking [DDR prime minister] Modrow as a sellout whom the workers must sweep away in defense of the DDR. Instead, they criticized him only in passing…."
"Robertsonites in Wonderland," 1917 No. 10, 1991

This was a critical mistake:

"The right won on the ground, while confusion prevailed among the more politically conscious workers who trusted the ‘honest, reformed’ Stalinists. This is why the Modrow regime was especially dangerous, and why it was imperative to warn the workers against it."

The ICL’s opportunist course reached its nadir with James Robertson’s ludicrous attempt to arrange private meetings with Soviet General B.V. Snetkov, DDR master spy Markus Wolf and SED/PDS party leader Gregor Gysi. This initiative was so grotesquely opportunist that neither the IG nor the SL dare defend it today.

We addressed your objection to our focus on criticism of the Stalinists in a December 1996 letter to you:

"The complaint that we directed most of our criticism at the SED/PDS instead of the openly restorationist SPD [Social Democratic Party] and the bourgeois parties recalls the centrists’ objections to Trotsky concentrating his political attacks on the Popular Front, and particularly on its ‘far-left’ component, the POUM [Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification], during the Spanish Civil War. After all, was not Franco the ‘main enemy’? The same criticisms were made of Lenin in 1917, when the Bolsheviks directed most of their polemics at the fake-left misleaders rather than the Tsarists, Black Hundreds and other open counterrevolutionaries. This is of course A-B-C for Trotskyists, but the talk of the ‘main enemy’ in the DDR perhaps makes it worth reiterating."
—reprinted in Trotskyist Bulletin No. 6, "Polemics with the IG"

We also reminded you of Trotsky’s parallel observation in his 1940 article "Stalin After the Finnish Experience":

"I consider the main source of danger to the USSR in the present international period to be Stalin and the oligarchy headed by him. An open struggle against them, in the view of world public opinion, is inseparably connected for me with the defense of the USSR."

You claim that the logic of our position is that "Stalinism is counterrevolutionary through and through," but you can cite no proof, because there is none. In our 1996 letter we observed that, contrary to the SL, "Norden/Stamberg are quite right that the Stalinist bureaucracy is not ‘able to lead’ counterrevolution ‘without fracturing’." We made this point repeatedly during the critical period. For example, in a 1990 polemic against Tony Cliff’s state capitalist organization we wrote:

"The Stalinists do not behave like a ruling class because they are not a ruling class. The main enemy of the workers of Eastern Europe today is not the various national bureaucracies, which are in an advanced stage of decomposition, but the capitalists of the U.S. and West Germany, who seek to reintegrate these economies into the imperialist world market.

"The drive toward capitalist restoration can only further disintegrate whatever social power the Stalinist apparatuses still possess. When and if the Comecon countries reintroduce capitalism, the Stalinist bureaucracies will be dismantled. The bulk of the nomenklatura is well aware that their replacement by the capitalist market as the regulator of economic activity will entail a loss of both material privileges and social status."
"Death Agony of Stalinism," 1917 No. 8, 1990

We made the same point in attacking Workers Power’s Stalinophobia:

"The November 1989 LRCI [Workers Powers’ international group] statement on the DDR, entitled ‘The Political Revolution in East Germany,’ demanded: ‘Down with Stalinist and imperialist plans to restore capitalism!’ The problem with this slogan is that it fails to distinguish between the treachery of the Stalinist bureaucrats who capitulated to capitalist restoration and the imperialists who engineered it. In its July 1990 account of the demise of the DDR, Workers Power declared that ‘the principal enemy of the working class within the GDR’ had not been the burgeoning forces of a renewed pan-German capitalism, but the rapidly disintegrating ‘bureaucratic state apparatus’ (Trotskyist International No. 5, Autumn 1990).

"The LRCI shares responsibility for this catastrophe [in the DDR]. Instead of trying to attract the most class-conscious elements of the working class to resist the demolition of the workers state, these ostensible Marxists did their best to convince the workers that the destruction of the deformed German workers state was a ‘historic victory’."
"Doubletalk in the 2.5 Camp,"1917 No. 10, 1991

The IG will go nowhere if it insists on attacking political opponents for positions that they do not hold. Revolutionaries do not play with the truth. As Trotsky observed, a viable revolutionary organization can only be built by being "true in little things as in big ones."

Bolshevik greetings,

Samuel T.
for the International Bolshevik Tendency

Posted: 12 September 2004