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On Ttrotskyism - Bureacuracy - ICPREFACE
This pamphlet results from a meeting held by the Limerick Labour Youth Group in January of 1970 at which the Irish Communist Organisation and the trotskyist LEAGUE FOR A WORKERS REPUBLIC were invited to state their respective positions of the general poli ti cal tasks facing the working class. The I.C.O attempted to focus discussion on the nature of the Labour Party and the correct stra tegy with regard to it, since the poli tical experience of the Lim erick group was gained in the Labour Party.
The L.W.R., whose position with relation to the Labour Party is of course very dodgy, concentrated on the Stalin-Trotsky controversy, of which the Limerick group had little knowledge . To help the Limerick group to get to grips with this matter the I.c.o.proposed that the L.W.R. and itself should both publish a concise statement of their position on a number of questions. The L.W R . would not agree to this. Eventually, however, they agreed that, if the I.C.O. published a statement of its posi tion, they would publish a criticism of it within three .rronths. Since 1965 the trotskyists have been acutely aware of the dangers of trying to reply to I.C.O. criticism, knowing that they a0uld only lose influence in the working class by clarifying their position. It is a sign of the influence which the I.c.o. has gained in recent years that the L.W.R. is now compelled to reply to it.
We will deal with the following subjects: the trotskyist concept of "the bureaucracy"; Stalin; the dictatorship of the proletariat; socialism in one country; the political economy of trotskyism and Khruschevism; and the counter-revolution in the Soviet Union.
BRITISH AND IRISH COMMUNIST ORGANISATION
(formerly Irish Communist Organisation)
The I.C.O. criticism of the trotskyist conception of "the bureaucracy", which Trotsky maintained ruled the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s, is included in the pamphlet IN DEFENCE OF LENINISM, published in 1966.
In essence, Trotsky held that political power had been taken away from the Russian working class by the "Stalinist bureaucracy" in the mid- 20s; this "bureaucracy" oppressed the working class; yet this "bureaucracy" was not a bourgeois ruling class, or a ruling class of any kind; in fact this bureaucracy, which had "expropriated" the work ing class politically, and which was an instrument of imperialist counter-revolution, also represented the interests of the working class which it was oppressing. The "Stalinist bureaucracy" constitu ted a "deformed workers state", but definitely a workers state.
When asked why they had never replied to the ICO exposure of this non sense, the trotskyists (in the person of their current leader, P. Healy)stated that the reply was included in Trotsky's THE REVOLUTION BETRAYED. In other words, the answer to the criticism of "The Revo lution Betrayed" is "The Revolution Betrayed". We will take it that the trotskyists did not reply to the ICO criticism because they could make no reply that would not worsen the situation from their viewpoint.In what follows we will summarise Trotsky's position from writings other than "The Revolution Betrayed", since that masterpiece was adequately demolished in "In Defence of Leninism". Here is how he described "the bureaucracy" in other writings:
"•••the apparatus of the workers state underwent a complete degeneration ... It was transformed from a weapon of the work ing class into a weapon of bureaucratic violence against the working class and more and more a weapon for the sabotage of the country's economy" "The revolutionary elements within the bureaucracy, only a small minority, reflect, pass ively it is true, the socialist interests of the proletariat. The fascist , counter-revolutionary elements, growing uninter ruptedly, express with even greater consistency the interests of world imperialism" . He refers to "...fascist countries , from which Stalin's political apparatus does not differ save in more unbridled savagery ..." (THE TRANSITIONAL PROGRAMME OF THE 4th INTERNATIONAL 1938).
"The Soviet oligarchy possesses all the vices of the old rul ing classes but lacks their historical mission' "Stalin and the Comintern are now undubitably the most valuable agency of imperialism" (IN DEFENCE OF MARXISM, 1940. p8 ,13)
Thus, according to Trotsky, the "Stalinist bureaucracy", which con trolled the Soviet state, had seized political power from the work ing class and was using it to oppress the workers even more savage ly than they were oppressed in fascist countries . It had become imperialism 's most valuable counter-revolutionary instrument, and it even lacked the historical justification of the bourgeoisie. It was not only more vicious than fascism: it was also historically unnecessary.
It is obvious that if the state of affairs was as Trotsky describes it, the Soviet state could in no sense be described as a workers' state. It would be a fascist bourgeois state. Some of his foll owers, who retained an elementary sense of logic, began in the late thirties to disagree with his characterisation of the Soviet Union as a "deformed workers 'state". If his description of it was correct, it was not a workers' state at all. Trotsky denounced them as petty-bourgeoisie , trapped in Aristotelian logic, who were incapable of viewing the matter "dialectically" . His "dialectical" view was as follows:
"The role of the Soviet bureaucracy remains a dual one. Its own interests constrain it to safeguard the new economic reg ime created by the October revolution against the enemies at home and abroad. This work remains historically necessary and progressive. In this work the world proletariat supports the Soviet bureaccracy without closing their e s to its national conservatism, its appropriate interests and its spirit of caste privilege. But this is precisely the traits which are paralysing its progressive work•. • Thus the singular position of the bureaucracy.•.leads to an increasingly more profound and irreconcilable contradiction with the fundamental needs of Soviet economy and culture. Under these conditions, the dic tatorship of the bureaucracy, although it remains a distorted expression of the dictatorship of the proletariat , translates itself into a permanent political crisis""The role of the bureaucracy is a dual one: on the one hand, it protects the workers' state with its own peculiar methods (i.e., by oppressing the workers: ICO); on the other hand, it disorganises and checks the development of economic and cultural life by repressing the creative activity of the masses" (THE KIROV ASSASINATION pl2,18)."Stalin's function is a double one..• Stalin serves the bureau cracy and thereby the world bourgeoisi ; but he cannot serve the bureaucracy without maintaining the social foundations that the bureaucracy is exploiting in its own interest". (THE CLASS NATURE OF THE SOVIET UNION).This is indeed a "singular" phenomenon . Some of Trotsky's followers said that his position led to the absurdity of a "counter-revolutionary workers' state". Trotsky replied :"Some voices cry out: 'If we continue to recognise the U.S.S.R. as a workers'state, we will have to establish a new category: the counter-revolutionary workers' state". This argument att empts to shock our imagination by opposing a good programmatic norm to a miserable, mean, even repugnant reality. But haven 't we observed from day to day since 1923 how the Soviet state has played a more and more counter-revolutionary role on the international arena.•• There are two completely counter revolutionary workers' internationals ••. The trade unions of France, Great Britain, the U.S. and other countries support the counter-revolutionary politics of the bourgeoisie. This does not prevent us from labelling them trade-unions, from support ing their progressive steps and from defending them against the bourgeoisie. Why is it impossible to employ the same method with the counter-revolutionary workers'state? In the last analysis a workers' state is a trade union which has conquered power" (IN DEFENCE OF MARXISM p30/l).Here we see Trotsky's charlatanism in full bloom . A trade union is not a political party. Its essential function is to defend the economic position of its workers. Politics of one sort or another may have more or less influence in a trade union: but its essential function is not political, and does not arise from the political struggle for supremacy between capital and labour. The basis of a trade union is reformist. But the basis of existence of a working class political party, and of working class political power, is the revolutionary struggle of the working class to put an end to the capitalist system and build a socialist system. It is therefore absurd to treat trade unionism and politics as if they had the same function. The one is essentially reformist, the other is essential ly revolutionary . A workers' state is not a trade union which has conquered state power but a workers' political party hich has conquered state power. A workers' state is revolutionary, else it is not a workers ' state. The concept of a counter-revolutionary workers'state (of a "counter-revolutionary revolutionary state")is absurd.
(In 1920/l Trotsky had a controversy with Lenin on the subject of trade-unionism and politics. Lenin pointed out that "the trade unions are not state organisationsn, and said that Trotsky had "committed a number of errors that are connected with the very essence of the dictatorship of the proletariat".(THE TRADE UNIONS - AND THE MISTAKES OF TROTSKY December 1920). But it is clear that Lenin 's attempt to teach him elementary politics had no success .)
DUAL NATURE We will now deal with the "dual nature" theory: the "Stalinist bureaucracy" is revolutionary in economics , (though it is increasingly disrupting economic development), but counter-revolutionary in politics. The counter revolutionary bureaucracy is forced in its own interest "to safe guard the new economic regime created by the October revolution". But ''.•.the U .S .S.R. minus the social structure founded by the October revolution would be a fascist regime" (Defence of Marxism p69). Thus the fascist political superstructure is forced to serve the working class by the socialist economic base established in 1917, and therefore despite its fascist political methods is a workers' state.
In fact the "new economic regime" was not created in October . Political power was won by the working class in October. The soci alist economy was not built for many years after. Socialist polit ical power inevitably preceeds socialist economic construction . In view of the exceptionally active role which socialist political power plays in socialist economic construction, it would be impos sible for socialist economic construction to be carried out under a state which was not a revolutionary working class state. There can be no question of socialist economy developing under alien political power, as capitalist economy developed under feudal political power.
When the "Stalinist bureaucracy" came to power in 1923 there was a flourishing cpaitalist sector in the economy, a weak socialist sec tor, and an immense section of petty-bourgeois production . The "new economic regime" was built in the subsequent decade by this "bureaucracy" . Thus the 11Stalinist bureaucracy 11 preceded , and guided the construction of, the socialist economic basis . How then could its behaviour have been determined by this basis?
When his followers deduced from his description of the Soviet state that it had ceased to be a workers' state, he denounced them as un dialectical. We will explain exactly what he meant.
"••.the nationalised and planned economy of the USSR is the greatest school for all humanity aspiring to a better future" (CLASS NATURE OF THE SOVIET UNION).
"Socialism, as a system, for the first time demonstrated its title to historic victory not on the pages of "Das Kapital" but by the praxis of hydroelectric plants and blast furnaces " in the Soviet Union (SOVIET ECONOMY IN DANGER, p7) .The economic developments in the Soviet Union in the 1930s made such an effect that to deny them, or to describe them as capitalist, would have been to invite immediate ridicule. To allow that the economi development was socialist, but maintain that the state was bourgeois, would obviously have been absurd. In order to have any hope of gain ing working class support for his counter-revolutionary schemes, Trotsky had to devise a position which would allow that the economy was socialist, and that the state functioned as a workers' state, and yet make it appear to be in the working class interest to overthrow that state. Hence the theory of "the bureaucracy" which functioned as a "degenerated workers' state".
Of course there is a logical chasm running through this position (as we have shown here and in "In Defence of Leninism"). This chasm had to be bridged "dialectically '. In trotskyism, "dialectics" means
the ability to hold a self-contradictory position . The self contradiction is shrouded in a "dialectical" haze. (In his dispute with Trotsky in 1921, Lenin had drawn attention, not for the first time, to the fact that Trotsky mistook eclecticism for dialectics .
(Dialectics analyses the contradictions of objective reality. Eclec ticism is a "theory" made up of bits and pieces.)
The following remarkable passage occurs in Trotsky's dispute with his followers who were unable to keep up this "dialectical " self deception:
"The Fourth International long ago recognised the necessity for overthrowing the bureaucracy•.• Nothing else is proposed or can be proposed by those who proclaim the bureaucracy to be an exploiting "class" ••. Our critics refuse to call the degenera ted workers' state - a workers' state. They demand that the totalitarian bureaucracy be called a ruling class. The revolu tion against this bureaucracy they propose to consider not political but social. Were we to make these terminological concessions, we would place our critics in a very difficult position, inasmuch as they themselves would n at to do with their purely verbal victory. It would therefore be a piece of monstrous nonsense to split with comrades who on the questionof the sociological nature of the u.s.s.R . have an opinion different from ours, insofar as they solidarise with us in regard to the political tasks.••" (Defence of Marxism pS).That is to say: The question of whether the working class or the bourgeoisie is the ruling class in the Soviet Union is a secondary, and merely "terminological" , question. A difference of opinion on such an unimportant matter doesn't warrant a split. So long as we agree that the Soviet state, whatever its class nature may be, should be overthrown, that is the important thing.
The L.W.R . maintains this position in full. At the meeting in Limer ick they referred to "the counter-revolutionary nature of the Stalin leadership"; declared that "the basis of the bureaucracy rested on the new social relations that had been built in October"; and announced that "the Russian working class need to regain politi cal power: at the present moment they have economic power." Trotsky ists never relish stating in all its naked absurdity the line that the working class is a ruling class which rules through a state which oppresses it. P. Healy stated it as follows under pressure in Limerick:"The working class does not have direct political power .•. but in the last analysis the dictatorship of the proletariat exists". "Only in the last analysis does it (the counter revolutionary workers ' state: I.C.O.)serve the interests of the ruling class" (i.e. the working class: I.C.O.)However, the heart of trotskyism is never in these efforts to explain these irrational parts of its programme . Its heart is in its emotional anti-Stalinism , in which it exploits bourgeois anti Stalin conditioning to disrupt the communist movement .
(The Irish Communist. April 1970)
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