David North
The Heritage We Defend

The Origins of Pabloism

The year 1948 was marked by major changes in the political and economic physiognomy of Eastern Europe which required a reexamination of the analysis made by the Fourth International at its Second World Congress in April.

In response to the Cold War policies of US imperialism, spearheaded by the Marshall Plan, the Soviet bureaucracy was forced to implement radical anticapitalist policies in the “buffer states.” In Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Poland, the nationalization of basic industry, the banking system, communications, and transport was either totally or nearly completed. In Rumania, the statification of the means of production had already begun.

The Fourth International had to take these developments into account in defining the class nature of states whose social and economic structure were the product of the exceptional and peculiar circumstances which existed in the aftermath of World War II.

On the basis of agreements between Stalin and Anglo-American imperialism at Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam, Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe was recognized in return for the Kremlin’s assistance in strangling the revolutionary movement of the proletariat in France, Italy and Germany, and in crushing the armed struggle of the Greek workers and peasants.

In Eastern Europe, the liquidation of private ownership of the means of production and the capitalist state apparatus had not been immediately carried out, despite the presence of Soviet occupation forces. Rather, until the end of 1947, the Kremlin’s actions indicated that it lacked any long-term perspective for the destruction of capitalism in the buffer states. In its economic policy, the Soviet bureaucracy was more concerned with utilizing the material assets of the buffer states than with nationalizing their productive forces. The native bourgeoisie was not expropriated and the nationalizations were limited to those concerns which had been seized by the workers at the end of the war.

As a reaction to the military and economic threat posed by the Marshall Plan, the Soviet bureaucracy began to take action against the Eastern European bourgeoisie. The implications of these developments, as well as those in Yugoslavia, were considered at the Seventh Plenum of the International Executive Committee of the Fourth International held in April 1949. While enumerating the chief features of the new turn in the policy of the Soviet bureaucracy—nationalization of heavy industry, the initiation of economic planning, and sanctions against the wealthiest layers of the peasantry—the IEC noted “the apathy and often the passive hostility of the proletariat towards the bureaucratic ‘planning’ efforts” and explained that this form of “ ‘planning’ retains its hybrid character and differs as yet structurally, in a fundamental way, from Soviet planning, which is itself the bureaucratic deformation of real socialist planning.”[1]

Analyzing the contradictory character of the Kremlin’s actions in Eastern Europe, the IEC stated:

These variations in the politics of the bureaucracy do not correspond only to changes in the objective situation. Bureaucratic empiricism reflects, under the mask of immediate worries, the absence of historical perspectives and the impossibility of adopting a fundamental orientation. This in turn corresponds to the concrete relationship between the bureaucracy, the bourgeoisie, and the proletariat. Because it wanted first of all to strangle all possibility of a proletarian revolution, it was led to conclude a temporary compromise with the bourgeoisie; because its privileges are historically incompatible with the maintenance of the capitalist regime, it had to take the course of gradual and bureaucratic “liquidation” of the capitalist forces in the buffer zone.[2]

Attempting a more precise definition of the social character of the Eastern European states, the IEC stated that “it can be deduced that the buffer countries—aside from Finland and the Soviet-occupied zones in Germany and Austria—constitute today a unique type of hybrid transitional society in the process of transformation, with features that are as yet so fluid and lacking precision that it is extremely difficult to summarize its fundamental nature in a concise formula.”[3]

The IEC maintained:

The fate of the buffer countries has not yet been decided, not alone in the historical sense as in the case of the USSR, but in a much more immediate sense. The totality of the present world political currents: The Marshall Plan, the relative “reconstruction” of Western Germany, American rearmament, the economic perspectives of American imperialism and of the Soviet Five-Year Plan, the development of the proletarian struggles and those of the colonial peoples—all these factors will decide in the coming months the immediate fate of the buffer countries.[4]

Summarizing the conclusions at which the Fourth International had arrived, the IEC declared, “This whole description leads to the conclusion that the buffer zone, except for Finland and the Russian-occupied zones in Austria and Germany, are on the road toward structural assimilation with the USSR, but that this assimilation has not yet been accomplished.”[5]

In relation to Yugoslavia, the IEC took note of important differences in the origins of its state and its economic policies.

Yugoslavia, of all of the buffer countries, was the only one in which the liquidation of the bulk of the possessing classes, as well as the destruction of the bourgeois state apparatus, took place by means of mass action, that is, the guerrilla warfare which in this country took on the character of a genuine civil war. From this fundamental difference between Yugoslavia and the other buffer countries flow specific differences on a number of planes: The CP has a real base among the masses; the masses have a fundamentally different attitude to the new state; the Yugoslav CP has different relations toward the Soviet bureaucracy; there is the possibility of a real differentiation in the workers’ movement following the Tito crisis, despite the undeniable existence of a police regime in this country. Even though the sum of these factors does not eliminate any of the structural obstacles to real planning and for this reason leaves [the] Yugoslav economy as yet qualitatively different from the Russian economy, it undoubtedly brings this country closer, on the social and political plane, to the Soviet structure. The defense of Yugoslavia against the campaign of calumny, the economic blockade, etc., on the part of the Soviet bureaucracy must be considered within the framework of our evaluation of the workers’ movement of this country, the origins of its state, and the revolutionary possibilities opened up as a consequence of this workers’ movement and the origins of this state, which take precedence over purely economic considerations.[6]

The IEC’s analysis concluded with a crucial point which was soon to come under attack within the Fourth International. But as late as April 1949, as it grappled with the objective significance of the developments in Eastern Europe, the IEC warned:

a. An evaluation of Stalinism cannot be made on the basis of localized results of its policy but must proceed from the entirety of its action on a world scale. When we consider the state of decay which capitalism presents even today, four years after the end of the war, and when we consider the concrete situation of 1943–45, there can be no doubt that Stalinism, on a world scale, appeared as the decisive factor in preventing a sudden and simultaneous crash of the capitalist order in Europe and in Asia. In this sense, the “successes” achieved by the bureaucracy in the buffer zone constitute, at most, the price which imperialism paid for services rendered on the world arena—a price which is moreover constantly called into question at the following stage.

b. From the world point of view, the reforms realized by the Soviet bureaucracy in the sense of an assimilation of the buffer zone to the USSR weigh incomparably less in the balance than the blows dealt by the Soviet bureaucracy, especially through its actions in the buffer zone, against the consciousness of the world proletariat, which it demoralizes, disorients and paralyzes by all its politics and thus renders it susceptible to some extent to the imperialist campaign of war preparations. Even from the point of view of the USSR itself, the defeats and the demoralization of the world proletariat caused by Stalinism constitute an incomparably greater danger than the consolidation of the buffer zone constitutes a reinforcement.[7]

The Fourth International had not arrived at a completed definition of the character of the states in Eastern Europe. The use of such terms as “hybrid,” “transitional” and “on the road toward structural assimilation” expressed the tentative, hypothetical, incomplete and inadequate character of the analyses. It was decided, therefore, to initiate a broader discussion on the question of the class nature of the “buffer countries.”

The present-day impressionists and eclectics such as Banda—who have either forgotten all that they learned in the struggle against Pabloism, or who perhaps, have never seriously assimilated the theoretical lessons of that struggle—attempt to ridicule the caution with which the Fourth International approached these new social phenomena. They cannot understand why the Fourth International did not immediately proclaim the existence of workers’ states in Eastern Europe once the statification of the means of production had been carried out. Proceeding as empiricists, they are entirely oblivious to the more subtle political, theoretical and ultimately practical implications of the definition of the “buffer countries” as workers’ states.

But in 1949, the lessons of the struggle against Shachtman and Burnham were still fresh in the minds of all the principal leaders of the Fourth International. They still remembered Trotsky’s warning: “Every sociological definition is at bottom a historical prognosis.” What might simply begin as a somewhat abstract argument over terminology could at a certain point, under the pressure of class forces, become the point of departure for a fundamental revision of the entire historical perspective of the Trotskyist movement—and that was, in fact, what ultimately happened.

In the discussion on the nature of the states in Eastern Europe, the Fourth International was confronted with the question of the historical role of Stalinism. Through the military intervention of the Soviet bureaucracy, capitalist private ownership of the means of production had been abolished and a state monopoly of foreign trade had been established. Thus, the question was posed: did this represent the liquidation of the capitalist state in Eastern Europe and the creation of a proletarian dictatorship, albeit deformed? For those who studied the question, there existed in the 1939–40 writings of Trotsky an invaluable point of reference: his analysis of the liquidation of capitalist relations in White Russia and eastern Poland as a result of the military intervention of the Red Army following the Stalin-Hitler Pact of August 1939.

There existed not only similarities, but also important differences. Trotsky spoke of the expropriation of the large landowners and statification of the means of production “in the territories scheduled to become part of the USSR.”[8]

In contrast, the states of Eastern Europe had not yet been “structurally assimilated” into the Soviet Union. (In fact, the national boundaries of the Eastern European states were never abolished.) Moreover, Trotsky had noted that in the territories occupied by the Soviet Union the bureaucracy had been compelled to give an “impulse” to the revolutionary expropriation of the masses. He declared that without an appeal to the independent activity of the masses, “it is impossible to constitute a new regime.”[9]

But outside of Yugoslavia, the liquidation of capitalist property had not been accompanied by any significant form of independent mass action by the proletariat. And even there, the absence of genuine soviet-type forms of workers’ power, the bureaucratic organization of the Tito leadership, and the generally nationalist character of the policies pursued by the Yugoslav Communist Party raised theoretical questions which were bound up with the most fundamental issues of historical perspective.

Underlying the problem of a correct definition was an essential programmatic question: through what process is the dictatorship of the proletariat and the transition to socialism realized? Precisely on this issue, the relation between the sociological definition and the historical prognosis emerged most clearly. Considered within the context of the struggle of the Fourth International to resolve the crisis of revolutionary leadership within the working class, the question of the “correct” sociological definition was entirely secondary to the dangerous revisions in perspective and program that were being smuggled into the movement in the course of the buffer state discussion. It eventually became clear that those like Pablo and Cochran (supported by Hansen), who placed central emphasis on determining the concrete empirical criteria upon which an adequate threshold definition of a workers’ state could be based, were operating, whether they knew it or not, with a hidden agenda.

In 1939–40 Trotsky, while opposing the demand that the Soviet bureaucracy be defined as a class, sought to establish whether or not the differences with the Burnham-Shachtman minority were merely of a terminological character. “What new political conclusions follow for us from these definitions?” he asked.

Given the fact that the Fourth International stood for the overthrow of the bureaucracy, and insofar as the minority conceded that this revolution was bound up with the defense of existing nationalized property relations, then even if they wished to call this revolution social rather than political, the differences with the majority would be merely of a terminological character. Thus, Trotsky wrote, “Were we to make them these terminological concessions, we would place our critics in a very difficult position, inasmuch as they themselves would not know what to do with their purely verbal victory.”[10]

Of course, the dispute in 1939–40 was not merely over terminology. From its definition of the bureaucracy as a class, the minority proceeded to repudiate the unconditional defense of the USSR against imperialism. In 1949, the differences which arose over terminology did not so quickly disclose the programmatic differences. At first it appeared that the agreement on how to define the buffer states and Yugoslavia resolved the theoretical dispute. However, the deeper implications of the dispute then exploded in the form of a perspective that posed the physical liquidation of the Trotskyist movement.

Embedded deeply within all great theoretical disputes is the conflict of class forces. The “forms of appearance” generated by the postwar settlement seemed to indicate that Stalinism was more powerful than ever and that the Soviet bureaucracy was capable of playing a progressive historical role despite all its past crimes. Trotsky warned that sharp changes in the political conjuncture often produce within the ranks of the revolutionary movement a relapse into petty-bourgeois forms of thought. Through such an uncritical adaptation to the outer appearance of political reality, the pressure of hostile class forces finds its most dangerous expression.

The development of the discussion between 1949 and 1951 reflected the deepening political crisis within the Fourth International, especially inside the Socialist Workers Party. The political differentiation which was emerging in the leadership of the SWP directly reflected fundamental changes in class relations within the United States, produced by the institutionalization of “New Deal”-style class compromise and class collaboration, economically based on Keynesian deficit spending. The evolution of this interconnected process of political and theoretical crisis within the Fourth International and the SWP must be carefully studied.

Among the first to insist that the Fourth International should recognize the existence of workers’ states in Eastern Europe was Bert Cochran (E.R. Frank), who submitted a memorandum in March 1949, arguing that the statification of the productive forces had produced in the buffer states economic and political regimes which were “roughly similar to that of the USSR.”[11]

At a Political Committee of the SWP held on July 12, 1949, Morris Stein introduced the discussion on the IEC resolution produced at the seventh plenum. His report consisted largely of a recapitulation of that document. In the course of the meeting, Cochran argued along the lines of his memorandum. The discussion was resumed on August 2, 1949, at which Stein elaborated on the differences that existed within the Fourth International and the SWP.

In my presentation of the resolution on the Eastern European countries at the last meeting, I failed to deal with the position of the British RCP. I will speak on it briefly now. I haven’t read their latest documents, but this is of little importance, since their position dates back some sixteen months. Already then they declared that the buffer countries are workers states. As a matter of fact, they have a similar position today on China. They proceed from the concept that Stalinism in power equals a workers state. When they first took their position that the buffer countries were workers’ states, these countries had not yet undergone any extensive nationalizations. In a sense their method of reasoning is similar to that of the Shachtmanites, even though they arrive at opposite conclusions.

To the Shachtmanites, Stalinists in control of the State equals bureaucratic collectivism, that is, a new social class is born as soon as the Stalinists gain state power, To the RCP, Stalinist control of state power also amounts to an automatic social change but they term it a workers’ state. It is a convenient method which absolves its practitioners of all responsibility for analysis of the concrete living processes.

It is noteworthy from [this] point of view that [the] only serious analysis of the evolution in the buffer countries has been made by the majority tendency in the International. By trying to simplify the problem of buffer countries, the RCP on the contrary complicates this problem and brings into question all the ideological positions of Trotskyism.

If Stalinism in power means workers states, then what is the role of the Fourth International? What happens to the Marxist concept of the state?

Within the RCP several tendencies have been emerging which are fed precisely by these contradictions in their position on the Eastern European countries. One of their leading members, for example, concluded that if Stalinism is such a revolutionary force, we may as well join the CP. Others question the existence of the Fourth International, claiming it was formed prematurely.

Now let us take up some of the arguments that entered our last discussion. I was amazed by Cochran’s approach to the question. I was amazed by the manner in which he brushes aside what I consider to be fundamental questions. For example, he agrees that agriculture in the buffer countries remains in private hands, is exploited privately. But that, he tells us, isn’t too important. He makes no attempt to analyze why it isn’t important. He simply dismisses it.

The IEC resolution poses the question of the national boundaries and their reactionary role. It demonstrates the impossibility of planning within the confines of small national states. But he dismisses that too. Why?[12]

Cochran defended his position, insisting that the decisive issue in deciding the character of the European states was neither their historical origins nor the absence of a mass revolutionary movement of the working class—but the fact that state ownership had been established over industry. He argued that the “sociological similarities” between Eastern Europe and the USSR were so great that they outweighed the difference in their historical origins.

Cochran then dealt with what he believed to be the underlying significance of the discussion.

Behind all these arguments [against the existence of workers’ states in Eastern Europe] lurks the fear that by admitting that a state like Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia is sociologically similar to the USSR, we are endowing Stalinism with a progressive mission, and if Stalinism has a progressive mission, doesn’t that call for a reconsideration of the role of the Fourth International.

If you think about this you will see that the problem really rests on an entirely different plane from the discussion that has occupied us this evening. I would say this. If we thought that Stalinism could accomplish in the world, in America, in Western Europe, what it accomplished in Czechoslovakia and Poland; call it what you will—capitalist, neo-capitalist, in-between state—apply any definition you please to it—if Stalinism could do in America by its methods what it accomplished in Czechoslovakia, then I think it would follow that Stalinism is the new wave of the future which is destined to usher in the new society.[13]

Cochran had hit the nail on the head: the discussion was not really about sociological definitions, but concerned the historical prognoses and tasks of the Fourth International. Cochran hastened to insist that he believed that Stalinism could not achieve in the United States and Western Europe what it had done in the buffer states; and “Therefore, Stalinism is historically bankrupt. Our fundamental analysis of it remains.”[14]

Cochran’s position was immediately challenged by Clarke, who was to become the strongest proponent of Pablo’s revisionist views inside the SWP. Clarke’s political evolution illustrates the impact of objective class forces upon the cadre of the revolutionary movement, which often produces transformations in “individual” positions that are sudden and unexpected. Warning that Cochran’s views would lead to the conclusion that Stalinism plays a progressive role, Clarke suggested that the SWP “should be wary of finding some pat formula in determining the character of these states, particularly in view of the world crisis and the struggle that exists elsewhere in the world.”[15]

Cannon then intervened in the discussion:

I don’t think that you can change the class character of a state by manipulation at the top. It can only be done by revolution which is followed by [a] fundamental change in property relations. That is what I understand by a change of the class character of [the] state. That is what happened in the Soviet Union. The workers first took power and began the transformation of property relations. …

I don’t think there has been a social revolution in the buffer countries and I don’t think Stalinism carried out a revolution. My opinion of the situation is that a tremendous revolutionary movement was indicated by the situation toward the end of the war with the victories of the Red Army, and that the instinctive movement of the masses was to carry through, sweep away capitalism, workers take power and immediately unite themselves with the Soviet Union or Federate the Balkan states and create a sufficient arena for socialist planning.

I think the role of Stalinism is not revolutionary at all. It gave an impulse to the revolution in this sense, that the victories of the Red Army stimulated the revolutionary movement. But the actual role of Stalinism was to strangle that revolution, to suppress the mass movement of the workers and to restabilize the capitalist state and capitalist property relations. …

If you once begin to play with the idea that class character of a state can be changed by manipulations in top circles, you open the door to all kinds of revision of basic theory. I believe the buffer countries not only can return to the capitalist orbit, but the chances are that they will, unless the situation is altered by a revolutionary movement in Europe.

I regard these states as pawns at the present time between two powers—Western capitalism and the Soviet Union. It is quite conceivable that a deal in the cold war could be the starting point for a loosening of Stalinist control of the state apparatus in these countries and gradual reinfiltration of bonafide capitalist representatives. Whether I am correct in saying that such a development is probable, doesn’t alter the situation. If you admit that it is possible, then you have to take the position that the class character of the state can be switched back and forth without revolution or counter-revolution. It is that idea, carried to the extreme, that some people are playing with; the idea that perhaps England can gradually nationalize the mines, banks, steel, and other industries and thus creep up on socialism without a revolution. We have always considered that reformist.

One thing is absolutely certain: what is there now cannot remain. That it is transitory, everybody agrees. … In the meantime you have to recognize them as transitory formations where there has been no social revolution, but rather an aborted revolution, and let it go at that for the present. It is too early to make a final characterization.

I agree with the point that Clarke made about the Soviet Union, that nationalization plus the foreign trade, is not the criterion of a workers state. That is what remains of [a] workers state created by the Russian Revolution. That is the remnants of the Russian Revolution. That is why the Soviet state is called “degenerate.”

There is a tremendous difference whether a state has nationalized property relations as a result of a proletarian revolution, or whether there are certain progressive moves toward nationalization, by the Stalinists in one case or by English reformists in the other.[16]

In his summary of the discussion, Stein declared, “I am not clear in my own mind yet as to the real nature of differences here.”[17]

But it was becoming clear that differences of a fundamental character existed within the Fourth International. In September 1949, Pablo wrote an article in which, while advocating the designation of Yugoslavia as a “workers’ state deformed from its birth,” he produced an embryonic exposition of an entirely new perspective:

Socialism, as the ideological and political movement of the proletariat as well as a social system, is by nature international and indivisible. This idea is at the foundation of our movement and the only one on which can be built the conscious mass movement which will assure the socialist development of humanity.

But while bearing this in mind, it nevertheless remains true that in the whole historic period of the transition from capitalism to socialism, a period which can extend for centuries, we shall encounter a much more tortuous and complicated development of the revolution than our teachers foresaw—and workers’ states that are not normal but necessarily quite deformed.[18] (Emphasis added.)

In the heat of the faction fight in 1953, Cannon asserted that he had never accepted Pablo’s conception of centuries of deformed workers’ states. This claim is substantiated by a public speech which Cannon gave on November 4, 1949, on the thirty-second anniversary of the Russian Revolution, entitled “The Trend of the Twentieth Century.” It is impossible to study this speech without concluding that it was a direct reply to the perspective elaborated by Pablo in his September document.

Cannon reviewed the history of revisionist attacks upon the revolutionary perspective of Marxism, which established the historical bankruptcy of capitalism and the revolutionary role of the international working class. Cannon noted how in the late nineteenth century, in the midst of economic prosperity, “the ideologists of triumphant capitalism had a field day celebrating the refutation of the Marxist prophecy.”[19]

He explained how these conceptions, which became the ideological foundation for reformism in the labor movement, were shattered by the outbreak of World War I and the Russian Revolution, which produced the greatest vindication of Marxism. Cannon went on to trace the material and ideological origins of Stalinism and its theory of “socialism in one country,” which “signified a renunciation of the perspective of international revolution; the recognition and expectation of the permanent existence of capitalism in five-sixths of the world, and the willingness of the Soviet bureaucracy to adapt themselves to it and live with it.”[20]

This conception was, Cannon insisted, no less false than the original revisionism of Bernstein, and was shattered by the explosive revolutionary struggles and economic crises of the late 1920s and 1930s. But the revolutionary possibilities of the 1930s were betrayed and produced a series of catastrophic defeats.

The terrible experiences of Stalinism and fascism, and the Second World War, and all that led to them and followed from them, changed many things, disappointed many expectations, and raised new problems for theoretical investigation. Once again new phenomena, unforeseen by people who notice only what is immediately before their eyes and always imagine that it will last forever, produced a crop of superficial impressions masquerading as worked-out theories.[21]

Cannon poured scorn on those who proclaimed that fascism was the wave of the future.

Out of the dark pool of their own fears and terrors, these panic-mongers fished up the so-called theory of “retrogressionism.” They announced that the historic process is definitely moving backward toward barbarism, not forward toward socialism. But this capitulatory pessimism was just as worthless as the delighted optimism of a section of the capitalists in providing a real appraisal of the role and prospects of fascism. …

Hitler and Mussolini, in their boasts and pretensions, and also in their ultimate fate, stand out in history as representative symbols of all fascist dictators who may yet make their brief appearance in one country or another. Hitler, at the height of his madness, boasted that his Nazi regime would last for a thousand years. But he had to settle for a mere twelve years, and then throw his own head into the bargain with the ignominious collapse of his regime. Mussolini, strutting on the Roman balcony, impressed many people as an impervious superman. But his regime fell apart “like a rotten apple” after a mere twenty years. And Mussolini himself ended upside down, hanging by his heels in the public square like a slaughtered pig in a butcher shop. There was poetic justice, as well as prophecy, in the ignominious end of the two fascist supermen.[22]

Cannon then turned his attention to the role of the Soviet bureaucracy.

The fate of the Stalinist criminals will be no more glorious. The world-conquering historical mission ascribed to Stalinism by frightened Philistines and professional pessimists is no less chimerical than that formerly attributed to fascism. At the moment of its apparently greatest triumph of expansion, Stalinism has been overtaken by a mortal crisis. The revolt of Yugoslavia, which is already spreading like a virulent infection throughout the Stalinist domain in Eastern Europe—and tomorrow will spread to China—heralds the death sentence of history on the right of Stalinism to expand or even to survive as anything but a horrible interlude in the march of humanity.

Humanity is marching forward to socialism and freedom, not backward to barbarism and slavery. Neither fascism nor Stalinism has any historical right to stand in the way. … Stalinism is a degenerate growth of the labor movement—the product of undue retardation and delay of the proletarian revolution after all the conditions for it have become rotten-ripe. Neither fascism nor Stalinism represents “the wave of the future.” Both are reactionary and transitory phenomena. Neither fascism nor Stalinism represents the main line of historical development. On the contrary, they are deviations from it, which must and will be obliterated in the next tidal wave of colonial uprisings and proletarian revolutions.[23]

By way of answering Banda’s claim that the Fourth International “failed to appreciate” not only the developments in Eastern Europe and Yugoslavia but those in Vietnam and China as well, let us quote from the concluding sections of Cannon’s remarkable speech:

The unparalleled upsurges of the colonial masses, which came in the wake of the war, have revealed the startling weakness of the Western imperialist powers and their inability to maintain and secure their colonial domination anymore. The doom of Western imperialism is clearly written in the flaming skies of the Orient. Outlived capitalism has no secure future anywhere.

The workers of Europe had their second chance for revolution in the immediate postwar period, and in the main they were ready for it. They failed of this objective once again only because they still lacked a sufficiently influential revolutionary party to organize and lead the struggle. The conclusion to be drawn from this is not to write off the revolution, but to build a revolutionary party to organize it and lead it. That’s what we’re here for.

The perspective of the coming years, as we read it in the course of events as they have transpired in the half-century behind us, is that of a continuing crisis and increasing weakness of bankrupt capitalism; of new colonial uprisings on an ever-vaster scale; of more strikes and class battles in the main countries of capitalism. In the course of these struggles the workers will learn the most necessary lessons from their own experiences. They will settle accounts with perfidious Stalinism and social democracy and drive them out of the workers’ movement. They will forge revolutionary parties worthy of the century of blood and iron. And these parties will organize their struggles and lead them to their revolutionary goal. …

That is the supreme task assigned by history to the twentieth century, and it will be accomplished. The work is in progress, and the goal is in sight. The first half of the twentieth century saw the beginning of the necessary social transformation of the world. The second half of the twentieth century will see it carried through to a triumphant conclusion. Socialism will win the world and change the world, and make it safe for peace and freedom.[24]


National Education Department Socialist Workers Party, Education for Socialists: Class, Party, and State and the Eastern European Revolution, November 1949, p. 12.




Ibid., pp. 12–13.


Ibid., pp. 13–14.


Ibid., p. 14.


Ibid., p. 15.


Ibid., p. 16.


Leon Trotsky, In Defence of Marxism (London: New Park Publications, 1971), p. 22.


Ibid, p. 23.


Trotsky, In Defence of Marxism, p. 5.


SWP Internal Bulletin, vol. 11, no. 5, October 1949, p. 12.


Ibid., p. 19.


Ibid., p. 23.




Ibid., p. 25.


Ibid., pp. 25–27.


Ibid., p. 30.


SWP International Information Bulletin, December 1949, p. 3.


James P. Cannon, Speeches for Socialism (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1971), pp. 365–66.


Ibid., p. 372.


Ibid., pp. 373–74.


Ibid., pp. 374–75.


Ibid., pp. 375–76.


Ibid., p. 377–80.