Sweden: Socialists struggle against Stalinism

"Do you want the same as in Russia?" was always a standard argument from right-wingers against socialists.

Second in a series of articles from Offensiv, the paper of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (cwi Sweden). socialistworld.net.

Socialists struggle against Stalinism

The fact that there were and are Stalinists prepared to answer "Yes" has of course made their propaganda easier. But these bourgeois propagandists, or the "journalism" of the TV reporter, have never seriously tried to analyse Stalinism.

The only viable method of analysis of Stalin and Stalinism was established by the Russian Marxist, Leon Trotsky already in the 1930s. Trotsky explained how the Russian Revolution, which he co-lead with Lenin, had degenerated to a bloody dictatorship run by one individual, Stalin. The basis for this was a) the underdevelopment of Russia, b) the defeat of the revolutions in more advanced countries and c) the growing together of the old Tsarist bureaucracy and a conservative layer within the Communist Party. The political counter-revolution was conducted through enormous battles in the 1920s and 30s, when millions of communists, workers and peasants were purged and executed by the regime.

Stalin had no agenda apart from his own power and privilege. The mistakes, sharp turns and open betrayals against revolutionary movements therefore became a pattern. For example, Stalin believed in 1933 that Hitler would not be long in power. But when the strong German Communist Party was quickly destroyed, Stalin stayed silent on the German situation for more than a year.

Trotsky developed a socialist programme to overthrow Stalinism. This included abolishing all privileges, holding elections and establishing the right to reselect all officials, no standing army and free trade union rights. To carry through this programme, a new, political revolution was needed. Workers’ revolts in this direction took place in the DDR in 1953, in Hungary 1956, in Poland 1956, 1970 and 1980, and in Czechoslovakia in 1968, but all of them were defeated.

Trotsky’s perspective was one of either a new victorious workers’ revolution or the collapse of the Stalinist system. Trotsky predicted that although the planned economy was able to develop rapidly in the first decades despite the bureaucracy, without workers’ democracy it would suffocate. Stalinism would defend its version of a planned economy as long as it served their interests, and when it failed, then go over to support capitalism. This is just what happened in the 1980s and 1990s.

The capitalists in the West, and their parrots within the media and in politics, had no problem with the privileges in the East. Neither were they bothered when real socialists and workers’ leaders were imprisoned. Such events were common also in the "brother states" of the capitalists, such as South Africa, Iran or Chile after 1973.

Real socialists struggled against Stalinism. The bourgeoisie in the West praised Stalin during World War II and after that used Stalinism as a bat against the labour movement in their own countries. What capitalism had to offer Eastern Europe and Russia can be judged by the social crisis of today.

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November 2004