The Third International after Lenin

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

1989-2009: Who won the Cold War?

"Cold war" was the term used to describe the strategic military course forced on U.S. imperialism and its allies by the international balance of class forces following World War II. Facing a rise in anticolonial struggles and the refusal of U.S. troops in 1945-46 to continue fighting - particularly against the revolutionary forces in China - Washington was limited to using its military power to attempt to contain extensions of the revolutionary overturns of capitalist property relations and blows against imperialist domination.

Imperialism was forced to rely on pressuring the bureaucratic castes in the Soviet Union and Eastern European workers states to police the working class there and keep it isolated from the struggles of workers and peasants around the world.

From Washington's viewpoint, this strategy would prepare the way for direct military aggression, after the working class was sufficiently weakened by Stalinist demoralization. But that didn't happen. Instead, the working class proved stronger than the Stalinist apparatuses, which came crashing down starting in 1989....

Stalinism was not defeated but considerably weakened....

In this process, struggles by working people in the Eastern and Central European workers states and in capitalist Europe will more and more influence each other. Workers will be more open to seeing their fight as a struggle against the dehumanizing system of exploitation and imperialist oppression by the capitalist classes and its reflections through various transmission belts, whether Social Democratic, Stalinist, or other petty-bourgeois misleaderships.

Frankel states, "One immediate result of the downfall of Stalinism has been to allow the imperialists a freer hand in military moves," as if Stalinism has ever halted their war moves around the world....

....the collapse of the Stalinist regimes and apparatuses removed the biggest obstacle to forging the kind of communist leadership that is necessary for any advances in the struggle for national liberation and socialism. Political space exists to develop revolutionary leadership in all the workers states. Young fighters, whether in eastern Germany, Chechnya, or Yugoslavia, are in a better position today to find out the truth about the Cuban revolution and will be attracted to its shining example. That's why the socialist course led by the revolutionary leadership in Cuba remains the greatest proof that imperialism lost the cold war.

U.S. Imperialism Has Lost the Cold War

Printed below are excerpts from "U.S. Imperialism Has Lost the Cold War," by Jack Barnes. The resolution was adopted by the 1990 national convention of the Socialist Workers Party. The resolution is published in New International no. 11. The excerpts are taken from Part I, "U.S. Imperialism has lost the Cold War," and Part II, "World capitalism has suffered a historic defeat in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union." The excerpting was done by the Militant, not the author. Footnotes are in the original. Copyright © 1998 by 408 Printing and Publishing Corp., reprinted by permission.

From Part I

D. U.S. imperialism has lost the Cold War

1. The "Cold War" was the term used to describe the strategic military course forced upon U.S. imperialism and its allies in face of the limitations imposed by the international balance of class forces coming out of World War II. These limitations made impossible for the foreseeable future the use of massive armed forces to accomplish Washington's strategic goal--overturning the Soviet Union and Eastern European workers states and reestablishing capitalism there....

2. Given these realities, Washington was restricted during the Cold War to using its military power to attempt to contain any extension of the revolutionary overturn of imperialist domination and capitalist property relations. Its strategic effort to weaken the Soviet and Eastern European workers states became one of applying pressure on the bureaucratic castes to police the working class, squelch all political initiatives, and keep working people isolated from the struggles of workers and peasants around the world, with all the depoliticizing and demoralizing consequences that flow from such a separation.
a. For imperialism this was an unavoidable interlude, preparing for the day when the workers states would be sufficiently weakened by Stalinist policies that demoralized the working class to make possible their destruction in a direct imperialist assault.
b. Instead, what has culminated in 1989 and 1990 is an accelerating and irreversible crisis of the Stalinist parties and parasitic petty-bourgeois castes on which they are based, whose counterrevolutionary policies have been weakening the degenerated or deformed workers states for decades.

1. The workers states and their proletarian property foundations have proven stronger than the castes.

2. Although brutalized and depoliticized, the working class in the workers states has demonstrated its ability--even within the limits of bourgeois trade union consciousness--to resist the economic and social consequences of the deepening parasitism and bureaucratism of the governing castes.
a. This resistance, beginning with the Polish workers' uprising in 1980, has triggered the crises that are now ravaging the regimes across Eastern and Central Europe and in the Soviet Union.
b. The workers of these countries will resist the consequences of moving toward capitalist restoration even more fiercely.

3. These events confirm the continuing truth of the prognosis advanced by communists in the 1930s. As succinctly put by Trotsky: "As a conscious political force the bureaucracy has betrayed the revolution. But a victorious revolution is fortunately not only a program and a banner, not only political institutions, but also a system of social relations. To betray it is not enough. You have to overthrow it. The October revolution has been betrayed by the ruling stratum, but not yet overthrown."1

3. With the betrayers--who have been the biggest obstacle to strengthening the workers states--either crumbling or on the defensive, and with prospects of a military assault against the Soviet Union and Eastern European less feasible than ever before, imperialism still confronts the same historic battle, but from a weakened position. Instead of waging a "Cold War" against the petty-bourgeois regimes of the bureaucratic caste, imperialism will have to directly take on and try to defeat the working class in order to overthrow the workers states and reestablish capitalism in Eastern and Central Europe and the Soviet Union....

1. The disintegration of the Stalinist regimes opens greater political space for organization and struggle by the working classes in Eastern and Central Europe and within the Soviet Union, as they fight back against the devastating consequences of increasing reliance on capitalist methods and encroachments on the conquests of the workers states.

2. Struggles by workers in capitalist Europe and the Eastern and Central European workers states will mutually affect and influence each other more than any time in over four decades. The relatively impenetrable wall that has previously blocked these interconnections is breaking down with the disintegration of the NATO and Warsaw Pact alliances and the accelerating course toward the unification of Germany.2

3. Moreover, these struggles will be seen over time less as a fight by workers in Western Europe against capitalist exploitation and a separate fight by workers in Eastern Europe against an entrenched bureaucratic caste. Instead, they will be increasingly recognized as an intertwined fight by workers throughout Europe and worldwide against the dehumanizing and earth-destroying system of exploitation and oppression of the imperialist ruling classes and their reflections through various transmission belts, in particular
a. the labor officialdoms and social democratic, Stalinist, and other petty-bourgeois misleaderships in capitalist Europe; and
b. the petty-bourgeois regimes, political parties, union officialdoms, and other institutions staffed primarily by middle-class social layers emanating from the disintegrating castes in the deformed and degenerated workers states....

From Part 2

E. Regimes of permanent crisis in deformed workers states

4. c)
0. The disintegration of the Stalinist parties and weakening of the bureaucratic regimes create the possibility for the working class and the workers' movement to fight to develop, to politicize, and to start being open to the influence of revolutionary struggles the world over. It is along this road of struggle that the beginnings of a communist movement can be forged.

1. The governments that are coming into existence throughout Eastern Europe are petty-bourgeois regimes that are bourgeois in orientation, and in this sense are not a qualitative break from their predecessors.
a. They are staffed not only by holdovers from the nomenklatura itself, but incorporate new layers from the intelligentsia and middle classes in these countries.
b. While being prepared to march alongside these forces in actions aimed at busting up the previous secret-police regimes, communists oppose all the new governments, which are anti–working class politically, as were the Stalinist apparatuses they are replacing....

5. The events of 1989–90 are a verification of the communist prognosis that the workers states, even those deformed from birth by Stalinist domination, would prove stronger than the bureaucratic castes.

0. The petty-bourgeois caste is not a historic ruling class.
a. It has no historic economic role in a mode of production.
b. This bloated layer continues to expand further and further beyond the size of an administrative bureaucracy socially necessary to the tasks of production. It blocks any motion toward establishing new social relations of production in harmony with and leading toward a new mode of production implicit in the nationalized-property foundations of the workers states.
c. It is a cancer weakening the workers states and their economic foundations.

1. In contrast to the regimes of the stronger capitalist ruling classes, the Bonapartist regime is weak, brittle, and unstable. These regimes have disintegrated with startling rapidity. Their explosion began after only sixty years in the Soviet Union and even less time in Eastern and Central Europe--mere blips in social history.
. The bureaucracy will not give up its positions without a fight. The ruling oligarchy takes whatever measures it can to preserve bureaucratic rule and privilege, including the sacrifice of entire wings of the nomenklatura in order to salvage the rest, and the incorporation of new layers into the ruling stratum.
a. The measures taken by these regimes have not historically stabilized them. The governments have proven to be not only regimes of crisis, but regimes of permanent crisis.
b. Gorbachev's counterreformation, embarked upon in response to the events in Poland, and his deepening Bonapartist course will accelerate, not resolve, the crisis in the USSR.

2. The workers states themselves have been shown to be stronger than the castes and their police regimes.
The workers states survive and can only be overthrown in battle with the working classes.
a. "The social revolution, betrayed by the ruling party," Trotsky explained in 1936, "still exists in property relations and in the consciousness of the toiling masses."3
a. More than half a century later, the first part of this assessment remains unchanged: the proletarian property relations still exist in the Soviet Union, as well as in the other deformed workers states.
b. While the socialist consciousness of the toiling masses has been obliterated since the 1930s, and not even a nucleus of a communist vanguard exists today, bourgeois trade union consciousness and the assumption by the working class of the right to a historically defined minimal social wage remain the first obstacle that will lead to massive struggles in the workers states against the reimposition of capitalism.
b. A counterrevolution to overturn the workers states and their nationalized property foundations cannot be carried out internally, but would require direct imperialist involvement to succeed and consolidate.

1. Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed: What Is the Soviet Union and Where Is It Going? (Pathfinder, 1972), p. 227.

2. The U.S. rulers began reconstructing NATO in the 1990s on the corpses of the Yugoslav peoples, acting simultaneously to tighten Washington's military encirclement of the workers states in Russia and other former Soviet republics and to reinforce U.S. dominance over rival capitalist powers in the Atlantic alliance. In the early 1990s the U.S. government sabotaged one initiative after another by Paris, Bonn, and London to act as power brokers in the war-ravaged Yugoslav workers state; each hoped to gain military and economic leverage against Washington and against one another. As failures mounted for the European occupation force in Bosnia, operating under a United Nations flag, and as diplomatic efforts foundered, Washington successfully pressed for U.S.-led NATO air strikes and naval and ground shelling against Serbian forces, conducting more than 3,000 such assaults between February 1994 and September 1995. In late 1995, in the wake of this sustained bombardment, the U.S. rulers brought representatives of the Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian forces to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, for talks that authorized Washington to spearhead an occupation army in Bosnia of some 60,000 NATO troops, including 20,000 from the United States. As of August 1998, the U.S.-organized occupation force, initially scheduled to depart in late 1996, remained in Bosnia with no settled departure date.

During the same January 1994 NATO summit at which the U.S. administration won approval for air strikes in Yugoslavia, president William Clinton initiated the proposal to expand NATO eastward closer to the borders of the Russian workers state. The July 1997 NATO summit meeting set spring 1999 as the date to admit Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary as the "first wave" of new member states.

3. The Revolution Betrayed, p.230

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