Leon Trotsky
Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (Sri Lanka)

The Collapse of the Soviet Union

27-1. The International Perspectives prepared the IC for the political crisis of Stalinism that erupted in 1989 with mass protests in China, followed shortly thereafter by the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe, that culminated in December 1991 in the formal liquidation of the Soviet Union. The destruction of the Soviet Union was a political blow against the international working class that produced considerable disorientation and confusion. Against the triumphalism of the bourgeoisie, the International Committee was alone in insisting that the end of the Soviet Union did not signify the victory of the capitalist market and the end of socialism. Trotsky in his seminal work The Revolution Betrayed, published in 1936, had predicted the eventual liquidation of the remaining social gains of the Russian Revolution and the restoration of capitalist property relations unless the Soviet working class carried out a political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracy. The end of the USSR did not represent the failure of socialism but of Stalinism and its reactionary nationalist perspective of “Socialism in One Country” under the impact of globalised production. Having long ago abandoned the struggle for the world socialist revolution, the Stalinist bureaucracy responded to the crisis of the Soviet economy, and growing working-class unrest, by integrating it within global capitalism and anchoring, thereby, its own privileges in capitalist private property. The collapse of the USSR was a product of the unravelling of the post-war order and the intensification of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism between world economy and the bankrupt nation-state system. Far from opening up a bright new future for capitalism, the end of the Soviet Union and its autarkic national economy foreshadowed the transformation or collapse of all parties and institutions based on national economic regulation. The ICFI explained that the intensification of the basic contradictions of capitalism would inevitably lead to a new period of profound economic crisis, wars and revolution.

27-2. The inability of the Soviet and Eastern European working class to develop its own class response to capitalist restorationism brought into sharp relief the enormous damage done to the political consciousness of the international working class by the long domination of the various Stalinist, social democratic and bourgeois nationalist bureaucracies and, above all, by the murder of the finest representatives of revolutionary Marxism by Stalin and his gangsters in the 1930s. In opposition to any conception that socialist revolution would emerge spontaneously, David North in his report to the 12th Plenum of the ICFI explained: “The intensification of the class struggle provides the general foundation of the revolutionary movement. But it does not by itself directly and automatically create the political, intellectual, and, one might add, cultural environment that its development requires, and which prepares the historical setting for a truly revolutionary situation.”[1] The report concluded that the responsibility fell to the International Committee to re-establish within the working class the great political culture of Marxism. An essential component of the ICFI’s subsequent work has been the systematic exposure of the various elements of what it termed “The Post-Soviet School of Falsification” that has sought to bury the significance of the Russian Revolution and particularly the work of Leon Trotsky under a mountain of lies.

27-3. In Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics, the collapse of the Stalinist regimes led to a rapid opening up to foreign investment, the wholesale looting of state-owned enterprises by the emerging kleptocracy and a staggering retrogression in the living standards of working people. In China, the process of capitalist restoration was more protracted. Just 23 years after the revolution, the Maoist regime reached an accommodation with US imperialism in 1972 that led to a de facto alliance against the Soviet Union and re-established China’s economic relations with the West. The opening of China to foreign investment and the restoration of capitalist market relations began after Deng Xiaoping came to power in 1978, producing growing resistance in the working class. In the wake of the violent suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests in June 1989, an ICFI statement entitled “Victory to the Political Revolution in China” explained: “The mass killings of the past week are the political culmination of a decade during which the Beijing Stalinists have worked systematically to restore capitalism to China and reintegrate its economy into the structure of world imperialism. The main purpose of the terror unleashed by the Beijing regime is to intimidate the Chinese masses and crush all opposition to its deliberate liquidation of the social conquests of the Chinese Revolution.”[2] Following the crackdown, foreign investment flooded into China as transnational corporations concluded that the Tiananmen Square massacre was a guarantee that the CCP police state regime would not hesitate to use all methods to suppress the working class and guarantee private profit. The restoration of capitalism in China under the CCP has been accompanied by the emergence of a bourgeoisie in close association with the state bureaucracy, a deepening social divide, and a return of many of the social evils of pre-1949 China.

27-4. The liquidation of the Soviet Union had political and economic ramifications throughout Asia, not least in India, which depended heavily on Soviet markets, economic aid and geopolitical support. In 1991, facing a balance of payments crisis, the Congress government began the process of dismantling the edifice of Indian national economic regulation and opening up to foreign investment. The Indian Stalinist parties not only supported the new orientation but, in the states of West Bengal and Kerala where it held power, the CPM led the charge for pro-market restructuring. The collapse of the Cold War framework ended the ability of the bourgeoisie in backward capitalist countries to politically balance between the Soviet and Western blocs and to posture, with the aid of Moscow and Beijing, as “anti-imperialists.” Again the process was especially pronounced in India, a leading member of the so-called non-aligned movement with strong ties to the Soviet Union. New Delhi began to mend its bridges with Washington and drop its previous support for national movements such as the PLO.

27-5. The naked embrace of capitalism in the former Soviet bloc and China compounded the political crisis of the region’s Stalinist parties, which either collapsed completely like the Communist Party of Thailand, fractured as in the case of the Communist Party of the Philippines, or completed their integration into the political establishment as in Japan and India. The various armed national liberation movements, as epitomised by the LTTE’s advocacy of a “Tiger economy” for Sri Lanka, rapidly shed their former “socialist” posturing, embraced the ideology of the market and sought their own accommodation with imperialism.


David North, “The Struggle for Marxism and the Tasks of the Fourth International,” Fourth International, Volume 19, Number 1, Fall Winter 1992, p. 74.


Fourth International, Volume 16, Nos. 1–2, p. 1.