May 17, 2020

THE HARM DONE BY TROTSKYISM TO THE NATIONAL-LIBERATION STRUGGLE


Nikolai VASETSKY
Translated from the Russian by Vyacheslav SEMYONOV Translation edited by Selena KOTLOBAI

Among the most radical “amendments” to the theory of “permanent revolution” introduced by modern Trotskyism is the idea that “colonial revolutions” in countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute the leading factor in world revolution. 

This idea, said to represent a further “development” of Trotsky’s theory, in fact departs from the Trotskyist canons, for Trotsky called for a world social revolution that was “Europe-centred”, maintaining that such a revolution was only possible in advanced countries. Today, the pendulum of the Trotskyist strategy has swung towards the backward countries. What has caused this turn about?

Tiersmondism (Third Worldism), Trotskyist style. It will be recall­ed that after the Second World War the national­ liberation movement swept vast areas of what used to be the colonial and dependent world. The defeat of the German Nazis and the Japanese militarists had an immense influence on the anti-imperialist struggle by whole nations and continents. The successes in this struggle were largely facili­tated by the victorious socialist revolutions and by the construction of socialism in a number of countries in Europe, Asia and in Cuba, and by the growing working-class movement in the capitalist countries. Tens of millions of people joined this struggle, including representatives of the most diverse social strata, such as peasants, members of the petty bourgeoisie, the working class and the democratic intelligentsia.

In this changed international situation imperial­ism could no longer preserve the colonial system, which collapsed under the impact of national-lib­eration revolutions. In the post-war years, nearly 100 new sovereign states have emerged in former colonies and semi-colonies. 

This marked a radical turning point in the lives of peoples who make up two-thirds of the world Population. Needless to say, this is of tremendous historical significance. 

These major developments inevitably affected the alignment of class forces in the world arena changing the character of the struggle between the two opposing socio-economic systems—world capitalism and world socialism. This could not but be reflected in diverse political doctrines.

Trotskyism could not possibly ignore these developments. As it had been repeatedly done by Trotsky in the past, its leaders hastened to take advantage of the situation emerging in the work so as not to be left out of the mainstream of the progressive movement. At the same time they tried to spread Trotskyist ideas as widely as possible among those taking part in the anti-imperialist movement and thus consolidate their own positions. This circumstance prompted them to revise their attitude to the Third World. This was reflect ed first of all in their support for the theory o tiersmondism (from the French words tier monde—third world), which in the 1960s ant 1970s was adopted by many left-wing radical bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideologists in the developing countries. 

Whereas formerly they considered the peasantry to be reactionary, the Trotskyites now declared  ıt as the most revolutionary force of the modern world “In Latin America, Asia and Africa peasants even the most backward ones, most readily accept the idea of cooperative forms of production. Even the peasants in Bolivia and Peru, who are under the strong influence of ancient Inca tribal and patriarchal traditions, are favourably disposed towards socialist cooperation,” wrote Julio Posadas.Lutte communiste, 19.1.73, No. 275, p. 3.

He was echoed by Pierre Frank who wrote: “In the growing avalanche of the guerrilla movement, the peasantry undoubtedly plays the most radical and the most decisive role in the colonial revolu­tion, a role which could not have been envisaged by Marxist theory. This position taken by the peas­antry in the developing countries serves as graphic evidence that its social function has changed. ..” P. Frank, La Quatrieme Internationale, p. 142.

These utterances by Trotskyist ideologists clearly reflected a distinctive pattern of behaviour on the part of the Trotskyites in the zone of the national-liberation movement. They were playing a typical game whose purpose was to capitalise on the growing political activity among the peasant masses in countries waging a struggle to cast off the imperialist yoke, and it was there that the Trotskyites had been sending their emissaries. During the war of liberation and in the first years of independence in Algeria, Michel Pablo, the lead­er of the Revolutionary Marxist Tendency of the Fourth International, was in that country where he even managed to become a political adviser to President Ben Bella’s government. 

Meanwhile the Trotskyites have been pointing to the upsurge in the national-liberation movement as a justification for their defeatist stand as regards the revolutionary struggle waged by the working class in developed capitalist countries. They have been among the first to say that the Third World will, like Prometheus, give mankind the fire of freedom, and that the force which is to free Wes­tern civilisation from capitalist oppression and ex­ploitation will come from Asia, Africa and Latin America. “The world revolution is developing from the periphery towards the centre,” according to supporters of the Revolutionary Marxist Tendency of the Fourth International. Sous le drapeau du socialisme, 1978, No. 73, p. 22.

The Trotskyites say that although the “colonial revolution” is unable to “blow up” the capitalist countries because the Third World is now dependent on world imperialism indirectly, and not di­rectly as before, it can nevertheless impart a fresh impetus to “the political revolutions” in the “workers’ states”, i.e., processes which determined the development of the socialist countries.

This line of reasoning which arbitrarily puts the continents swept by the struggle for national liber­ation in the focus of the world revolutionary process in reality sets this movement in opposition to its natural allies in the struggle against imperialism, namely, the world socialist system and the international working-class movement. This opposition can, and often does, lead to the isolation of the national-liberation movement from the other revolutionary currents of the modern world. The extreme left-wing sectarian line of proletariat without peasantry put forward by Trotsky is be­ing replaced with a no less sectarian line of peas­antry without the international working class.

As we see, the Trotskyist interpretation of tiers- mondism  emphasises isolation and sets one revolutionary current against another. The Trotskyites are not only unwilling but also afraid to admit that there exists today an objective foundation for close unity between all the revolutionary forces, that these have a common enemy—imperialism, and that the activities of each of these forces objectively promote the success of all the others. 

Coming out against unity, Trotskyism plays into the hands of those who are interested in isolating and weakening the national liberation movement and, consequently, in weakening the entire front of the anti-imperialist struggle. 

ABC of adventurism. The Trotskyist theory of tiersmondism is in effect directed against the Third World countries. Feeling confused before the complex and contradictory developments in Third World countries after many of them have gained political independence, the Trotskyites have been unable to answer questions posed by the qual­itatively new stage the liberation struggle has entered. They are either unwilling or unable to understand the main feature of the present stage: as the process of political liberation of the colonial and dependent countries is drawing to a close, another task—the achievement of economic inde­pendence and implementation of profound social transformations—becomes increasingly urgent. 

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Trotsky­ist theoretical propositions are inadequate and are not concerned with specific problems of the internal development of individual countries or peoples. The Trotskyites in fact openly advertise their neglect of specific national traits of individual countries. “The worldwide conditions of struggle alone determine the character of any revolution­ary action, even if it does not depend on these conditions directly,” says Julio Posadas. J. Posadas, Le triomphe de Mitterrand et la fonction du Proletaire, Paris, 1981, p. 37.

This view of the Latin American Trotskyite is shared by the other Fourth International leaders. “The world­wide struggle between classes in the imperialist epoch is the same everywhere, just as the proletarian revolution is the same everywhere,” writes Stephane Just, a theoretician of the Committee for the Reconstruction of the Fourth International. Verite, 1980, juin. No. 592, p. 52

Actually, however, the internal conditions, on which the ripening of subjective and objective pre­requisites for revolution and for the struggle for socialism depends, differ widely in different coun­tries, particularly in the developing world. As the 26th CPSU Congress pointed out: “These countries are very different. After liberation, some of them have been following the revolutionary-democratic path. In others capitalist relations have taken root. Some of them are following a truly independent policy, while others are today taking their lead from imperialist policy. In a nutshell, the picture is a fairly motley one.” XXVI Congress oi the CPSU. Documents and Resolutions, Moscow, 1981, p. 16.

In refusing to see this difference, the Trotsky­ites are following in the footsteps of Trotsky’s supporters of the pre-war years. Their starting point is still a rejection of the idea that the development of the national-liberation revolution consists of sev­eral stages, a renunciation of the need for anti- feudal, anti-imperialist and democratic transforma­tions in the course of revolutionary struggle, trans­formations which under favourable conditions can open up possibilities for a socialist orientation in the newly free countries. Trotskyism thus denies that today’s national-liberation revolutions are democratic revolutions of a new type. 

“A revolution never occurs by stages,” writes Pierre Fougeyrollas, an ideologist of the Commit­ tee for the Reconstruction of the Fourth Interna­tional. P. Fougeyrollas, La revolution proletarienne et les impasses petites-bourgeoises, Paris, 1976, p. 290.

Proceeding from these assumptions, Trotskyites today are making considerable efforts to distort the essence of progressive movements in newly free countries. One of their prime targets is the role played by revolutionary democrats and by the Communist and workers’ parties that take into ac­ count the real alignment of forces both inside and outside their countries. The Trotskyites criticise the appeals by the revolutionary wing of the national-liberation movement for unity of the working masses and the national patriotic forces in their struggle for profound democratic transformations in the economy, politics and social relations, seeing in these appeals a desire to “restrict” revo­lutions within the boundaries of capitalism and di­rect the masses’ actions along a path required by the “bourgeois order”. 

The disastrous consequences of the use of such tactics by Trotskyist groupings in Chile are well known. When the People’s Unity government was set up, these groupings launched a noisy campaign of slander against it. In saying that the aim of the Chilean government was “to try to freeze the rev­olutionary process in Chile,”* the Trotskyites were actually playing the same destructive role as the Rightist counter-revolutionary elements that were openly hostile to President Salvador Allende. *M. Raptis, Quel socialisme au Chile? Paris, 1973, p. 19.

Even today Trotskyites continue to slander the People’s Unity government, seeking to discredit the very principles of rallying the working people on a broad anti-imperialist platform. In their view, it was the People’s Unity government, and not the Chilean reactionaries backed by US imperialists, that led “to the defeat of the masses and opened the road to Pinochet’s fascist dictatorship.” Verite, 1979, decembre, No. 589, p. 28.

Thus, Trotskyism is hindering the revolution­ary and democratic forces in Chile in their at­tempts to analyse the three-year experience of the People’s Unity government conclusions in devising the struggle to overthrow the and restore the democratic the working people. 

The Trotskyites behave and draw the proper strategy and tactics of Pinochet dictatorship rights and freedoms of in the same way in other countries and regions. While a determined struggle was being waged against the Somoza dic­tatorship under the leadership of the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua (FSLN), they supported the revolution, at least in words. But as soon as the Nicaraguan people began their peaceful work, they immediately condemned the revolution. 

The Committee for the Reconstruction of the Fourth International criticised the National Revi­val Government for carrying out measures to re­habilitate the economy, virtually ruined under the Somoza regime, and for implementing radical so­cial reforms which took into account the interests of all social strata including the middle and petty bourgeoisie. The Trotskyites described the FSLN’s activities as an attempt “to limit the revolution­ ary struggle to carrying out democratic tasks and to overthrowing the dictatorship”. They accuse the Nicaraguan government of wanting “to curb the process of the peasants taking over land and to suppress the masses’ desire to set up a government of their own, without representatives of the bour­geoisie.” Vetite, 1979, decembre, No. 589, p. 49.

The Committee for the Reconstruction of the Fourth International, for instance, declares that “although the FSLN commands the respect of the working people, its activities do not meet the needs of the revolutionary struggle, and it restrains the initiative of the masses.” Informations ouvrieres, 24-31. I. 1981, No. 984, p. 10.

The Trotskyites go beyond verbal attacks and resort to direct actions. Supporting Somoza’s followers, they have embarked on the path of staging acts of provocation, including armed ones, against the revolutionary government. They support strikes at nationalised enterprises, describing these strikes as “revolutionary”. They urge the establishment of political organisations that would fight against “the subordination of the masses to the government’s policies”. They counter the FSLN’s course of national revival with the call for the setting up of a “Federation of Socialist States of Central America”,* that is, with the same old adventuristic line of export of revolution. *Correspondencia international, 1980, abril. No. 2, p. 65.

All this has compelled the FSLN to ban Trotskyist activities.

Such activities are particularly dangerous at a time when US imperialists are doing all they can to reduce to nought the revolutionary gains of the Nicaraguan people. They are staging armed provocations against Nicaragua with the help of supporters of the former dictator Somoza and reaction­ary Latin American regimes. In an attempt to prevent unity among the national patriotic forces, the Trotskyites are calling for the immediate ex­propriation of the property of the bourgeoisie, in­cluding that of the middle and petty bourgeoisie, most of whose members support the FSLN’s foreign-policy course. “In Nicaragua,” a declara­tion of the Committee for the Reconstruction of the Fourth International says, “the government can only maintain a successful confrontation with imperialism by expropriating the bourgeoisie. Any other solution will open the door to counter-revolution and lead to the downfall of the Sandinista government.” Informations ouvrieres, 1-8. IV. 1983, No. 1100, p. 11.

This is the same adventuristic tactics of “all or nothing at all” which, in the words of Luigi Lon­ go, a prominent leader of the world communist movement, “will more often than not turn into ‘all’ in word only and ‘nothing at all’ when it comes to practical action.” L. Longo, C. Salinari, Between Reaction and Revolution. Recollections and Thoughts of the First Years of the Italian Communist Party, Moscow, 1974, p. 50 (in Russian).
Thus, the Trotskyites’ “ultra-revolutionism” turns into preaching of sec­tarianism, which can only lead the participants in national-liberation revolutions to self-isolation; this can win the revolutions many enemies, but few friends. The noisy appeals for a “colonial rev­olution” conceal the Trotskyites’ unwillingness to rouse the masses to revolutionary struggle, to the fight for socialist ideals. What is more, these ap­peals camouflage a desire to create additional dif­ficulties and obstacles for those countries and peo­ples that have started to implement constructive rather than destructive tasks of national-liberation revolutions. 

Pseudo-socialist extremism vs. socialist orienta­tion. Trotskyist negativism towards the national-liberation struggle is particularly noticeable when it comes to countries with a socialist orientation. Here Trotskyism throws off all restraint and can no longer conceal its hostility towards these countries. While the Trotskyites are quite ready to hold forth on the immediate “introduction of socialism” in countries where conditions for it do not yet exist, they are the first to sow the seeds of distrust towards those who boldly and purposefully set out to build socialism. 

This obstructionist course is based on the Trots­kyist belief that no revolutionary-democratic gov­ernment is capable of conducting a policy that is independent of imperialism, a policy aimed at creating a genuinely national economy, promoting the growth of the working class and strengthening its own role in the life of society, consolidat­ing the positions of scientific socialism, and rear­ing a national intelligentsia that would serve the people. The Trotskyites make the most of the fact that because of the small numerical strength of the working class the leadership in many socialist- oriented countries is assumed by revolutionary democrats, progressive-minded people from among the petty-bourgeois and non-proletarian strata. “In countries where the national petty bourgeoisie takes over power, it becomes a prisoner of the bourgeois state machinery,” writes Henri Valin, a leader of the United Secretariat of the Fourth In­ternational. This brings him to the following con­clusion: “The idea of ‘a state of national democra­cy’ reflects the illusion that it is possible gradually to transform a bourgeois state into a workers’ state through a consistent, step-by-step mobilisa­tion of progressive forces within the framework of coalitions or national fronts.."  See e.g., Quatrieme Internationale, 1968, avril. No. 33, pp. 46, 47.

This approach shows that Trotskyism is hostile to all the new elements derived from the collective experience of building a socialist system of gov­ernment. Trotskyism is also opposed to the spread and consolidation of the ideas of scientific social­ism in the developing world. It describes as “an ideology of slogans” the basic goals of the govern­ments in the countries that look to Marxism-Leninism for guidance in following a non-capitalist road of development. What the Trotskyites are saying, then, is that the goals these countries have set themselves cannot be accomplished.Sous le drapeau du socialisme, 1971, juillet. No. 56, p. 23.

It was Lenin who evolved the teaching on the revolutionary-democratic government as a stage in the transition to socialist transformation of society. In his article The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It (1917) he pointed out that the struggle for thoroughgoing reforms in conditions of a developing democratic revolution could lead to the establishment of “a revolutionary-democratic state". In this state, major socio-economic and po­litical reforms will be carried out, genuine democ­racy established and “revolutionary-democratic measures” taken which will ensure efficient control over the rich.  It “will still not be socialism, but it will no longer be capitalism. It will be a tre­mendous step towards socialism,”  he wrote. Len­in’s ideas about the democratic dictatorship of a revolutionary people and a revolutionary-democrat­ic state were put into practice with the establish­ment of people’s states in Bukhara and Khorezm in 1920, and in Mongolia and Tuva in 1921. These ideas were further developed and carried out in practice when people’s democratic governments were set up in a number of European and Asian countries during and immediately after the Second World War, which have subsequently developed into socialist ones. In Cuba a revolutionary-democratic state (1959-1960) preceded a socialist state. Today revolutionary-democratic states, with some variations, exist in countries of socialist orientation whose number is approaching . Lenin, Coll. Works, Vol. 25, p. 340, 358,360

To be sure, these states are developing unevenly and in complicated international and domestic con­ditions. However, the very fact that this develop­ment takes place, despite all difficulties and obstacles, is evidence that the socialist orientation has a future. Experience has shown that this orienta­tion is not something superficial or accidental, that it emerges in the midst of a national-liberation movement, that it is brought about by the logic of its evolution, and that it appears again and again despite all difficulties and setbacks. 

This is borne out by the steady growth of the number of socialist-oriented countries, many of which have existed for as long as 15 or 20 years and have remained politically and economically stable often in spite of unfavourable domestic and international conditions. Algeria, for instance, has shown a constructive, progressive way, one differ­ent from that taken by some other oil-producing states, of using its foreign exchange earnings from the sale of oil, namely, for solving urgent social and economic problems at home instead of enrich­ing a privileged group of “oil sheikhs”. 

In the socialist-oriented countries the state plays a progressive role as an active factor in na­tional consolidation. 

The vitality of the revolutionary-democratic ten­dencies makes itself felt even in those countries where the revolutionary-democratic regimes have been overthrown in coups. Some of the results of the progressive changes introduced by these regimes and the socio-political progress achieved un­der them have proved durable despite the attempts of the reactionaries to abolish them. 

The basic common features and the main trends of development of the socialist-oriented countries have now revealed themselves with greater clarity. These are: the gradual ousting of imperialist monopolies and the local big bourgeoisie and feudal groups from their positions, and restriction of the scope of operations by foreign capital; control by the people’s state of key sectors of the country’s economy, transition to planned development of the productive forces, and encouragement of the cooperative movement in the countryside; the increased role of the working masses in social life, and the gradual strengthening of the state apparatus by employing national personnel dedicated to the cause of the people; and the conduct of an anti­-imperialist foreign policy. In socialist-oriented countries the revolutionary parties, which express the interests of the working masses, are gaining strength.

Decisions on the further course of development in newly free countries are obviously made in the midst of sharp clashes between classes. In these countries there are still trends which hamper so­cial progress, and pro-capitalist elements are still influential. In socialist-oriented countries local reactionary forces are fiercely resisting the socio­ economic measures taken by the government. These forces have the active political, financial and often also military backing of imperialism. 

Therefore, successful development along a so­cialist-oriented path depends first and foremost on whether the forces of democracy and progress will be able, upon coming to power, to further develop the struggle for economic freedom and complete the national-liberation revolution. There can be no doubt that in this respect the revolutionary-democratic government would need to be firm and be able to give a timely and resolute rebuff to as­saults by internal and external reactionary forces. 

Experience shows that in newly independent countries the government can repulse subversive actions by imperialism and its allies and achieve social progress if it takes a revolutionary course, mobilises the masses for the struggle against reaction and unites around it all forces dedicated to the cause of democracy and socialism.

In directing their attack against this unity the Trotskyites show yet again their confusion over questions of the relationship between democratic and socialist tasks and of the motive forces of rev­olution. They are opposed to any union between patriotic, democratic and revolutionary forces, without which it is impossible to eliminate impe­rialist oppression and destroy the feudal and oli­garchic foundations of society. The Trotskyist line can only serve the interests of reaction, however “left-wing” may be the phrases with which Trots­kyites camouflage their policies. That is why Huberto Alvarado, a prominent leader of the Latin American revolutionary liberation movement, des­cribed the political role played by modern Trots­kyism as adventuristic, provocative and divisive, and the Trotskyites as agents of imperialism. 

Chapter IV