No Support to Any Faction of the Soviet Bureaucracy
No Capitalist Restoration in the Territory of the Former USSR
Build a Section of the Fourth International in the CIS

Adopted by the First International Conference of the
Faction for the Trotskyist International
(For the Political Regeneration of the Fourth International)
5 January 1992

1. The crisis of the Soviet Union threatens to destroy what remains of the gains of the most important success the working class has had in the twentieth century, the overthrow of capitalist property relations in the former Russian empire. The crisis has disoriented and demoralized large sections of the working class, including sections of the vanguard. It has emboldened the capitalists to escalate their attacks on the workers and the oppressed. And it has made new imperialist wars against the semicolonies all but certain and interimperialist wars much more likely.

The crisis of the Soviet Union can be viewed from several time perspectives. From a long-term historical perspective the crisis is an expression of the contradictions of a bureaucratically deformed workers' state in a world still dominated by imperialism. From a medium-term perspective it is an expression of the Stalinist bureaucracy's inability to deal with certain problems in the development of the Soviet economy and their social and political consequences.

From a shorter-term perspective Soviet crisis is a result of the failure of the reforms initiated by now-deposed Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. And from an immediate perspective, it is a consequence of the failed coup of 19 August 1991 and the successful coup of 8 December.

The August and December coups have qualitatively strengthened the forces of capitalist restoration in the former Soviet Union and moved the country toward a breakup along national lines and the restoration of capitalism in some or all the fragments. They have made the loss of the Baltic republics to capitalism almost certain and have put the rest of the former Soviet Union in jeopardy.

The two coups starkly revealed the impasse of Soviet society, the depth of the economic, social and political crisis. None of the contending bureaucratic factions -- neither the "conservative" faction that spawned the State Committee for the State of Emergency (GKCP) in August, nor the heterogeneous "radical" faction that took power with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in December, nor Gorbachev's ousted "centrist" faction -- nor any other current political leadership in the former Soviet Union has a viable plan for combatting the crisis.

Over the past few years the Soviet working class has frequently defended its immediate interests through strikes and demonstrations. But the workers were relatively passive during the two coups. In August they did not rally to the GKCP government, did not demand the return of Gorbachev, and, by and large, did not respond to Yeltsin's call for barricades and a general strike. In December they did not demand the return of the GKCP, did not protest Gorbachev's removal, and did not cheer Yeltsin's coup. They did not see any of the contending factions as representing their interests, but they also did not act independently.

The relative passivity of the working class reflects the crisis of proletarian leadership in the former Soviet Union. The political disorientation and organizational weakness of the world Trotskyist movement have hampered the building of a Trotskyist party there even after glasnost removed most of the legal and other repressive obstacles to doing so.

Trotskyists now must seize the opportunity to build a revolutionary, internationalist proletarian leadership in the former Soviet Union. They must put forward a workers' emergency plan to combat the crisis, campaign for the plan in the political vanguard and the working class, and on that basis build a Trotskyist party. The Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution, must come home to the Soviet Union.

The United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI) should make its central international task over the next period the building of a Trotskyist party in the former Soviet Union. The USFI International Executive Committee (IEC) should strengthen and give reality to the decision of the 1991 World Congress to build parties in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

The IEC should increase the fund for this purpose, ask each section to reassess its contribution, and assign key organizers to the party-building effort. The IEC should call a World Congress in the first half of 1993 to discuss the perspectives of the International in the face of the crisis of Stalinism and to assess the situation in the former Soviet Union and the results obtained in the campaign to build a Trotskyist party there.

2. The post-World War II capitalist world order was built on the bones of the 50 million people killed in 1939-45, declared with the cold war in 1947, and sealed with the Korean war in 1950. The order was based on five equilibria. The first was an equilibrium between the capitalist class and the working class in the imperialist countries. The working class accepted the capitalist economy and state, and the capitalist class conceded the workers bourgeois democracy, rising living standards, and a government-provided social security system.

The second equilibrium was among the imperialist countries. The imperialists other than the US accepted US economic and military hegemony, and the US accepted that the others would grow faster than it did.

The third equilibrium was between the imperialist countries and the semicolonies. The elites of the colonies and semicolonies accepted continued imperialist domination, and the imperialists, sometimes after bitter struggle, agreed to decolonization -- working through neocolonial compradors rather than ruling directly -- and limited economic development.

The fourth equilibrium was between the imperialist countries and the Soviet Union and the other deformed workers' states. The Stalinist bureaucracies accepted "peaceful coexistence" with capitalism in an imperialist-dominated world, and the imperialists accepted Stalinist rule over one-third of the world's population, limiting themselves to a policy of "containment of communism."

On the basis of the first four equilibria, the capitalists were able to establish a fifth equilibrium between the maintenance of profitability and the development of the productive forces. The capitalists invested to rebuild the world economy after two world wars and a depression, to exploit the new technology developed over this period, and to the realize the capitalist economic potential of the new world order. For nearly twenty years growth fed growth, allowing the imperialists to raise living standards at home, pay off the neocolonial elites, tolerate the Stalinist bureaucracies, compete with each other, and still make a profit.

3. The world capitalist system remained more or less stable and expanded through the 1950s and 1960s, as the equilibria mutually reinforced each other. By the end of the 1960s, however, all the equilibria began to break down. The disruption of the economic equilibrium came first. The capitalists reached the end of their possibilities for exploiting the existing technology and economic organization, fundamentally overaccumulated capital and means of production, and undermined the basis of their profit-making.

As their profit rate declined, the capitalists began reneging on their promises. Sharper economic and political struggles broke out between the capitalists and the workers in the imperialist countries, as exemplified by the May 1968 events in France. Economic rivalry among the imperialists increased, as the US lost its economic hegemony and retreated, the European Economic Community consolidated, and Japan emerged as an industrial and export power.

The equilibrium between the imperialist countries and the semicolonies broke down, as the imperialists began taking more profits out of the semicolonies than the capital they were investing, and local Stalinists, petty-bourgeois radical nationalists, and even bourgeois nationalists began to resist. When the Soviet Union got drawn into these conflicts, as it often did, the bureaucrats' "peaceful coexistence" with the imperialists broke down too. The US defeat in Vietnam forcefully registered these changes.

Major elements of the post-World War II order survived, however. Having retreated in the early and mid-1970s, imperialism began a counteroffensive in the late 1970s and 1980s. The working class in the imperialist countries retreated, the imperialist countries patched up relations among themselves, isolated explosions occurred in the semicolonies but no general outbreak of struggle, and the cold war confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union intensified.

In many important respects, the US-Soviet confrontation still dominated class and international relations. The confrontation was an impetus and an excuse for continued militarization of society in the US and its imperialist allies. But it also forced the imperialists not to withdraw too many of the concessions in democratic rights and living standards it had granted, since it needed a basis for claiming the superiority of "affluent, democratic capitalism" over "impoverished, totalitarian communism" and appealing for popular support.

The confrontation forced the other imperialist countries to accept their continued military and, in some respects, economic subordination to the US, and the US to accept the economic encroachment of its imperialist rivals, long after narrow national self-interest would have dictated a parting of ways.

The confrontation limited the ability of the imperialists to assert their domination of the semicolonies as fully as they would have liked and thus left space for petty-bourgeois radical nationalist and bourgeois nationalist regimes to force concessions from the imperialists. But the confrontation also kept the Stalinists in a position to block revolutionary developments, defend the status quo, and force their clients to do the same.

4. The crisis of the Soviet Union at least temporarily ends the cold war and another major element of the post-World War II world order. In immediate terms, the imperialists have gained from the crisis, which has weakened a key opponent. This gives them more freedom to move against their own working classes, the semicolonies, and the deformed workers' states. An important part of the change is subjective -- the disorientation and demoralization of the workers and emboldening of the capitalists, as "communism" and "socialism" appear to have failed, and capitalism appears to have triumphed over them.

The situation is more complicated than this, however. In immediate terms, the imperialists have gained materially and politically. But in longer-run terms, the Soviet crisis and imperialist ascendancy have freed the suppressed contradictions of the cold war period to develop and express themselves.

The capitalists will feel freer to attack the workers and the oppressed in the imperialist countries, the semicolonies, and the remaining deformed workers' states. But the workers and the oppressed will resist, and the resulting struggle will be more elemental and potentially more revolutionary, because the Stalinists no longer will dominate and disorient the workers' movement. Moreover, the imperialists now have to be concerned about and deal with their own rivalries and conflicts.

The imperialists may have a harder time maintaining the militarization of their societies, and their working classes will feel freer to resist the intensified capitalist attacks. The precipitous decline in the popularity of the leaders of all the imperialist countries shows this now. Workers' struggles and youth radicalization will show it more in the future.

The workers in the imperialist countries soon may begin observing and learning from the struggles in the semicolonies and in the deformed workers' states going through capitalist counterrevolution. If the workers and peasants there resist the austerity, especially if they resist it in a conscious, anticapitalist way, the workers in the imperialist countries may begin to have second thoughts about their masters' "triumph."

The removal of the Soviet threat allows the separate imperialists more freely to pursue their own conflicting national interests. The economic conflicts are quite obvious. Germany, France and Italy are in the process of consolidating a European trade and currency block against the US and Japan, dragging Britain unhappily along. The US and Canada are trying to form a North American trading block against Japan and Europe. And Japan is scrambling to keep open the European and North American markets, while protecting its own market. The "Uruguay round" of talks to extend the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) seems doomed to produce nothing but sweet words.

The imperialists within the trading blocks do not look too "united" either. The German capitalists unilaterally raised their interest rates to counter the inflationary effects of reunification, that is, to contract the economy, increase the unemployment rate, and weaken the workers' resistance. The US and some European imperialists were quite unhappy, since they want to pursue an expansionary economic policy to counter the world economic downturn. This does not bode well for the establishment of a single currency and central bank for the European Community by the end of the decade.

The political conflicts among the imperialists are becoming increasingly clear, too. The US forced its imperialist "allies" to accept the Persian Gulf war, in which it demonstrated its control of Europe's and Japan's oil lifeline, despite the reluctance of all the imperialists except Britain. German imperialism forced its "allies" to accept its separate peace with the Soviet Union in 1990, which won it East Germany, and now has forced them to accept its policy of recognizing Slovenia and Croatia and drawing them back into its orbit.

The withdrawal of Soviet support makes the bourgeois nationalist and petty-bourgeois nationalist regimes more vulnerable to imperialism, but it also weakens those leaderships and their Stalinist supporters as intermediaries between the imperialists and the workers and peasants. Social tensions in the semicolonies will become even more intense and the struggles there more direct -- more brutal on the side of the rulers, and more potentially revolutionary on the side of the ruled.

The crisis of the Soviet Union led to the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe, the capitalist reunification of Germany, and the establishment of capitalist-restorationist governments in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. In Poland, the former East Germany and Romania the workers have resisted -- at different levels -- the austerity necessary to establish capitalist profitability. But they have not resisted consciously, that is, with an understanding that they must fight the cause, capitalist restoration, as well as the effect, austerity. This has created a very volatile situation, in which all extremes from workers' revolution to fascist counterrevolution are possible.

The post-World War II order is dead. The period of capitalist disequilibrium -- of economic regression, wars and revolutions -- that began twenty years ago continues, but with even greater uncertainty. The period ahead is one of economic crisis, social tensions, political instability, wars, revolution, counterrevolution, and revolution again. Both alternatives, socialism and barbarism, have moved closer.

5. In historical terms, the Soviet crisis comes as no surprise to Trotskyists. For more than fifty years, the Trotskyist movement has pointed to the contradictions of the Stalinist system and seen the Soviet Union as a transitional society that would either advance to socialism through workers' political revolution against the bureaucracy or regress to capitalism through social counterrevolution. The questions for Trotskyists are why the Stalinist system has lasted so long and why it is falling apart now.

Trotsky did not expect the Stalinist bureaucracy of the Soviet Union to survive World War II. But this was inseparable from his view that imperialism would not survive World War II either.

By the very march of events, this question is now posed very concretely. The second world war has begun. It attests incontrovertibly to the fact that society can no longer live on the basis of capitalism. Thereby it subjects the proletariat to a new and perhaps decisive test.

If this war provokes, as we firmly believe, a proletarian revolution, it must inevitably lead to the overthrow of the bureaucracy in the USSR and the regeneration of Soviet democracy on a far higher economic and cultural basis than in 1918. ("The USSR in War," in In Defense of Marxism, second edition, New York: Pathfinder Press, pp. 8-9)

Unfortunately, World War II did not lead to proletarian revolution, as Trotsky had hoped. The workers fought the war, defeated the Axis powers, engaged in massive strikes after the war, forced major concessions from the capitalists, shook governments in all the imperialist countries, and came close to seizing power in Italy and France.

Capitalism was overthrown in Eastern Europe, China, and the northern halves of Korea and Vietnam. The colonial empires were dismantled and replaced with neocolonial dependencies or, in some cases, by radical petty-bourgeois nationalist regimes. But in the end, the capitalists, rescued by the Stalinists, the social-democrats, and the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois nationalists, were able to establish a new equilibrium. Stalinism survived as part of this capitalist restabilization.

The Soviet crisis now can be explained by the long-run contradictions of the Stalinist system -- the contradiction between the international character of the most advanced productive forces and the isolation of the Soviet Union in a world dominated by imperialism, and the contradiction between the potential of the planned, collectivized economy to develop labor productivity and the limitations imposed by bureaucratic rule. This, in fact, is the most profound explanation. But the contradictions of the Stalinist system have existed for most of this century. Why did this life-or-death crisis break out now, rather than in the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s?

The explanation can be made more concrete by recognizing that the imperialist crisis has intensified the contradictions in the Stalinist system and contributed to the Soviet crisis. The capitalist and Stalinist restabilizations were inseparable, and their destabilizations are inseparable too. The imperialists retreated in the early and mid-1970s, but they launched a counteroffensive in the late 1970s and 1980s. Their military buildup strained the Soviet economy to the breaking point, while their capital export to Eastern Europe drew the Stalinist countries there into the world market and a crisis of debt and dependency.

This helps explain the timing of the Soviet crisis, but it is not enough. The Soviet Union was under far more military and military-related economic pressure in the 1950s and 1960s and did not break. And the debt problem of the Eastern European countries was not impossibly acute. Nicolae Ceausescu imposed an austerity plan that ended Romania's dependency on foreign loans and nearly eliminated its foreign debt. Ceausescu's austerity program was extreme, but a more rational and humane program of increased exports, some import substitution, careful allocation of foreign exchange, and rescheduling and reduction of debts could have reduced the foreign debt without crisis.

The third element in the explanation of the Soviet crisis, and the one that goes furthest in explaining its timing, is the internal development of the basic contradictions of Soviet society. To understand this, we must explain why the Soviet bureaucracy adopted the Gorbachev reforms, what they were, and why they failed.

6. Gorbachev was elected General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1985 with a mandate for economic reform to overcome the stagnation of the Soviet economy. The problem of economic stagnation had become increasingly apparent during the last years of Leonid Brezhnev. The bureaucracy's search for a solution had begun under Yuri Andropov, Brezhnev's successor and Gorbachev's sponsor, and was continued by Gorbachev and his associates under the brief caretaker government of Konstantin Chernenko, after Andropov died.

By the early 1980s the Soviet Union no longer could grow rapidly enough to defend itself against imperialism and to raise domestic living standards enough to contain discontent by the "extensive" method of applying more labor power, means of production, raw materials and energy according to bureaucratic command. It had to raise its labor productivity and, particularly in the civilian sector, improve its technology and product quality.

The economic stagnation had military implications. In the US and the other imperialist countries, the civilian sector of the economy supported the military sector by reliably providing cheap, high-quality materials and equipment needed by the military. Future workers and technicians in the military sector and future soldiers learned aspects of their professions as youth, by using, trouble-shooting or repairing cars, electronic equipment, computers, video games and other sophisticated machines. In the Soviet Union, the military could not count on such support.

More importantly, the economic stagnation had negative and even dangerous social implications. By 1980 the Soviet Union had come a long way from the devastation of World War I and the 1918-20 civil war, the brutal forced march of the 1928-33 industrialization and collectivization, the bloody purges and the concentration camps of the mid-1930s, the deaths of 20 million Soviets in World War II, and the sacrifices and anxiety of the early cold war. Living standards were much higher, the gulags were closed, and life was more secure.

By 1980, however, these earlier periods no longer were the main reference points for the Soviet population. Increasingly, the main reference point was contemporary imperialist society. Compared to Western Europe, the Soviet Union did not look so good. All sections of the population -- the workers, the peasants, the urban middle class, and much of the bureaucracy -- envied the higher living standards, more available and higher quality consumer goods, and democratic rights in the West.

Sections of the population went further. Some of the artisan workers and more prosperous peasants wanted to break away from the state enterprises to which they were tied and work fulltime for themselves. Some of the managers, technicians and professionals wanted to set up their own businesses, and many wanted to increase their authority and autonomy within the government bureaucracies and state enterprises. Many of the bureaucrats wanted to free themselves from the constraints of the command system to advance their bureaucratic careers or become entrepreneurs.

The discontent might have been contained, if the Soviet economy had continued to grow relatively rapidly. Living standards would have continued to rise toward the levels of the imperialist countries. Rising living standards would have reduced social tensions and permitted more differentiation in income and social status. Reduced social tensions would have permitted more loosening of the police state. Those who wanted to improve their relative social position even more -- and those who objected to the increased social inequality -- might have been quieted by the absolute improvements. The stagnation of the Soviet economy meant that none of this was possible.

7. A government of workers' councils would have solved the problem of Soviet economic stagnation by organizing workers' control of the economy from the factory, farm, shop and office to the central plan. It would have revised the planned economy from top to bottom in the interests of producers and consumers, and engaged the creativity of the masses, as well as the technical middle class, in the problems of economic development.

A government of workers' councils would have adopted a revolutionary international policy and provided political, material and -- under appropriate circumstances -- military support to revolutions around the world. By destroying its imperialist environment, it would have saved itself.

This course was impossible for Gorbachev, whose mandate came from the bureaucracy, not the people. Workers' democracy and world revolution would have been the death of the bureaucracy. Unable to borrow from humanity's socialist future, Gorbachev borrowed from its capitalist present. From capitalist economics he borrowed the market. From capitalist politics he borrowed bourgeois democracy. From capitalist international relations he borrowed the most narrow and short-sighted interpretation of national interest. And from capitalist rhetoric be borrowed the hypocrisy of "human rights" and "peaceful solutions" for preserving the status quo.

Gorbachev proposed an economic restructuring, which he popularized as perestroika: decentralization of the civilian state economy; cost-accounting in state enterprises; "reward according to economic contribution;" extensive cooperativization and limited privatization in agriculture, retail trade and services; more trade with and investment by foreign capitalists; and the use of markets to coordinate economic activity. This was not capitalism, since the main means of production would remain state-owned, but it was a partial simulation of capitalism.

Gorbachev's main innovation was his political reforms, which he popularized as glasnost. Borrowing from bourgeois democracy, Gorbachev proposed more "openness" in the government and the media; freedom of speech, press and association; the rule of law; quasiparliamentary democracy; and, after much hesitation, an end to the Communist Party's political monopoly. Through glasnost Gorbachev hoped to build a constituency for reform strong enough to overcome the resistance of the working class and sections of the bureaucracy to the insecurity, inequality and instability that would result from perestroika.

Recognizing that perestroika would intensify national competition while glasnost permitted the expression of nationalist sentiment, Gorbachev proposed a more federal Soviet Union. The center would retain control of the military, the KGB, the interior police, foreign relations, external borders, a "unified economic space," a single currency, central banking, central revenue, energy, interrepublican transportation and communication, and major development projects. But most other governmental functions would be decentralized to the republican and local levels.

Hoping to shift resources from defense to economic development, Gorbachev renewed the old Stalinist quest for peaceful coexistence with imperialism through counterrevolutionary collaboration. Under the rubric of "new political thinking," Gorbachev abandoned the liberation struggles in Southern Africa and Central America and permitted the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe, including the capitalist reunification of Germany.

The realization of Gorbachev's policies often went beyond his intentions or wishes, especially the 1989-90 events in Eastern Europe. But as late as spring 1990 Gorbachev still seemed to be in charge. He had all the elements of glasnost in place and was discussing a new Union Treaty with the republics. Unhappy as he may have been about Eastern Europe, he was closing in on a general European agreement, the culmination of his "new political thinking."

With regard to the economy, however, Gorbachev could not move forward. Fearing the class and national struggles that would result from further moves toward a market economy, he retreated from price reform in spring and again in fall 1990. He zigzagged between the "radicals" -- really liberals -- who said "go on" and the "conservatives" who said "hold back." Attempting to achieve an impossible consensus, Gorbachev increasingly focussed on the new Union Treaty as the ultimate glasnost that would make perestroika possible.

8. Gorbachev's vacillation did not solve but rather worsened the Soviet economic crisis. The promise of perestroika and the presence of glasnost undermined the discipline of the command economy without replacing it with the discipline of the market. In summer and fall 1990 every unit of Soviet society, from workers' and peasants' households to the union republics and central ministries, began speculative or defensive hoarding, and the distribution system all but collapsed. In 1991 the chaos spilled over from distribution to production, as enterprises, republics and ministries refused to cooperate, and production fell by an estimated 9-12 percent.

The economic and political chaos precipitated the August 1991 coup by Gorbachev's own top ministers. Gorbachev had won every party and parliamentary confrontation until the coup, but he had lost his popular base and much of his bureaucratic support as the economic crisis worsened. When he was ousted in August, only the Yeltsin faction and the imperialists demanded his return. After the coup's collapse, Gorbachev had to admit that the government and party leadership had betrayed or failed to defend him. He disbanded his cabinet and called for the dissolution of the CPSU and its rebirth as a "democratic" party. The CPSU Central Committee humbly complied.

The August coup revealed not only Gorbachev's weaknesses and contradictions but also the weaknesses and contradictions of the "conservative" bureaucratic faction that spawned the coup. The coup leaders easily arrested Gorbachev vacationing in the Crimea but botched things from then on. In particular, they failed to seize effective control of communications and permitted Yeltsin, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, Leningrad Soviet Chairman Anatoly Sobchak, Moscow Soviet Chairman Gavril Popov and others to denounce the coup in the Soviet and foreign media. This was not just incompetence on the part of the coup leaders. Their weakness was political. Their faction of the bureaucracy and they themselves were confused and divided.

Soviet Vice-President Gennadi Yanayev, Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov, Defense Minister Dmitri Yazov, Minister of State Security (KGB) Vladimir Kryuchkov, Interior Minister Boris Pugo and the other three members of the GKCP all had been appointed by Gorbachev and claimed to support his policies. Their coup declaration promised to continue Gorbachev's reform policies and "honor the Soviet Union's international obligations" to imperialism. The coup leaders took their stand on "law and order" and "preserving the union," rather than protecting workers' living standards or preserving state ownership of the means of production.

This stance meant that the coup leaders had little credibility with the bureaucracy or with the population. Those who supported the Gorbachev reforms saw the coup leaders as undermining them, and those who opposed the reforms saw the coup leaders as offering no alternative. True bureaucrats, obtuse and arrogant, Yanayev and the others apparently thought their orders simply would be obeyed, either from relief that someone finally was taking charge or from habit.

In fact, the coup was met with a massive wall of indifference. Most of the party and government bureaucracy, the officer corps, the urban middle class, and the workers, peasants and soldiers neither supported nor opposed the coup. Yegor Ligachev, the "conservative" party leader, and Viktor Alksnis, head of the "conservative" Soyuz fraction in the Supreme Soviet, sympathized with the aims of the coup but did not back it. They thought the coup leaders were too weak to succeed.

If the situation had developed differently, Trotskyists might have found themselves in a bloc with the "conservative" bureaucrats. We were not indifferent to the outcome of the bureaucratic struggle. The three factions had different projects with different social implications. Yeltsin wanted to speed the introduction of markets, which would have moved the former Soviet Union further in the direction of capitalist restoration. The coup leaders wanted to slow the process. Even though their formal program was Gorbachev's, they would have acted as a brake on capitalist restoration.

If sectors of the working class had rallied in support of the coup, wanting to struggle against austerity and other moves toward capitalist restoration, Trotskyists should have allied with them. In this alliance they should have put forward their independent program of democratically elected councils of workers' power. In doing this, they would have been applying Trotsky's method in the Transitional Program with regard to the factions of Butenko, Reiss and Stalin. Although Yeltsin is not a fascist, his project is procapitalist enough so that this would have been appropriate.

From this perspective, impelling concreteness is given to the question of the "defense of the USSR." If tomorrow the bourgeois-fascist grouping, the "faction of Butenko," so to speak, should attempt the conquest of power, the "faction of Reiss" inevitably would align itself on the opposite side of the barricades. Although it would find itself temporarily the ally of Stalin, it would nevertheless defend not the Bonapartist clique but the social base of the USSR, i.e., the property wrenched away from the capitalists and transformed into state property. ("The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International," in The Transitional Program for Socialist Revolution, third edition, New York: Pathfinder Press, 1977, p. 144)

In the coup as it actually developed, the coup leaders failed to rally the workers, were unable to cope with the problems of having "seized power," and lost their nerve. On 20 August Yazov reportedly resigned, and Pavlov put himself in hospital. The next day Yazov, Kryuchkov, Pugo and Nikolai Tizyakov, President of the Association of State Enterprises and a GKCP member, flew to the Crimea to surrender to Gorbachev, and Supreme Soviet Chairman Anatoly Lukyanov flew there to plead innocence. All the coup leaders were arrested except Pugo, who committed suicide.

The putschist, haphazard character of the coup was confirmed by the videotaped interrogation of Yazov. The future GKCP had attempted a "legal coup" in June 1991, asking the Supreme Soviet to give "emergency powers" to Pavlov. When that failed, they discussed a military coup. The final decision was taken at an 18 August 1991 meeting of Kryuchkov, Pugo and Yazov in which "quite a decent amount of alcohol" was consumed. The three agreed that once they announced the coup "things would be worked out." But now Yazov regarded himself as "an old idiot" and wanted "to sink into the earth."

As things turned out, the coup was pathetic. But the sentiment that led to the coup remains the majority sentiment in the bureaucracy at all levels, and the bureaucracy remains the most powerful organized political force in the former Soviet Union. If the "conservatives" could unite around a determined policy and a strong leader, they could still regain their dominance -- unless the working class seizes power through political revolution first.

9. The bureaucratic faction grouped around Yeltsin moved center stage as a result of the August coup. Yeltsin in Moscow and Sobchak in Leningrad made themselves the focus of media attention. Rallies they led drew up to 200,000 people, and Yeltsin's call for a general strike brought out a fifth of Soviet coal miners. After the coup Yeltsin reveled in humiliating the CPSU and even Gorbachev. But their triumph was less complete than the imperialist media portrayed it.

One consequence of the failed coup was an intensified scramble by the bureaucracies of every economic and governmental unit to protect their own interests. The larger national units, including nearly all the fifteen Union Republics, declared "independence," and the smaller ones demanded "autonomy." But the disintegration did not stop there, as virtually every city and enterprise in the Soviet Union asserted some form of "sovereignty."

Before they had time to finish their vodka and champagne from celebrating the "death of communism," Yeltsin and Sobchak found themselves joining Gorbachev and other "former communists" in calling for the "preservation of the union." Yeltsin threatened to "redraw borders" if the other republics refused and promised "cooperation on an equal basis" if they agreed. The "nine plus one" agreement between the republics and the center was revived, an interim central government was formed, and negotiations for a revised Union Treaty and new Constitution were begun.

Yeltsin, Sobchak and Popov soon found themselves targets in the bureaucratic scramble, clashing with their respective soviets and threatening to rule by decree if "democracy" became too cumbersome. A month after the coup Yeltsin withdrew to the Black Sea for a two-week holiday to write his memoirs of the coup for a capitalist publisher, leaving the problems of government to his quarreling cabinet. Yeltsin lost his second Economics Minister of the year, as Yevgeny Saburov resigned, saying "free market" reform was hopeless with the current political chaos in Russia and the Soviet Union.

As an experienced politician and an accomplished demagogue, Yeltsin understood that time was not on his side. He had to act or begin to get the reputation of being another vacillator like Gorbachev. Yeltsin continued to push for a new Union Treaty until the Ukraine election on 1 December 1991. Despite Gorbachev's dire warnings, the Ukrainian electorate voted for independence in a referendum on the question and elected Leonid Kravchuk president. Kravchuk is a wily Stalinist politician who remained in the CPSU until the August coup and silent during the coup, but vociferously championed Ukrainian independence afterwards. Kravchuk's newfound nationalism and the reincarnated CPSU's bureaucratic apparatus got him elected.

Yeltsin understood the significance of this. In the Ukraine, Byelorussia, Kazakhstan and most of the other non-Russian republics, the fragmented bureaucracy was regrouping under the banner of national independence. Yeltsin had to strike a deal with the leading republican bureaucrats if he was to hold together what remained of the Soviet Union and have a chance to build a new Russian empire. The deal was struck at a meeting of Yeltsin, Kravchuk and Byelorussian Soviet Chairman Stanislav Shushkevich in Brest on 8 December. They decided to dissolve the Soviet Union and establish the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in its place. Gorbachev was informed the next day. Nazarbayev signed on a few days later.

Gorbachev protested the "illegal action," but his protests got nowhere. The bureaucracy had fragmented along national and local lines, and every bureaucratic unit was scrambling to protect itself. The sections of the bureaucracy that still wanted a strong center, most importantly the military, decided that the only way they could have one was to rebuild the Soviet Union starting from the CIS. The failed August coup had taught them that the only alternative was imposing a military dictatorship, which would mean civil war. Gorbachev resigned on 25 December, and what was left of the Congress of People's Deputies voted to dissolve the Soviet Union on 26 December.

10. Again, as in August, Yeltsin's victory was not as complete as it might have seemed. The very formation of the CIS was in part a rebellion of the fragmented bureaucracy against Yeltsin and Yeltsin's policies, as well as Russian dominance. The leaders of the other republics objected to Yeltsin's plan to deregulate most prices on 2 January 1992, as well as his attempt to take over from Gorbachev as commander-in-chief of the former Soviet military.

Matters did not go well for Yeltsin in Russia either. On the weekend the three Slavic republican leaders were meeting to declare the CIS, Popov, Sobchak and Shevardnadze were attending the founding congress of their Democratic Reform Movement, which did not include Yeltsin. Immediately afterward, Popov threatened to resign as Moscow mayor to protest Yeltsin's "interference," Russian Vice-President Alexander Rutskoi called Yeltsin's price reform "unworkable," and the Russian Soviet again refused to go along with Yeltsin's limited privatization proposals.

The disarray in the Yeltsin camp, like the disarray in the Gorbachev and "conservative" camps, has a political basis. The forces that grouped themselves around Yeltsin during the coup are extremely heterogeneous. They include demagogic, opportunist ex-CPSU politicians like Yeltsin and Kravchuk; successful politicians from a non-CPSU background like Sobchak and Popov; former Gorbachev supporters like Shevardnadze and Aleksandr Yakovlev; "democratic," free-market intellectuals like Saburov and Grigory Yavlinsky; Russian nationalists; the Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy; and various profiteers, gangsters and other riffraff.

These forces want to go in the direction of capitalist restoration, but they do not agree on the degree of privatization to attempt to impose or how fast to go. Most importantly, at the present moment, they do not agree on the need to move to a market economy immediately, without regard to the economic, social and political consequences.

In addition, the forces in the Yeltsin camp are presented with several intractable realties. First, the disintegration of the Soviet Union is hard to control. The bureaucrats at all levels would like disintegration to stop at the level above them in the hierarchy, since that would free them from the power of their lords and leave them with power over their vassals. But as the insubordination moves down the chain of command, the disintegration threatens the positions of all the bureaucrats.

Second, the components of the Soviet Union -- republics, regions, cities, industrial associations, enterprises, etc. -- need each other. Disintegration is advantageous to the various bureaucrats, managers and would-be capitalists only if it leaves them in charge of viable political and economic units. Universal ruin would not advance their ambitions.

Third, the Soviet economic crisis cannot be combatted with markets but only with some form of planning. When an imperialist bourgeoisie is faced with a crisis, such as a war or major economic depression, it turns to its government for "bourgeois planning" in the form of regulations, mandatory contracts, temporary government takeovers, nationalizations, wage controls, price controls, rationing, social welfare measures, and other "command" intrusions on the market principle. Even ideologically procapitalist governments in the former Soviet Union would have to do the same.

Finally, the Soviet working class will not simply accept the attacks on its living standards, economic security, and relative social equality that would be necessary to make private ownership profitable and capitalism possible. Workers will resist, perhaps beginning with the more privileged, more confident workers but quickly drawing in the less skilled workers, non-European nationalities, women, youth and others who would be especially disadvantaged by the changes.

11. The disarray in the three contending bureaucratic factions would be a positive sign, if the Soviet working class were mobilizing independently in its own interests. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The workers by and large sat out the August and December events. This means that despite the bureaucratic disarray, the drift in Soviet politics is toward capitalist restoration through disintegration of the union along national lines and increasing domination of the economy by markets and private ownership.

The danger is not new, although it is more acute than it has been in many years. In the Transitional Program Trotsky defined the long-run historical alternatives:

The USSR thus embodies terrific contradictions. But it still remains a degenerated workers' state. Such is the social diagnosis. The political prognosis has an alternative character: either the bureaucracy, becoming ever more the organ of the world bourgeoisie in the workers' state, will overthrow the new forms of property and plunge the country back to capitalism; or the working class will crush the bureaucracy and open the way to socialism. ("The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International," p. 142, original emphasis)

The role of the bureaucracy in a possible capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union is a not question of subjective intentions but a question of objective possibilities. Of the three bureaucratic factions, the Yeltsinites have been the most inclined toward capitalist restoration, and their policies most tend in that direction. But the other bureaucratic factions also could accept capitalist restoration, if their leaders could be sure that they would be the new ruling class at the end of the process. As Trotsky pointed out, however, this is not a simple matter.

At the 11th Party Congress in March 1922, Lenin, in practically bidding farewell to the party, addressed these words to the commanding group: "History knows transformations of all sorts. To rely upon conviction, devotion and other excellent spiritual qualities -- that is not to be taken seriously in politics." Being determines consciousness. During the last fifteen years, the government has changed its social composition even more deeply than its ideas. Since of all strata of Soviet society the bureaucracy has best solved its own social problem, and is fully content with the existing situation, it has ceased to offer any subjective guarantee whatever of the socialist direction of its policy. It continues to preserve state property only to the extent that it fears the proletariat. This saving fear is nourished and supported by the illegal party of Bolshevik-Leninists, which is the most conscious expression of the socialist tendencies opposing that bourgeois reaction with which the Thermidorian bureaucracy is completely saturated. 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 is not enough. You have to overthrow it. The October Revolution has been betrayed by the ruling stratum, but not yet overthrown. It has a great power of resistance, coinciding with the established property relations, with the living force of the proletariat, the consciousness of its best elements, the impasse of world capitalism, and the inevitability of world revolution. (The Revolution Betrayed, fourth edition, New York: Pathfinder Press, 1977, pp. 251-252)

How could capitalism be restored in the Soviet Union? As events there and in Eastern Europe have reminded us, life is richer than our theory or, at any rate, our assessments. Nonetheless, without claiming to have exhausted the possibilities, we can look at several scenarios for capitalist restoration to help us understand the forces at work and assess the likelihood and immediacy of the danger.

A first scenario for capitalist restoration would be that imperialism offers to invest immense amounts of capital in the Soviet Union to raise living standards immediately and labor productivity over time, so that a section of the bureaucracy is able to sell capitalism to the population with little resistance. This might be called the "East German model" for capitalist restoration.

Just to describe the scenario suggests the problems with it. The West German bourgeoisie, pursuing its long-term strategic interests and appealing to German nationalism, made a political decision to subsidize the East German economy enough to win support for capitalist reunification, despite the costs. But world imperialism cannot duplicate this in the Soviet Union. It lacks the capital, and, more importantly, it lacks the will.

Capitalism is an anarchic, profit-driven system. Its main ongoing economic activities must generate relatively quick profits for competing elements of financial oligarchies in competing imperialist nation-states. It cannot qualitatively develop the productive forces in any sector of the world economy -- the semicolonies, the degenerated and deformed workers' states, or even the imperialist countries -- because this would require the planned sacrifice of individual and national capitalist interests for many years. At base, this is why capitalism in the imperialist epoch is historically reactionary and poses the alternative of socialism or barbarism.

A second scenario for capitalist restoration would be that the Soviet bureaucracy or a section of it creates the conditions for capitalist profitability "democratically," with the consent of the working class. This might be called the "Polish model" for capitalist restoration, although the Polish government and would-be capitalists and their stingy imperialist mentors have not been able to carry it out. Again, just to describe the scenario suggests the problems with it.

Creating the conditions for capitalist profitability would require sharply increasing the potential rate of exploitation of the working class through reducing necessary labor and increasing surplus labor without applying more means of production or better technique. In other words, it would mean imposing the austerity program all sections of the bureaucracy fear to attempt. It would mean eliminating the right to a job; sharply curtailing social provision for healthcare, childcare, education, unemployment, incapacity to work, retirement, etc.; and ending the subsidies and price controls that guarantee low, stable prices for most other necessities.

These measures would create a reserve army of the unemployed, drive down real wages and living standards, widen wage differentials, and intensify the labor process through increased labor discipline and speedup. They would create a "free" labor market as part of a process of primitive accumulation in which the working class was "separated" from the means of production. Privatization would complete the process by formalizing the capital-wage labor relationship: capitalist owners of the means of production hiring workers who must sell the use of their labor power for wages to survive.

The problem is that the Soviet working class will not accept the destruction of its social gains from the October Revolution. It will fight the austerity and resist the creation of a "free" labor market. It may not understand that this also means resisting capitalist restoration and may even attempt to reconcile its resistance with "support" for bourgeois democracy and market economy. But it will resist, and this will obstruct the process of capitalist restoration and pose the threat that the resistance might become conscious, revolutionary and internationalist.

A third scenario for capitalist restoration would be that a section of the Soviet bureaucracy, unable to create the conditions for capitalist profitability "democratically," creates them through the Bonapartist dictatorship of a "strong leader." This too might be called the "Polish model" for capitalist restoration, although Polish President Lech Walesa has yet to get himself assigned the leading role. Again, just to describe the scenario suggests the problems with it.

Bonapartism is not new to the Soviet Union. In fact, the understanding of Stalinism as a Bonapartist "regime of crisis" is central to Trotsky's analysis of the Soviet Union.

Caesarism, or its bourgeois form, Bonapartism, enters the scene in those moments of history when the sharp struggle of two camps raises the state power, so to speak, above the nation, and guarantees it, in appearance, a complete independence of classes -- in reality, only the freedom necessary for the defense of the privileged. The Stalin regime, rising above a politically atomized society, resting upon a police and officers' corps, and allowing of no control whatsoever, is obviously a variation of Bonapartism -- a Bonapartism of a new type not before seen in history.

Caesarism arose upon the basis of a slave society shaken by inward strife. Bonapartism is one of the political weapons of the capitalist regime in its critical period. Stalinism is a variety of the same system, but upon the basis of a workers' state torn by the antagonism between an organized and armed soviet aristocracy and the unarmed toiling masses. (The Revolution Betrayed, pp. 277-278)

Trotsky explained that the relative independence of Stalinist Bonapartism is due to its position of balancing between imperialism and the atomized, repressed Soviet working class. But its particular weakness is its lack of support from an indigenous ruling class privately owning the means of production. This exacerbates the general weakness of Bonapartism: that it owes its existence to the temporary inability of either of the two struggling camps to impose its rule on the other.

Yeltsin might like to preside over capitalist restoration in the former Soviet Union and even to set himself up as the richest tyrant in history. But he is not at all sure he can obtain the power to do so, that at the critical moment the army would obey orders to enforce his decrees against the working class. And if he failed, he would be lucky if his fate were no worse than being shot and hung up in Red Square by his heels. Now that he is the chief executive in the former Soviet Union, Yeltsin had to proceed with deregulation of prices, the nettle that Gorbachev refused to grasp, or lose all credibility. But he is anxiously awaiting the workers' response.

A fourth scenario for capitalist restoration would be the crushing of working-class resistance by a mass fascist movement and the restoration of capitalism by a fascist dictatorship. When the capitalists are unable to rule through bourgeois government and its laws and institutions, they turn to other means. One of these is fascism. As Gorbachev borrowed bourgeois democracy from the capitalists, another section of the bureaucracy might borrow fascism. This would not be out of character for the bureaucracy, as Trotsky pointed out:

In the last analysis, Soviet Bonapartism owes its birth to the belatedness of the world revolution. But in the capitalist countries the same cause gave rise to fascism. We thus arrive at a conclusion, unexpected at first glance, but in reality inevitable, that the crushing of Soviet democracy by an all-powerful bureaucracy and the extermination of bourgeois democracy by fascism were produced by one and the same cause: the dilatoriness of the world proletariat in solving the problems set for it by history. Stalinism and fascism, in spite of a deep difference in social foundations, are symmetrical phenomena. In many of their features they show a deadly similarity. (The Revolution Betrayed, pp. 277-278)

Trotsky held up fascism as a likely form for capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union and noted that there were elements in the bureaucracy -- the "faction of Butenko" -- who wanted just that. Trotsky's analogy was mainly with a fascist dictatorship in power, rather than fascism as a mass petty-bourgeois movement on its way to power. But the relative weakness of the Stalinist bureaucracy today makes the latter relevant as well.

If a section of the bureaucracy wanted capitalist restoration but could not achieve it through "democratic" or Bonapartist methods, it might try to organize a mass fascist movement to crush the workers' resistance. The ranks of the movement would be recruited from the urban and rural petty-bourgeoisie and lumpenproletariat. Its stormtroopers would be youth from the same backgrounds. Its ideology would include anticommunism, populism, nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and homophobia. And its leaders and sponsors would be the new capitalists and their bureaucratic friends.

The problems with this scenario are obvious. A ruling group that plays with the fire of fascism risks getting incinerated. This is especially true of a bureaucratic ruling caste that cannot hide behind its sacred private property. The description of bourgeois fascism in the Transitional Program also would apply to fascism of Stalinist origin.

The bourgeoisie itself sees no way out. In countries where it has already been forced to stake its last upon the card of fascism, it now toboggans with closed eyes toward an economic and military catastrophe. ("The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Proletariat," p. 111)

12. While Trotskyists see the obstacles to capitalist restoration in the former Soviet Union, we must not be complacent. With the working class disoriented and lacking revolutionary leadership, the drift of Soviet politics is toward capitalist restoration. We cannot foresee exactly how it will happen, but if the crisis of proletarian leadership is not resolved favorably, capitalist restoration will occur.

This realization should be not a cause for despair but a stimulus for action. The failed August coup resolved nothing, and successful December coup resolved nothing. The economic chaos and social disintegration continue. The working class has the power to overthrow the bureaucracy before the bureaucracy can restore capitalism. The key question is whether the working class will have the political leadership it needs to succeed.

The current Soviet left cannot provide the leadership the working class needs. Most of the Soviet left rejected all three contending bureaucratic factions during the August and December coups. That they did not ally with Yeltsin is particularly important. But no major organized political tendency is putting forward a clear alternative for the working class. This leaves the workers prey to a swirl of petty-bourgeois and bourgeois ideas from reform Stalinism, social democracy and syndicalism to cutthroat capitalism and nationalism.

The current Soviet left may well contain many key militants for the building of a Soviet vanguard party, but they must be won to Leninism and Trotskyism first. Trotskyists, including Trotskyists outside the former Soviet Union, can help by proposing an orientation for the struggle.

A Trotskyist policy for the former Soviet Union must be composed of two elements: a correct understanding of the objective needs of the situation and the ability to extend a "bridge" of transitional demands to the consciousness and felt needs of the workers and the oppressed. The first element requires a correct understanding of the interrelationship of workers' political revolution against the bureaucracy, defense of collectivized property, and world revolution. In the long run, the three are inseparable, but in the short run, they must be prioritized.

We must not lose sight for a single moment of the fact that the question of overthrowing the Soviet bureaucracy is for us subordinate to the question of preserving state property in the means of production in the USSR; that the question of preserving state property in the means of production in the USSR is subordinate for us to the question of the world proletarian revolution. ("The USSR in War," p. 21)

Building a bridge to the consciousness of the workers and the oppressed requires a deep and subtle understanding of that consciousness. There are real limits to which revolutionaries outside the former Soviet Union can have such an understanding, but the demands and method of the Transitional Program indicate the correct approach. In fact, the starting point today is the one Trotsky proposed in 1938.

A fresh upsurge of the revolution in the USSR will undoubtedly begin under the banner of the struggle against social inequality and political oppression. ("The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Proletariat," p. 145, original emphasis)

The struggle against social inequality and political oppression sets Trotskyists against all three contending factions in the August and December coups, since all will try to repress the working class to enforce the social inequality of the market. Developing a full program of transitional demands for the former Soviet Union would require extensive input from revolutionaries organizing there. But the following program is a beginning.

13. Trotskyists in the former Soviet Union need more than a program of transitional demands. They need a transitional approach to building a new Bolshevik party. This will require a combination of propaganda for the full program of transitional demands, agitation around specific demands that answer key questions on which the workers are prepared to act, exemplary leadership of particular mass struggles, and skillful organizational moves to place the Trotskyists at center of the revolutionary regroupment of the proletarian vanguard.

The initial Trotskyist core must preserve its internal cohesiveness as a democratic-centralist organization, while carrying out the tactical blocs, entries, splits and fusions necessary to build a party. The Trotskyists must focus on the proletarian vanguard, particularly the sections of it naturally drawn to Trotskyism. To reach the vanguard, they must go into the unions, strike committees, distribution committees, defense committees and other organizations created by the workers to defend their interests.

The Trotskyists must go into the committees to defend national minorities in all the republics and into the committees of women, lesbians and gay men, and youth. They must check out the range of left organizations with anticapitalist politics and a mass base, since the process of building a Trotskyist party may require entry into non-Trotskyist organizations. The Trotskyists must fight everywhere for the workers' emergency plan of action and the building of a Trotskyist party.

The road from the present crisis of leadership in the former Soviet Union to the seizure of power by a new Bolshevik party is not yet clear. The road may be as difficult as the road of the original Bolshevik party, although the journey time must be shorter. The road of the original party included not only the political struggles of Lenin and Trotsky but also the strike waves of the 1890s and early 1900s, the Russo-Japanese war, the 1905 revolution, the Stolypin reaction, the recovery of the workers' movement after 1910, World War I, the February revolution, and the July days, leading up to the October revolution.

The USFI must take the lead in the struggle to build a new Bolshevik party in the former Soviet Union. The IEC should strengthen and make real the campaign to build sections there and in Eastern Europe, drawing on the resources of all the sections and the international organization.

The IEC should increase the fund for the campaign, asking each section to reassess its contribution. It should direct the Bureau to hire organizers from inside and outside the former Soviet Union -- solid comrades with a good knowledge of Marxism, conditions in the former Soviet Union, and Russian, Ukrainian or other relevant languages. With some comrades remaining abroad to provide publishing and other support, these comrades should be dispatched to the CIS to work with the USFI comrades already there, to follow up the contacts the USFI already has, to establish new contacts, and to develop the work.

The Soviet crisis is the most important question facing the international working class today. Building a section in the former Soviet Union is the most important international task of the USFI, not only for the sake of building a party there but also for building the Fourth International. The IEC should call a world congress in the first half of 1993 to discuss the perspectives of the International in the face of the crisis of Stalinism and to assess the situation in the former Soviet Union and the results obtained in the campaign to build a Trotskyist party there.