Deformed Workers' States

berlinWhat failed in Russia and Eastern Europe was not communism or socialism, in any sense that this was understood by Marx or Lenin, but a bureaucratic and totalitarian caricature. Lenin explained that the movement towards socialism requires the democratic control of industry, society and the state by the proletariat. Genuine socialism is incompatible with the rule of a privileged bureaucratic elite, which will inevitably be accompanied by colossal corruption, nepotism, waste, mismanagement and chaos.

The nationalised planned economies in the USSR and Eastern Europe achieved astonishing results in the fields of industry, science, health and education. But, as Trotsky predicted as early as 1936, the bureaucratic regime ultimately undermined the nationalised planned economy and prepared the way for its collapse and the return of capitalism.

– From The fall of the Berlin Wall

The 5 December strike mobilised a number of demonstrators not seen in France since the struggles of autumn 2010 (against the Sarkozy government’s pension reform). While we do not know the exact number of striking workers, it is likely that no interprofessional strike has had such a big impact on France’s economy since December 1995.

In this talk from the recent Revolution Festival, hosted by Socialist Appeal in Britain, Marie Frederiksen – editor of the Danish Marxist paper 'Revolution' – discusses the impact of the Berlin Wall, which was broken apart 30 years ago today, on 9 November 1989. This marked the beginning of the end for the Stalinist regimes of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

In 1968, over 50 years ago, USSR-backed tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia to crush the Prague Spring. But could the movement have been successful? The Prague Spring was a movement with the potential to develop into a socialist political revolution against the Communist Party bureaucracy, possibly with far-reaching consequences. For this reason, over the last half century, this inspiring episode has been slandered by Stalinists, co-opted by liberals, and distorted by both.

Prague 1968

The Prague Spring was a movement with the potential to develop into a socialist political revolution against the Communist Party (CP) bureaucracy, possibly with far-reaching consequences. For this reason, over the last half century, the Prague Spring has been slandered by Stalinists, co-opted by liberals, and distorted by both.

This month marks the anniversary of the December 1970 Polish protests – or ‘Black Thursday’ – when the workers of Polish coastal cities of Gdańsk, Szczecin, Gdynia and Elbląg rose in protest against a huge increase in prices of basic food products, but were harshly repressed by the so-called People’s Army. The cost of striking against price rises was high: 46 workers and students were killed and thousands injured in the stand-offs, just a week before Christmas.

The Russian revolution changed the course of world history and the last century has been dominated by its consequences. Ted Grant’s book traces the evolution of Soviet Russia from the Bolshevik victory of 1917, through the rise of Stalinism and the political counter-revolution, its emergence as a super-power after the Second World War, and the crisis of Stalinism and its eventual collapse. The book has been updated and edited in the light of new developments and the subsequent re-establishment of capitalism in Russia.

60 years ago, on 23rd October 1956, the workers and youth of Hungary rose up in a political revolution against the Stalinist bureaucracy. Contrary to Stalinist slanders at the time, this was never a movement for the restoration of capitalism, but an attempt by the Hungarian working class to establish a healthy socialist society.

Fred Weston introducing the discussion on Stalinism at the British Marxist Summer School on 18 June.

Twenty years ago as the Berlin Wall came tumbling down the bourgeoisie in the west was euphoric, rejoicing at the “fall of communism”. Twenty years later things look very different as capitalism has entered its most severe crisis since 1929. Now a majority in former East Germany votes for the left and harks back to what was positive about the planned economy. After rejecting Stalinism, they have now had a taste of capitalism, and the conclusion drawn is that socialism is better than capitalism.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia, we are here reprinting an article by Alan Woods, first written on September 4, 1968, and published in the Winter edition of the Spark, in which he clearly relates the momentous events that shook the Stalinist regimes and explains their significance.

Hungary is preparing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1956 uprising. The Stalinists in the past presented that movement as reactionary. Today's regime is trying to usurp the banner of 1956, falsifying completely what really happened. It is our duty to explain what really happened. The heroes of 1956 were trying to build a democratic workers' state and genuine socialism.

23rd October sees the anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. That movement of the Hungarian masses signified the culmination of the growing discontent evident in Eastern Europe at the time.

A dozen years ago, the Berlin Wall fell. The world was changed irrevocably. The wave of East European revolutions, the unification of Germany, and the collapse of the Soviet Union all followed in quick succession. An eye-witness account by Heiko Khoo.

'Lenin wake up, Brezhnev has gone mad.' This was one of the slogans chanted on the street of Prague 30 years ago as Russian and Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia. The upheavals in Czechoslovakia had began with a stormy session of the Writers Union which passed a resolution supporting Soviet author Solzhenitsyn's protest against censorship.

At a moment of great confusion and disorientation among broad layers of the working class and the left in general, the publication of the book Russia - from Revolution to Counter-revolution is highly opportune. This is an excellent example of the absolute validity of revolutionary Marxist thought. Despite any imperfections, gaps, and errors which might be attributed to Marxism by some, it is a fact that no other methodology or doctrine known to date possesses the necessary precision and clarity of analysis and interpretation to explain the historical events which we are witnessing, above all in the ex-Soviet Union and the other countries where a regime of state

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One of the most important contributions made by Trotsky to the theoretical storehouse of Marxism was his analysis of the rise and development of Stalinism. He explained that the fundamental social gains of the October revolution remained intact, in the form of the state-ownership of the economy and the plan of production, but that the working class had been politically expropriated by a new ruling caste. Against those who saw this bureaucracy as a new ruling class, Trotsky argued that it was a parasitic growth resting on the economic base of a workers' state, and not a class.

The Hungarian revolution was the most vivid confirmation of the perspectives of Trotsky, that the workers under Stalinist dictatorship, far from accepting their conditions or demanding a return to capitalism, would move in a political revolution to take power into their own hands. The tremendously inspiring events of the Hungarian October are full of lessons for the workers of Eastern Europe and the whole world.

In 1966 an economic crisis forced Yugoslav leader Tito to announce a plan of reforms in order to decentralise power. Bureaucratic corruption and mismanagement were exposed for the first time in the Yugoslav press. Ted Grant explained how self-reform on part of the bureaucracy would not solve the problem and why workers' democracy and internationalism would be the only way forward.

At the peak of the economic growth of the USSR, in 1965, cracks appeared in the planned economy revealing that the burden of the privileged caste and bureaucratic mismanagement was becoming more and more unbearable. Ted Grant explained the reasons for this crisis and the futility of the attempts to solve it without restoring workers’ democracy.

In 1963 there were indications that a crisis was brewing in the USSR. Ted Grant showed how the twists and turns of Kruschev's policies were empirical attempts on the part of the Russian bureaucracy to reform the system in order to avoid the possibility of a political revolution developing along the lines of Hungary 1956.