[Book] Ted Grant Writings: Volume Two


The world revolution and the tasks of the British working class

[Workers’ International News, Special issue, October 1943]

Our principles stood the test

The outbreak of the second world imperialist war did not descend upon the peoples of the world without warning.

Already through the war of 1914-1918, world imperialism had demonstrated that it had ceased to perform a progressive function in world economic and social development, and had become a reactionary fetter on the development of the productive, social and cultural forces of the world. The revolutionary communists assimilated the lessons of this manifestation of imperialist decay and drew the lessons in their programme.

Analysing this period the two outstanding theoreticians of the Bolshevik movement, Lenin and Trotsky, demonstrated that the capitalist fetters on production aggravated by national boundaries of capitalist states and world empires, would inevitably give rise to a new world war if the workers failed to overthrow the capitalist system and establish a new socialist order. They demonstrated that the most important problem facing the workers was to unify Europe economically and politically, for upon this depended the future economic and cultural development of the workers of the world. Should the unification of Europe be left in the hands of capitalism, it would usher in a period of barbaric oppression and be but the prelude to a world conflict between capitalist Europe and American imperialism.

This thesis has been tragically confirmed by the experiences of our generation. The failure of the working class to weld Europe together was due, in the main, to the treachery of the leadership of the social democratic and Stalinist parties. In control of the mass organisations which alone were capable of defeating reaction, they capitulated to the Nazis in Germany without firing a shot or attempting to rally the working class for a decisive battle. By their policy of coalition with the capitalists in the Popular Front, they betrayed the revolution in France and in Spain. It was thus that the reactionary unification of Europe through enslavement was undertaken by the Nazis who sought to organise “the new order in Europe.”

With the rise of nationalist revisionism in the Communist International under the cloak of “socialism in one country”, it was left to the communist internationalists to continue the revolutionary traditions and principles of Bolshevism, under the leadership of Trotsky. In a series of theses, resolutions and programmatic documents, the fourth internationalists established their Bolshevik-Leninist heritage.

In contrast to the Stalinists and the reformists of all shades, the Fourth International warned: neither the League of Nations nor the so-called “peace blocs” could prevent the impending imperialist war; only the proletarian revolution could crush the preparations for the coming bloodbath and imperialist intervention against the Soviet Union, and ensure peace in Europe and the world. We pledged ourselves to the defence of the Soviet Union and to a principled opposition to the war in all the capitalist countries alike. No support for the governments of the ruling class; no support for the conduct of their war. The class struggle is the motive power of progress in war time as in peace time.

Whilst the social democrats, Labourites and Stalinists allied themselves to their imperialist rulers at the outbreak of war, the Trotskyists continued the revolutionary socialist struggle against the capitalists in their own countries, fascist and democratic. They confidently based themselves upon the inevitability of the imperialist war giving place to proletarian revolution with the upsurge of revolutionary enthusiasm among the workers.

Four years of war have served to test and re-establish the correctness of the Marxist analysis of war and revolution.

Workers’ International League reaffirms these basic ideas: we do not change our course. Our task is to assimilate the Marxist method, to translate the ideas of the Fourth International into action in the upheavals and storms which tomorrow brings.

War gives rise to revolution

We have now entered a new stage in the international situation. The imperialist war has given rise to the first of a series of proletarian uprisings and revolutions.

The inglorious exit of Mussolini from the stage of history, the collapse of fascism throughout Italy after 20 years, the initiative which the Italian workers have already shown in the first stages of the revolution in the spontaneous setting up of workers’ committees (soviets): all these events indicate that a new period of mass struggles and political alignments is opening up in Europe and the world.

Side by side with the antagonism of the imperialist states, there is the class antagonism of all the imperialists to the Soviet Union which remains the first proletarian breach in the capitalist walls; an antagonism which although temporarily pushed into the background on the part of Britain and the USA, will inevitably take first place as war gives place to civil war and imperialist peace in Europe.

History repeats itself on a higher plane. The same basic contradictions which impelled the imperialists to clash in 1914, forced them to attempt a solution by force of arms once again in 1939. The immediate cause of the present war was the rivalry between the old established and wealthy colonial empires, Britain and France who stood for the status quo, and the belated imperialist plunderers who sought to disrupt the status quo, Germany and Italy. This in turn precipitated Japan to challenge America and Britain for control of the East. The primary aim of German imperialism in 1914-1918 was to subjugate Europe as a base against Great Britain. Her primary aim in the present clash was to subjugate Europe, to challenge the United States for the domination of the whole world.

Reflecting the more concentrated and explosive character of the imperialist crisis, prolonged only by the treachery and the reformist illusions of the leaders of the mass organisations of the working class, the political contradictions are likewise on a higher plane. The experience of a generation has not passed without a corresponding rise in the level of political consciousness of the working class. The war of 1914-1918 resulted in mass chauvinism among the proletariat and peasants of all the capitalist countries. The new war was greeted with sullen resignation upon the part of the already disillusioned masses.

In all countries the world crisis is reflected in the universal militarisation of the people. Millions of proletarians and peasants, the most virile, productive and revolutionary sections of the population, are withdrawn from the factories and from the land to shoulder arms. Just as the class struggle deepens and hardens in the factories and fields, so in the coming period it will reflect itself in the military forces. Imperialist war will give place to proletarian militarism. The revolutionary socialists, guardians of the class independence of the working class, alone understand this transition and base themselves upon it; they alone teach and organise their forces to replace the capitalist armies with the armies of the working class.

On the military fronts, the war is characterised by an entire shift in the balance of power and political initiative. The early victories of Hitler’s armies are now swept into the album of history. The Mikado can see in this denouement, a reflection of the future of Japan. The mighty armies of Anglo-American imperialism, backed by the most gigantic war production in all history, stamp their hall-mark on the shape of things to come.

Germany defeated France, stripped and ruined her and her satellites on the European continent. Britain was left only the choice of becoming a satellite of Hitler or of American imperialism. She became completely dependent on the patronage of America. The further development of the war led to the ruin of all Europe; to the position where Germany and Soviet Russia have bled each other white. Large tracts of Asia have been laid waste. Alone of all the belligerents American imperialism can hope to come out of the war strengthened militarily and economically. But even mighty America cannot escape the consequences of the war. It will be impossible for her to enjoy in tranquillity the fruits of victory. The war will usher in such social eruptions and disturbances that not a single power will emerge victorious. In this war there will be no victors.

From Italy, the virus of the revolution has already spread to the Balkan countries. In Portugal the first stages of mass opposition to the Salazar regime has commenced. Franco feels the mighty tremors as the ground shakes beneath his feet. In Denmark the Nazis have been forced to apply the iron fist to suppress the movement of opposition. Germany, the bulwark of the European reaction, will inevitably and rapidly be engulfed in the all-consuming flames of proletarian revolution.

The apathy and demoralisation the scepticism which had permeated the whole of the labour movement and undermined the confidence of the workers in their own class, is giving place to a new upsurge of revolutionary enthusiasm. A favourable conjuncture in the objective situation is opening up before the workers and the revolutionary movement. The coming days will be accompanied by rapid turns and tremendous revolutionary shocks.

Only the blind can fail to see the favourable revolutionary perspectives that lie immediately ahead. Only the sceptics and the corrupt can fail to be optimistic for the socialist future in face of the titanic class battles which are on the order of the day.

Long before the collapse of Italy, the outline of the European revolution could be seen in Yugoslavia and Poland where elements of dual power already exist in the guerrilla movement and the initial stages of the struggle for national liberation.

The revolution in Germany will unfurl with terrific force once it commences. The Nazis have toyed with anti-capitalist and ‘‘socialist” demagogy even more than did their fascist counterparts in Italy. Even the majority of the German middle class will seek the socialist alternative to the regime. The powerful German working class, the strongest numerically and the most cultured of the European proletariat, has yet to say the last word. Nazi Germany became the hub of European reaction; a revolutionary Germany will become the citadel of the world proletariat.

Soviet Union rests on world revolution

Out of the last war the workers of Russia achieved the first successful proletarian revolution under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky. The land was expropriated from the landowners without compensation and the basic industries of the country confiscated and operated in the interest of the nation. The wealth of the ruling class was nationalised and concentrated in the hands of the workers’ state.

In opposition to all the capitalist states, therefore, the defence of the nationalised wealth is a progressive task and must be supported by the masses of all nations.

But the failure of the revolution to sovietise industrial Western Europe; the effects of a weak and backward economy together with the exhaustion of the Soviet masses and the decline of the revolutionary enthusiasm, created the basis for the growth of a tremendous bureaucracy in the Soviet Union. In the same way as Bevin and Citrine personify and represent the bureaucratic caucus who control and batten upon the trade union movement, so Stalin and the Russian bureaucracy batten on the Soviet people. For the same reasons as the workers will defend their trade unions, if necessary, by military means against capitalist attack, so the working class will defend the Soviet Union. But the defence of the Soviet Union, no more than the defence of the trade unions, coincides with the policy of the bureaucracy.

By his policy of bureaucratic control in Russia, his reactionary Bonapartist national policy of conducting the war; his major concessions to world imperialism; his manipulations of the puppet “communist” parties abroad – Stalin is striking savage blows at the socialist revolution and undermining the existence of the Soviet Union. A correct revolutionary policy on the part of the Soviet leadership could ensure a speedy conclusion of the war through the socialist revolution in Europe. Together with a united states of Europe, the Soviet Union would be impregnable against imperialist attack and counterrevolution. But Stalin has long forsaken the road of socialist struggle for the path of counter-revolution.

By the dissolution of the Comintern, Stalin formally ends the last remaining links that bound the Soviet bureaucracy, even nominally, to the socialist revolution in Europe and the world. He has passed over openly to the position of agency of world imperialism within the borders of the Soviet Union. By this act, he demonstrates that he is prepared to aid the imperialists in destroying the revolution in Europe, which the bureaucracy regards with mortal terror. Symbolic of the position of the Stalinist bureaucracy, is the fact that the Comintern has been dissolved on the very eve of the Italian revolution.

The inevitable insurrection of the German working class will have profound repercussions not only on the European and British workers, but on the Russian masses. The relationship of forces can change overnight. The nightmare rule of the bureaucracy can be overthrown just as rapidly as the disappearance of Mussolini in Italy – with this difference: the revolutions in capitalist Europe will be social revolutions; they will commence on the basis and background of reformist politics and traditions and will seek to end the capitalist system. But the revolution in Russia will be a political revolution; it will commence on the basis of nationalised property, of the first workers’ state with all the revolutionary international socialist traditions of Bolshevism. The Russian prisons are filled with thousands of Bolsheviks who went through the experience of the Russian revolution and who are grounded in the revolutionary ideas of Lenin and Trotsky, the ideas of world proletarian revolution. These will play their part in reconstructing the proletarian leadership of the Russian masses and introducing Soviet democracy on a higher scale.

The fate of the Soviet Union rests directly on the fate of the new wave of revolutions. Further defeats and a new epoch of reaction would inevitably usher in the bourgeois counter-revolution in Russia. It is on this perspective that the capitalists of Britain and America place their hopes and their calculations. The objective role of Stalinism in the Soviet Union and the world is to prepare and facilitate the work of the counter-revolution.

Fortunately, the bourgeoisie together with Stalin, is miscalculating. The epoch of reaction is drawing to a close; the masses are preparing to pass to the counter offensive.

The future of Europe

The open and unconcealed programme of American and British imperialism is to maintain an army of millions in Europe to hold the revolution in check. They openly proclaim that they seek to establish “democratic” capitalist regimes upon which to base their rule. But no more than the Nazis will they be able to hold Europe down, except by means of brutal and ruthless terror against the peoples. Their programme is one thing: to organise the forces to put it into effect is another. With the downfall of Hitler the majority of the British worker soldiers – and in spite of their political backwardness even the American soldiers – will have no stomach to play the role of SS in Europe. The revolutionary movements of the German and European workers will have profound effects upon the troops of occupation.

Whatever illusions wide sections of the European workers might have in the sponsors of the “free governments” – these will be shattered as the American and British armies march across the continent. “Free Europe” will be free only insofar as it conforms to the dictates of American finance capital. The gigantic stocks of food which are being accumulated on the American continent are not being held for the purpose of feeding revolutionary masses who will seek to end capitalism in Europe. They are being held to feed the armies of the counter-revolution just as Hoover fed the armies of intervention against the Soviet Union and the Hungarian Soviet Republic at the conclusion of the last war.

The failure of the revolution would mean a disastrous fall in the standard of life and culture of Germany and Europe. The German and European economy are interdependent. Without German industry and a German market, even the present conditions in Europe cannot be maintained. That is the contradiction facing the Allies.

A victory for British and American imperialism, therefore, cannot herald a new blossoming of bourgeois democracy on the continent of Europe. On the contrary, without a breaking down of the national barriers and the expropriation of the means of production, a new era of barbarism and decay would set in on the continent of Europe. But even in that event there cannot be any stable reactionary regime in Europe today, with sufficient social support to effectively crush the revolutionary movement. The mass basis of reaction is vanishing. At worst, the capitalists will impose a bureaucratic military regime, which would be short lived. Without social support, it would topple and collapse at the slightest social shock, and a new upsurge would again commence.

In the absence of experienced Trotskyist parties with roots and traditions among the masses, the first stages of the revolutionary struggles in Europe will most likely result in a period of Kerenskyism or popular frontism. This is already presaged by the initial struggles of the Italian workers and the repeated betrayals of social democracy and Stalinism. But it is no reason for pessimism on the part of the fourth internationalists. The revolution will act like a hot-house for the fresh, confident cadres of the Fourth International. Those who swam against the stream and maintained their principles in a period of reaction, will be capable of building a mass party in the favourable conditions opening up. For the Trotskyist programme alone can lead to a break from quisling politics, end the crisis in Europe and lead mankind out of the capitalist impasse.

Against the capitalist programme of policing and “educating” the European populations, Workers’ International League propagates the fraternisation of the armies of intervention with the oppressed and revolutionary peoples.

Against the plans for protecting capitalist property rights in Europe, the task of the British socialists will be to assist the European populations to take over the land and the factories and overthrow the quisling capitalists and landlords.

Not for the replacement of an SS dominated Europe by an Anglo-American occupation of Germany and Europe, but for the united socialist states of Europe.

The struggle for national liberation, not only against their Nazi oppressors of today but their “democratic” oppressors of tomorrow will be a means with which to bind the revolutionary masses together. But the struggle for national liberation will be used for reactionary ends if it remains under the control of the capitalists and petit-bourgeoisie.

To the European working class and to our European co-thinkers, it is necessary to state clearly and unambiguously: the struggle for national liberation of the peoples of the occupied countries of Europe today and in the coming period will be successful only if it is conceived as part of and subordinate to the strategy of the struggle for the united socialist states of Europe.

India, China and the war in the Far East

At one stage of the war it appeared that the first revolutionary explosions to upset the calculations of the imperialist powers would commence in India and spread throughout the Far East. 400 million Indian slaves of British imperialism sought the opportunity to free themselves from the yoke of a foreign oppressor who denied them the most elementary national and social rights.

But the senile, corrupt and cowardly bourgeois and petit bourgeois leadership of the Indian movement for liberation, fearing the results of a mass revolutionary struggle on the part of the workers and peasants, emasculated the movement and capitulated to the brutal military rule of the British oppressor.

The treachery of the Stalinist and the so-called socialist leaders in India, together with the numerical weakness and isolation of the Indian Trotskyists from the masses, gave the Indian bourgeoisie the possibility of consummating this betrayal. But the coming revolutionary struggles in Europe will once again open the flood gates of the mighty Indian revolution. In this period the Party of the Fourth International, the Bolshevik-Leninists of India, will alone give leadership to the Indian revolution.

In the struggle of the Indian people to free themselves from the British yoke, the British working class must give aid and support to the revolutionary Indian people. Counterposing the class programme to the petit bourgeois nationalism of the so-called lefts, the Trotskyists will explain to the Indian masses, and particularly to the Indian workers, that only under the leadership of the working class at the head of the peasantry, will victory be achieved. For only thus will it be possible to take the necessary social measures of expropriating the land and freeing the peasants from the landlords and moneylenders, to gather the control of the nation’s resources into the hands of the working class and organise a democratic regime; only thus will they expel the British imperialists from India, gain genuine allies among the workers and soldiers of Britain, and achieve national emancipation.

In India our British comrades will oppose the policy of oppression and fraternise with the revolutionary people, aiding them by all means to achieve their national liberation and calling upon the worker-soldiers to assist the achievement of the democratic aspirations of a mighty oppressed people.

In Britain our task remains: to explain the real situation in India and expose the reactionary actions of the British imperialists in India; to oppose the oppressive policy of the ruling class, and to expose the role of the Stalinist and Labour leaders who act as agents of the ruling class in the ranks of the workers and who actively assist the imperialists in keeping the Indian people in continued subjugation by supporting the Churchill government. The British Trotskyists will strive to rally the British working class behind the struggle of the oppressed Indian people for national liberation.

In the Far East, the spread of the war will bring revolutions in its wake. Already the war in China has imposed the severest burdens upon the Japanese masses. Whatever temporary enthusiasm has been aroused among the masses of Japan by the early victories against the Allies, will vanish as the burdens of the war press heavier upon the already impoverished population.

The regime in Japan rested basically not upon popular support, but upon the strength of the military caste. The coming blows of Yankee imperialism will crumble the archaic and dictatorial regime. As in Italy, so in Japan, the proletariat will have the final say. The Son of God will be forced to flee and seek an earthly haven.

Meanwhile, the heroic struggle of the Chinese people for national liberation has been merged into the general inter-imperialist war for domination of the Pacific. Whereas the alliance of China with the Allied imperialists may at a later stage lead to the complete subservience of China to American imperialism, at this stage, such alliance does not alter the basic and fundamental character of China’s war for national liberation. The British workers must support and aid the Chinese people in this struggle.

But in China, as in India, the Chinese Trotskyists while fighting in the army of national liberation, explain to the Chinese workers and peasants that only under the banner of the working class will it be possible to break up the landed estates and unite the nation in a real democracy. Only under the leadership of the working class will the people be freed from foreign domination and the economic and cultural level of the masses raised by the establishment of the united Chinese socialist soviet republic.

Britain – the key to the European socialist revolution

From the verge of defeat, the British bourgeoisie now looks forward to the prospect of victory over the Axis. But this victory cannot alter the perspective of decay and disintegration which faces British imperialism. The improved position is illusory. It has not come about due to the strength of British capitalism or to a recovery in her position in the main, but due to the resistance of the Soviet masses on the one hand, and the mighty economic and military preparations of American imperialism on the other.

The basic conclusions of the 1942 conference document Preparing for power remain as an estimation of the decline of British imperialism and the tasks of the British Bolshevik-Leninists. British capitalism is threatened from all sides. Her decline is concealed somewhat by the huge shipments of food and munitions under the Lend-Lease Agreement with American capitalism[1]. But once this huge subsidy is withdrawn, as it will be, the position of the British bourgeoisie will become serious. It is on this international background that political life has developed in Britain.

The British empire is maintained by the gracious consent of Wall Street. But revolution, beginning in Europe or Asia will rock the empire to its foundations. Even complete military victory for Allied imperialism will not solve the problems which face senile British capitalism. American imperialism has ruthlessly stripped the British capitalists of their foreign investments and grabbed strategic, economic and political positions within the British dominions and colonies. In Europe the American bourgeoisie are manoeuvring for position even there to oust Britain from the lion’s share.

Despite the military victories, there has been a further growth of radicalisation and discontent among the masses. This radicalisation has embraced wide strata of the population never before affected. The middle class has turned its face towards the left. The growth of Common Wealth from the middle class is an indication of this movement. The young generation – always the barometer for measuring the mood of the masses – is moving steadily not only in the direction of labour politics, but even towards a ‘‘communist’’ solution. This is a reflection of the yearning for change and the dissatisfaction with the old system, which cannot assure the masses peace and cultural freedom, which dominates political thought today.

Epoch of reforms at an end

The Gallup poll of June 1943 has revealed concretely the development of mass consciousness which the Marxists had predicted. The fact that Labour has a majority of the voting population behind it even today is of enormous significance in indicating the shift of mass opinion. If that is so today when the first minor clashes between the classes have taken place, it is a portent of the events in the next epoch. An important section, a proportion higher than ever recorded in an election in Britain, have become thoroughly disillusioned with reformism and moved over to “communism”. The bulk of these come from the young and most active section of the working class. Another large section of the youth is apathetic and cynical of all politics because of disgust with the Labour leadership and the repellent face of ‘‘communism’’ in its caricature, Stalinism. These will be thrust into active political life at the first serious shock in Britain. The middle classes are already restlessly turning towards left politics as an answer to their systematic impoverishment at the hands of monopoly capitalism.

In the last epoch the strivings of the masses were diverted into the channels of reformism. The Labour bureaucrats, basing themselves on the crumbs they received from the table of imperialism through the exploitation of the colonial slaves, retained a stranglehold upon the working class. But the decay of British imperialism in the last quarter century has completely undermined the basis of reformism. It is no longer possible for the British ruling class to continue their exploitation of the greater part of the world. With this, the period of concessions to the British workers is at an end; and so too, is the basis of reformism undermined. Even in its bloom, reformism did not gain for the workers any major concessions. The last 25 years’ experience of reformism, its defeats and betrayals, has left an imprint on the consciousness of the British proletariat. Two Labour governments, the betrayal of the general strike, the present coalition – all have been a means of imbuing the proletariat with a scepticism towards the Labour bureaucracy.

There exists a political maturity among the British workers, hitherto unknown. The influx into the trade unions, the support for Labour, which indeed has a majority behind it today, does not signify a vote of confidence in the Labour, and trade union leaders. Never in history have the basic masses of Labour had less confidence in the leadership than at the present time. They support and will continue to support the Labour bureaucracy, for lack of an alternative. Only the passivity of the proletariat constitutes the strength of reformism today. When events sweep the masses into action and the reformists are put to the test, a rapid reorientation will take place. The material and psychological basis has been prepared by the history of the previous decades.

The consciousness of the bourgeoisie that they are losing their grip upon the masses, leads them to project such schemes as the Beveridge report, as the means of deluding the people into continued support for capitalism. But such schemes – meagre and illusory as they are – are completely unrealisable. Both at home and abroad, the post-war plans of British imperialism are utopian. Their plans to use the British workers and soldiers against the revolution in Europe, in India and Asia, as well as in Britain will be met with unexpected results for them.

In the years preceding the war, as a consequence of the lull in the class struggle, the labour bureaucracy became enmeshed in the state machine and separated from the mass of the working class. Under the impact of the war the masses are moving rapidly towards the left; the bureaucracy is moving rapidly towards the right. Today the Labour bureaucrats do not reflect the feelings and desires of the rank and file Labour worker, or even the unorganised worker. Under the stress of tomorrow’s storms they will once again swing left – at least in words – not to lead the struggles of the workers against their employers, of course, but so that they can more effectively betray these struggles. We must not be taken unawares by such movements of the Labour lefts, but must prepare for such events in advance, forewarning the workers, calling upon the “left” Labour demagogues to match their words in deeds and thus consciously prepare the workers for the inevitable betrayal which will be carried out by the labour lackeys of the bourgeoisie.

The British workers favour ending the coalition with the capitalist class. But against the will of the masses the labour bureaucracy clings to the coat tails of the bourgeoisie. Without their support, the capitalists could not maintain their control. While the masses are distrustful of their leaders, they have not yet broken decisively from reformism. This dictates as the main strategical agitational slogan of the fourth internationalists in Britain: “End the truce! Labour to power!” By this we facilitate and reassert the independence of labour from capital. The coming to power of a Labour government would be the means of giving an impetus to the revolutionisation of the masses. A majority Labour government would be in an entirely different position to the previous Labour governments, insofar as even before it has come to power, the masses are critical. Whether the Labour leaders are forced to break, or whether they resist, the slogan serves as a means of exposing them and educating the workers. In any event, the coalition cannot be maintained for long, for inevitably the pressure of the masses will break it in the coming period. In this situation the fourth internationalists stand prepared with the transitional programme, including the demand for Labour to power.

ILP – revolutionary words – reformist deeds

Precisely when the proletariat is moving towards revolution, the leadership of the ILP chooses this moment to take a step in the direction of reformism. They are describing a similar evolution on a new historical background to that of the ILP in 1920-1923, when on the revolutionary wave which followed the last war, they moved away from reformism to a position of applying for affiliation to the then revolutionary Communist International. But unable to accept the revolutionary conditions of the international, the ILP swung back to the bosom of the Labour Party as a reformist body. Now, even before the eve of revolutionary upheavals, the ILP is preparing once again to return to the bosom of reformism. But here too, while the leadership is moving right, the rank and file are moving left.

Once the coalition is broken, the ILP will no doubt move into the Labour Party. This is the most likely perspective in the coming days and is in line with the policy and traditions of the ILP and Labour leaders. The Labour leadership will need a left face to turn towards the masses, and this face will be provided by the ILP leaders.

From the viewpoint of revolutionary socialism the entry of the ILP into the Labour Party would constitute a progressive step. It will hasten the differentiation within the ILP on the one hand, and facilitate the emergence of a mass left within the Labour Party, on the other. The leadership will swing even more openly to the right, making themselves indistinguishable from the pseudo-lefts in the Labour Party. The worker members in the ILP will begin to understand what is meant by the Bolshevik characterisation of this party as a centrist party. But this process of clarification will depend largely upon the growth and development of a revolutionary wing within the ILP.

Within the Labour Party, the ILP would act as the gathering point for all the left elements. This would facilitate the education of these elements as well. The leftward moving workers would find in the ILP merely a transitional phase of their development. One thing centrism cannot face up to: that is mass action. For this is what exposes its inadequacies, its vacillations, its refusal to face up to events on the revolutionary programme of Marxism.

The future of Stalinism

Over the past two years Stalinism has revealed its reactionary character to the most advanced elements within the working class. An unparalleled opportunity opened out for them to capture a major section, if not the majority of the working class. Instead, they lost ground within the ranks of militant labour, particularly in their strongholds, the Clyde and South Wales. Nevertheless, they remain a serious factor in the situation, with a growing support among the working class, as the campaign for affiliation to the Labour Party demonstrated.

The more backward and fresh strata of the workers moving in the direction of communism, are entering the ranks of the Communist Party because of the victories of the Red Army against the Nazis and its association with the Soviet Union and the October revolution. Although the CP appeals to the vilest and most jingoistic sentiments of the backward sections of the working class, some of the best elements within the party (with misgivings perhaps) still support Stalinism in the fervid hope that the policy will change. Moreover, it is only those sections of the workers who have directly experienced the cynical strike-breaking role of the Stalinists, who have received a powerful inoculation against them. As skilled deceivers of the masses, far more subtle and clever than the trade union bureaucrats, they have learned to clothe their policy of betrayal in high-sounding and even revolutionary-sounding phrases.

A big section of the petit bourgeoisie has been attracted towards Stalinism. With the prevailing mood of radicalisation coupled with the weakness of the revolutionary forces, Stalinism is still likely to gain a mass basis in the first stages of the coming revolutionary wave. Such a support could only be of a temporary character. It would last until such time as the masses realised their error in identifying Stalinism with Bolshevism.

Under the impact of events, new splits and fissures are opening out within the ranks of the CP. The membership is not homogeneous and anchored by tradition to Stalinism. By changing the party from a tightly knit organisation to a loose broad current, the bureaucracy has thereby lost its control over the future development of the membership, despite the totalitarian regime and the despotic control over the apparatus. Their new members are almost as much raw material for politics as were the youthful members of the Labour Party in the past.

But the right wing policy of the “Communist” Party, today, may be followed by a policy of ultra left adventures tomorrow. For the policy of the British Stalinist party is not determined by the needs of international socialism, or by the needs of the British working class, but by the needs of the reactionary Moscow bureaucracy. A clash between the bureaucracy and British imperialism on the field of diplomacy would probably be accompanied by ultra left gestures by the puppets at King Street. But even in this event the CPGB is incapable of carrying out the tasks of a revolutionary socialist, or communist party, and can only lead the workers into ill-prepared adventures and capitulations.[2]

To combat the lies of the Stalinist leadership and to patiently explain the theoretical, historical and political basis of Stalinism and of Trotskyism is a primary task in educating the best members of the CP and in winning them over to Bolshevism.

The road for industrial workers

The reawakening and stirring within the ranks of the workers which is taking place, finds its best reflection among the workers in industry and the armed forces. More than 8 million workers are organised in the trade unions at the present time. This surpasses the peak figure of the revolutionary wave of 1920. Women are joining the unions in greater numbers than at any time in history. The wave of strikes last year, which spread from the mines to shipbuilding and transport and affected other industries, is an indication of the process.

The factories and the unions provide the centres of struggle for the working class. It is here that the struggle assumes a direct form. The betrayal and sabotage by the union leadership of the attempts of the workers to secure wage increases to cope with the rising cost of living; the burdens of income tax, the sacrifices of the workers while the capitalists reap greater profits; the palpable fraud of “equality of sacrifice”; the shameful pensions allowances; the inequalities and iniquities of the distribution of food; the chaos and incompetence of the capitalists in industry which demands added strain and effort on the part of the workers: all these factors have aggravated the discontent of the workers and prepared the background for the coming crisis.

The frustration by the trade union bureaucrats of the efforts of the workers to stem the attacks on their standards [and] their refusal to protect the workshop representatives from victimisation has forced the workers to find some immediate alternative form of organisation to meet the assaults of the employers and the fetters of the bureaucracy. Through the shop stewards’ organisations they attempt to defend themselves in the factories. But their own experiences and the development of the struggle itself impels the workers to the realisation that the forces of one factory are not strong enough to face the combined attacks of the employers, the trade union bureaucrats, the Stalinists. Instinctively, the advanced workers begin to look for a broader form of organisation which would unite the workers in different parts of the country for common defence.

The National Council of Shop Stewards led by the Stalinists partially fulfilled this need in the past. With the transformation of this body into an auxiliary strike-breaking instrument of the CP, it has virtually collapsed. But the new current of militancy which is emerging among the workers, seeks for some organised outlet. The expression of this mood has been provided by the establishment of the Militant Workers’ Federation, initiated naturally enough, by militants in the traditional storm centre of the Clyde.

For the third time in history the workers seek to build an industrial leadership which will defend their interests. But the crisis in Britain will almost immediately pose before such an organisation major political tasks, which if met, will transform it into an instrument of the socialist revolution. A correct policy on the part of our party towards this organisation will win the best militants who will help form the mass basis for the Trotskyist party of socialist revolution.

The decline of Conservatism

Marx had predicted the disappearance of the Conservative Party and a struggle for power between the Liberals and the revolution. The development in the coming period indicates the beginning of the process visualised by Marx, but in a different form. Liberalism has been eliminated as a political factor in Britain. The position that will rapidly develop will be one of a struggle between the extreme reaction and the revolution. The Conservative Party which has maintained itself intact for more than a century, has definitely passed its apogee. With the undermining of the basis of reformism in the loss of Britain’s world hegemony, simultaneously the basis of Conservatism is destroyed.

In itself, the Conservative Party is the product of the same conditions which produced labour reformism: the industrial, military and political supremacy of the globe by British capitalism. The transformation of Britain’s position from that of world mastery to a second rate power, implies not only the undermining of the basis of Labour reformism, but the destruction of the props on which the Tory party itself is based. From being the strong, unified and stable representative of British capital, fissures are already apparent in the Tory Party with the appearance of several well defined factions. Further developments can only promote the disintegration and decay of this former bulwark of British capitalism. Already the first signs appear. The die-hard wing of the Tories will pass rapidly over to the side of extreme reaction, and even the British form of fascism. Meanwhile, the hold that the Tories had over large sections of the workers for generations has been loosened and will be entirely broken.

Britain is faced with a new period of Chartism, on an entirely different historical level. The wave of revolution will change and transform the relations between the classes.

Owing to the favourable synchronisation of all the historical factors, exceptional possibilities exist for the victory of the British revolution. Without exaggeration it can be stated that Britain is the key not only to the European but to the world situation.

The future is ours

The crisis of the revolution is the crisis of leadership. Long in advance the old outlived organisations have demonstrated their bankruptcy in a series of catastrophic defeats of the proletariat throughout the world. The wave of reaction engendered by the pernicious policies of Stalinism and Social Democracy, led to the isolation of the young and weak forces striving to uphold the banner of Bolshevism; the Fourth International were forced to swim against the stream.

It was not possible to convince even the vanguard of the working class of the correctness of the viewpoint of Trotskyism, except through the experience of the most terrible defeats. But these defeats in their turn produced a wave of reaction within the ranks of the working class. Not only within the ranks of the bankrupt Second and Third Internationals, but even in the ranks of the isolated and weak forces of the Fourth International were the effects of this reaction inevitably reflected.

The putrid decay of the Second and Third Internationals is expressed in that fact that they learned nothing from the terrible defeats caused by their politics, and in the hour of mortal danger for the workers, perfidiously rallied to the side of world imperialism. But with the new revolutionary wave which will sweep the globe, all tendencies and all trends within the working class will undergo a new and decisive test. The bankruptcy of the old organisations will be clearly revealed in the flames of the revolution. The Fourth International will become the decisive revolutionary force on the planet.

In the revolutions in the past decades the one factor missing to ensure revolutionary success was a trained Bolshevik party and Bolshevik leadership. On the basis of the new upsurge the possibility exists for the creation and training of a Bolshevik Party – above all in Britain, in the coming epoch.

Properly speaking, the work of the Fourth International from 1928 to 1938 consisted in theoretical clarification and the selection of the cadres. It consisted mainly in theoretical preparation. The war and its repercussions presage the beginning of a new epoch for the Fourth International. The history of our tendency has begun. And in Britain its cadres have an exceptional opportunity. The handicaps which our continental co-thinkers suffered do not exist. With a correct policy and a correct orientation Workers’ International League will play a great role in coming events. In advance tens of thousands of the flower of the working class have their eyes open to the treacherous role of Stalinism and reformism. By our work and our devotion they will find the road to the revolutionary party. Our small vanguard can and must become the nucleus of the steeled and hardened Bolshevik party. Revolutionary theory, policy and action, fused with revolutionary audacity and revolutionary optimism – armed with these we will build the party and lead the workers to the conquest of power.


[1] This refers to the programme under which the USA supplied Britain, the USSR and other Allied nations with materials between 1941 and 1945. Formally titled An Act to Further Promote the Defense of the United States, the Act was signed in March 1941 and effectively ended the United States’ pretence of neutrality. The bulk of the grand total of these supplies (around 60 percent) went to Britain.

[2] This paragraph was added in the final version of the document.