The Enemy Within: The Stalinist threat to labor and the unions.

Submitted by AWL on 8 October, 2013 - 2:35

Confusion and ignorance on the nature of the Stalinist phenomenon penetrates all areas of contemporary political activity. If that is true of the summits of political rule in the West and elsewhere, it is just as true of most of the labor
movements of the world. The confusion, ignorance and, above all, perplexity of the bourgeois world in meeting the challenge of Stalinism, has understandable class roots. It looks upon the Stalinist world solely as a revolutionary threat to capitalism. And the bourgeoisie is correct in looking on Stalinism as a threat to itself, even though it fails just the same to understand the underlying pressures for Stalinist expansion and prefers to think of the movement on the basis of outlived ideas rather than intelligent analysis.

To the bourgeoisie, Stalinism represents an "extreme" form of socialism (doesn't it call itself socialist?), based on the threatened violence of willful and malicious men, in contrast to the more venerable and reasonable socialism of the reformist type with whom it was always possible to get along in one fashion or another. The labor movements of most countries of the West, even the more sophisticated of them, are confused about Stalinism. And while they may - quite often do - regard the phenomenon as a modern slavery, they have no clarity on the subject.

No Clarity on Stalinism

The influence of the reformist socialists on the labor movement has not helped to establish any clarity in the Western labor movement. If this is true of Europe, what can one say about the American labor movement which is so undeveloped ideologically? The American labor movement has, indeed, inflicted a serious defeat upon the Stalinists in this country. The Stalinists have been thoroughly isolated, though they control several small unions outside of the main
union constellation. But their defeat has not been the result of an ideological struggle. It occurred simultaneous with the government drive against Stalinism on grounds that seriously threaten the civil liberties of all genuinely socialist, radical and non-conformist movements and individuals.

In brief, the annihilating defeat of American Stalinism was achieved through bureaucratic means in a period which saw the decline of the Communist Party in general. No great ideological victory was won over Stalinism—neither by the bourgeoisie nor by the labor leadership. The victory was gained by an appeal, not to any softy ideals, but to a chauvinistic and reactionary combination of ideas, arising out of the cold war. The victory was gained by riding on the same witch-hunting swell that produced McCarthyism and the Truman-to-Eisenhower loyalty purges. The same success, achieved here precisely because of the unique position of the United States in the world, its continued economic power and geographic isolation (as well as ideological, isolation), has not been duplicated elsewhere in the world.

For a while the United States can and does avoid the enormous economic and political pressures of other countries, particular in Asia, these other countries are not able so easily to solve more simple economic and political problems, upon which Stalinism feeds like a social cancer.

A Revolutionary Movement

Stalinism is a kind of revolutionary movement in the sense that it seeks to replace capitalism, though its replacement is a new form of totalitarian tyranny. Its anti-capitalism is its great strength in a world divided into an economically unhealthy West and a semi-capitalist and colonial world, the latter containing the vast majority of the world's population. Stalinism champions the restive masses of these countries in their struggles for independence, and above all. in their desire for land reform. And it does this, while the West still presents itself to this great part of the world as
the advocate of colonialism, a dying colonialism to be sure, but a colonialism, nevertheless.

Certainly, Stalinism offers these great masses of the West and East a leap from the exploitation of capitalism and imperialism into the exploitation of the modern slave society. But many people do not see this as clearly as they see the older evils of capitalism. They see the skillful Stalinist propaganda in their behalf. They see and hear the Stalinist slogans of liberation and land reform. It is this they do not so or hear from the West—not from the United States, allied as it is with all the reactionary feudal elements of Asia fighting land reform; not from "enlightened" Great Britain; and certainly not from the smaller empires, France, Belgium, Spain, who hang onto their colonies with a deadly grip.

Thus, Stalinism is enabled to appear to the world as the champion of the oppressed. In industrial countries, its parties have the "tradition" of working-class organizations; these parties are considered by many to be part of the working class. This is the mistake of reactionaries, progressives, labor leaders and many socialists alike. Again, the basis for this belief is to found in the "revolutionary" nature of Stalinism. But Stalinism is revolutionary only because it seeks the destruction of capitalism. We have, however, also said that it is reactionary, because it seeks the replacement of capitalism with the totalitarian system of bureaucratic collectivism, the modern slave society.

Anti-Working Class

One need only look at Russia to see what it means to say that Stalinism is anti-socialist and anti-working class. No new name for the working class has as yet been invented or employed to describe the Russian proletariat. Russian workers have been called slaves - modern industrial slaves. But that hardly suffices to describe their economic role. The Russian worker is at the mercy of the state and the state party. The Communist Party is not his party; it is the party of the bureaucracy. There is no other party for him because this is a one-party state. He has no unions unless you accept the cynicism of the Russian rulers and consider the state-controlled and directed "unions" as genuine coin. He has no organizations he can call his own. He cannot leave his job and seek another. He cannot bargain with his bosses.
This is sufficient to indicate how different is his class position from that of the workers of the West.

The unique position of the Russian slave workers should indicate, then, the nature of the Stalinist movements abroad with respect to the working class. Our movement has described Stalinism as "a reactionary, totalitarian, anti-bourgeois and anti-proletarian current IN the labor movement but not OF the labor movement," and as a product of the social crisis of our time.

Stalinism is not a "left" wing of the labor movement, or a "right" wing, as some believe. There is a gulf between Stalinism and "all sections of the labor movement. Stalinism is not a working-class movement, nor any wing of a working-class movement. We say this not because it has a bad program or a wrong one, but because it represents the anti-proletarian class interests of the bureaucratic ruling class of the Russian empire. The working class is simply an object of manipulation by Stalinism. The entire history of Stalinism bears this out. The Communist movements controlled and directed from the Kremlin have been the witting (sometimes unwitting) instruments of Great-Russian Stalinism. The national and international interests of Stalinist Russia are what determined and continues to determine the strategies and tactics of its world movement.

The Line Changes

From the radical "Third Period" of Stalinism in the first half of the '30s—which divided the world into two simple camps, Stalinists on the one hand and fascists on the other—to the policy of "collective security" from the Hitler-Stalin pact and the invasion of Poland and Finland, to the no-strike pledge; from opposition to the war, to its most fanatical prosecutors -through all this the Stalinist movements were dragged into a maze of ever-changing policies, none of them designed to advance the interests of the working class, the labor movements, socialism and human society, one step forward.

Of more recent memory, we have only to recall the war years. Certainly the American labor movement should remember it well. For in the beginning, while Stalin was in partnership with Hitler, the slogans resounded from coast to coast: "Down with Imperialist War!" "The Yanks Are Not Coming!" "March on Washington!" "Demonstrate for Peace!" "Strike for your Rights!".

These slogans were repeated in similar form, with due regard to different national conditions, in all Allied countries. But overnight, without a moment's warning or hesitation, Stalinist world strategy and tactics changed. Hitler's march into Russia transformed the latter into a Western ally and at once the world Stalinist movement became the most rabid super-patriots and partisans of the war.

Anti-Union War Record

Everything was now subordinated to the war effort, seemingly to the war effort of the Allied nations, but actually to the war effort of Russia, to which all else was auxiliary.

• In the United States, the Communist Party demanded that all unions pledge not to strike for the duration, no matter what the reason, and it was the most adamant supporter of the no-strike pledge against even conservative labor opponents of it.
• The Stalinists championed the reproduction of incentive-pay schemes in industry and demanded the restoration of piecework in industry where it had long ago been abolished.
• They whipped their unions into line on behalf of the war effort and expelled workers whom they believed did not work hard or fast enough.
• They denounced the "March on Washington" movement which was initiated by Negro leaders as a means of expressing the struggle for civil rights and against discrimination in industry and the armed forces, and which forced Roosevelt to set up FEPC to head it off.
• They cautioned colonial peoples to abandon their fight for independence - especially those peoples who were the
colonials of the Allies.

And when the war was over, we witnessed just as abrupt a turn, this time in behalf of the imperialist-expansionist policy of Stalinist Russia. The turns of the Communist Parties never originated in the needs of the working classes anywhere, not even in mistaken or distorted understanding of those working class needs. They originated in the Kremlin, and the policies around which the movement of these turns began were based solely upon the needs of Russia's new ruling class to maintain and extend its power.

Aspirations for Power

Today, the Stalinist social system is no longer confined to Russia. There is a Stalinist empire in being. So that while it is true to say that the Communist Parties serve the interests of the Kremlin, they also serve still another interest: their own aspirations for power, to become a ruling class in the image of the Russian. Stalinism has to be fought not merely as the agent of the Russian ruling class, but also as the would-be imposers of a Stalinist regime here at home, where it would seek to rule in the same totalitarian police-state manner, with the same methods and social objectives that obtain in the lands of the Kremlin. The satellite countries of Europe offer one image of the new slave state; China and North Vietnam another. Their basic characteristics, however, are the same. They are all totalitarian states based on a new bureaucratic exploitation; they are all anti-proletarian; they are all anti-socialist.

The fight against Stalinism, however, cannot be won by military or bureaucratic means so long as capitalist exploitation, oppression, and imperialism abound. The fight against Stalinism has to be fought upon political grounds, and those grounds can only be a progressive social program, a genuine socialist program of peace, security and freedom, which alone can offer the peoples a democratic alternative to Stalinism which is at the same time a revolutionary alternative to capitalism.