pays to take an unbiased look at the ideological and political
creed of those who regard themselves as the followers of Leo
Trotsky. This will
not only give one a better idea of today’s varied ideological
and political scene, but afford one deeper insight into the
tradition identified with the names of Marx and Lenin.
If approached without preconceived notions, many
Trotskyite slogans and tenets will turn out to be quite
instance, the antibureaucratic motives in the Trotskyites’
creed are perfectly consonant with the relevant views voiced by
radical democrats in the CPSU and by their opponents –
representatives of the Marxist Platform. Trotskyite revolutionary slogans, on the other hand, are much
like those of this platform and of the United Working People’s
Front. The best way
to acquaint oneself with modern Trotskyism is to interview its
correspondent met with Ernst Mandel, one of the leaders of the
International Trotskyite Union which has its organizations in
almost 50 countries across the world.
E. Mandel is the author of about 15 books.
Times: What is
the basic strategic concept of the Fourth International today?
Mandel: It boils down to the following points.
revolutionaries, i.e, we are convinced that reforms which we are
certainly working on so far as they serve the interests of
working people and their allies, are inadequate to resolve the
fundamental contradictions now tearing the world apart.
There is a need for radical revolutionary changes, which
can be carried out through the involvement of the masses,
through extensive and massive action and through the promotion
of bodies of self-organization (People’s Councils).
Simply speaking, we single out three revolutionary
processes going on in the world: the process of the proletarian
revolution in imperialist “parent states”; the process of
the permanent revolution which combines the completion of the
national-democratic and socialist revolutions (the winning of
power by the proletariat allied with the working peasantry), in
Third World countries; and the process of the political
anti-bureaucratic revolution in the countries usually referred
to as “socialist.”
staunch supporters of socialist democracy.
This means that we insist on the working class movement,
trade union organizations, mass parties and the state
institutions of post-capitalist societies exercising the right
to follow any trend, that we stand for political and cultural
pluralism, object to a one-party system, support free elections,
universal suffrage, with many candidates to choose from, demand
freedom of the press, associations, etc.
are convinced that the key problems in today’s world can be
solved only by joint efforts of working people, their allies,
nations and many countries.
We have raised successive generations of
internationalists who are fighting, above all, against
chauvinism at home, as Lenin taught us. What we mean is following an independent line, not imposed by
some “higher-ups” and irrespective of the interests of any
“leader state.” We
take pride in the fact that our French comrades were in the
vanguard of the struggle against the dirty war in Algeria, that
our British comrades were at the forefront of the struggle
against the Falkland war.
It seems to me that you underestimate capitalism’s
ability to adapt itself to new circumstances, to change, and the
importance of the global problems facing mankind.
This is the gist of the debates between reformists (be it
Left-wing Liberals, Social Democrats or Eurocommunists of the
West or the East), on the one hand, and revolutionaries, on the
other. When Mikhail
Gorbachev speaks about the objective “globalization” of a
number of problems, he certainly makes a step forward from the
traditional Stalinist concept that socialism can be built in one
individual country. We
have always opposed this utopian view.
We have always maintained that as it starts building
socialism in one or several countries, the working class will
meet with ever greater obstacles in its path until the
revolutionary process spreads to the world’s leading
mankind is faced with vital problems which can be solved on a
worldwide scale only; the threat of nuclear, chemical and
biological war, the ecological problem, famine, disease and
poverty in Third World countries.
These problems put the very existence of humankind at
stake, Mikhail Gorbachev says, and we share his view.
We think that any Communist, Socialist and any humanist
should give top priority to the solution of these problems.
is how to remove the threat of all these disasters once and for
entire “new thinking” approach consists in an attempt to
deal with these problems in ever closer cooperation with
international Big Business.
But it is
sheer illusion to think that in time the internal contradictions
of the capitalist world, the internal contradictions of
bourgeois society, the contradictions between the “parent
states” and the Third World will ever diminish and smooth
themselves out. On
the contrary, we think that explosive crises will follow one
another in succession irrespective of what reformists and
revolutionaries want or do.
I must note
that since 1945, hardly a year passed without a war going on in
some part of the world. Eighty
wars have been fought over the period.
I agree that efforts must be made to avoid attempts to
resolve this or that conflict through a suicidal war.
But how is the military-industrial complex to be
persuaded of that? How
are we to persuade repressive dictatorships like those of El
Salvador or Guatemala, which exterminate tens of thousands of
workers, peasants and intellectuals?
I think, social explosions will keep growing in number.
And I think that under the circumstance, Communists
(Socialists) should seek to make them victorious.
In your works, you often refer to bureaucracy as a
social force. What
do you mean by that?
We include in our concept of bureaucracy all those who
exercise power over society (be it those in control in the
state, in the economy, in “mass organizations,” in the field
of production and consumption of “cultural values”)
monopolistically, i.e., with the popular masses having no share
monopoly of power inevitably involves material privileges.
These privileges are modest for petty bureaucrats,
although one should not underestimate the negative results of
the excessive stability of their position and the innumerable
“little advantages” and abuses all this leads to.
These privileges are obviously excessive for the members
of the bureaucratic upper crust, with their exclusive shops,
country residences, hospital wards specially set aside for them,
with exclusive schools for their “gilded youth,” with their
privileged access to the best health resorts and their
unrestricted freedom to travel abroad…
on power and the consumer privileges ensuing therefrom
constitute a single whole and are inter-conditional.
One cannot be destroyed without the other.
“Command policy” looms over the “command
the circumstances, the slogan of “all power to the Soviets”
means a radical destruction of the bureaucrats’ monopoly on
power, and a radical elimination of their material privileges.
N.T. Aren’t the CPSU and Mikhail Gorbachev trying to do just
Indisputably, Mikhail Gorbachev, just a certain
number of scientists, ideologists and party leaders who support
him are exposing the abuses and privileges of bureaucracy in an
ever more radical form. This
is a positive fact, of course.
Let us face
facts, though: little if any progress has been made in actually
taking power and privileges away from the bureaucrats; we can
speak only about limited progress in the political sphere rather
than in the sphere of material privileges. This corroborates the most general law of history which says
that structures (and bureaucratic dictatorship is a structure)
cannot be destroyed gradually, step by step.
It takes a revolution to destroy them.
has upheld this premise for 55 years and has been labeled
“counterrevolutionary” for that.
Now most people in the USSR and in the international
communist movement as a whole know better than to mistake real
counterrevolutionaries for real revolutionaries.
exists an enormous gap between talk and action – a gap which
is causing the Soviet people ever growing discontent, if my
information is correct. As
a matter of fact, bureaucracy keeps its privileges and persists
in its abuses of power.
The cause of
that is clear. What
Gorbachev calls “revolution” and what many Western observers
refer to as “revolution from above” actually amounts to
reforms intended to make the bureaucratic regime more rational
rather than to eliminate it.
This regime can only be swept away by a “revolution
from below,” by the resolute action of tens and tens of
millions of Soviet citizens, and the working people above all.
But don’t you think that by going too fast and thus
destabilizing the situation, those bent on mass uncontrolled
action will cause anarchy which the internal and external
opponents of the current reforms will lose no time taking
Concerning apprehensions of “anarchy,”
“destabilization” and the return of neo-Stalinist
conservatives, this is certainly only partly true.
However, the ensuing calls for “moderation,”
addressed to “radicals” and to the working masses are
calls are not in line with the fundamental logic of what is
going on in your country today.
The real risk of neo-Stalinist conservatives opposed to
genuine democratization and to taking privileges away from the
bureaucratic upper crust comes from as yet insufficient rather
than excessive activity of the masses.
In the face of tens of millions of working people taking
vigorous and independent action in society, bureaucrats and
neo-Stalinists will be powerless.
At the same
time, procrastinations in carrying out reforms and the
limitations of the latter (there is no genuine workers’
control over economic management) are fraught with the danger of
the masses getting disappointed and demoralized.
This danger is very real, another risk factor being your
failure to bring about an appreciable rise in the masses’
standard of living. The
masses may lose heart as a result, and this is what
neo-Stalinists bank upon.
towards Gorbachev and his policy can be described as criticism
from the Left, not from the Right.
I regard neo-Stalinist conservatives as a right-wing
political force of the greatest danger to the Soviet people, to
the Soviet working class and to the international working class
as part of the international communist movement.
Its activity consists mainly in reiterating
pseudo-orthodoxal doctrinaire incantations which have nothing
altogether to do with Marxism and Lenin’s teaching.
This force opts for restricting and suppressing the
masses’ freedom of action, seeks to ban industrial action, to
suppress demonstrations, to smother the freedom of the press, to
restrict political, scientific and cultural pluralism.
scored by this force in these fields would be as disastrous to
the Soviet Union as Stalin’s coming to power was in the
You still haven’t made yourself clear on the key
issue – whether you support perestroika.
I am not at all trying to evade answering this question.
Our attitude to it – and to Stalin’s or Brezhnev’s
Soviet Union, for that matter – cannot be simplistically
reduced either to enthusiastic approval, or to vehement censure.
I am neither
a “Kremlinologist,” nor a self-styled “expert on Soviet
would be inappropriate and immodest on the part of a foreigner
– even an enthusiastic supporter of communism and an adherent
to the traditions of the October Revolution – to pronounce
categorical and peremptory judgements on what is going on in a
vast country like the Soviet Union. The most I can do is attempt some working hypotheses, leaving
it to subsequent development to confirm or refute them.
In light of
the above, our position can be set forth, in a nutshell, as
follows: an enthusiastic “yes” to glasnost, an no less
enthusiastic approval for the Soviet government’s disarmament
initiatives and proposals, for the Soviet troops’ withdrawal
from Afghanistan, for the renunciation of the Brezhnev’s
doctrine of the East European countries’ “limited
sovereignty,” for the restoration of normal interstate
relations with the People’s Republic of China.
“no” to regional agreement with imperialism , which would be
to the detriment of the struggle, freedom of action and
interests of the popular masses in Central America, South Africa
and other regions. An
emphatic “no” to any restrictions on aid to Cuba and
Nicaragua. A no
less emphatic “no” to the spread of the illusion that
imperialism can become “peaceful” and “sensible,” that
it is possible to solve mankind’s vital problems by
cooperating with it.
restrained, temporizing and hopeful “yes” to the dismantling
of the overcentralized “command economy.”
A restrained and temporizing “yes” to the use of
market mechanisms in the spheres of distribution, services,
small-scale light industry and agriculture.
“no” to all the options of economic development which
intensify social inequality, detract from the social security of
the lowest-paid working people, the “new poor.”
An emphatic “no” to any threat to full employment, to
the creation of unemployment with a view to “disciplining”
the workers. A
resolute “no” to the illusion that the logic of the market
can eliminate all the shortages and make up for all the failures
of the command economy. We are for a systematic spread of the idea of a democratic,
decentralized planning as the third way opposed both to the
command economy and to the market-dominated economy. Consumer-controlled producers (incidentally, production and
consumption often overlap in the USSR) ought to be their own
sovereign masters and make their own decisions on what to
produce, when to send their products and how, and where these
products are to be consumed.
self-government is to presuppose a certain flexibility, i.e.,
the masses should have a chance to make their own decisions, to
choose from among the alternative projects, and decide on their
own on the proportions of output to be distributed at the
national, republic, city and village industry and enterprise
decentralized planning is inseparably connected with democracy
and political pluralism. Without
this connection there is neither free choice of working people
nor real motivation to practice worker self-government.
The collapse of Stalinism, of what you call the
“command economy,” is identified in the West and in certain
East European countries with the demise of socialism in general.
Do you share this view?
First of all, while the “command economy” failed to
meet consumer demand in the USSR and Eastern European countries
at the level this is done in imperialist countries, it still
succeeded in bringing about an improvement of living and
cultural standards in those countries thanks to the advantages
of the planned economy. The
standard of living enjoyed by the average Soviet citizen, the
Polish or Hungarian peasant, today is beyond comparison with
what was the case before the revolutions in the relevant
China, the progress is still more striking.
These changes for the better are accompanied by real
inequality which, however, is less glaring than that in the West
and especially in Third World countries.
A concomitant of these positive changes is restricted
political freedom, which merits unqualified condemnation, of
course, and which has nothing to do with the logic of planning.
and this, to my mind, is the most substantial thing – the rise
of the socialist movement did not depend on any “economic
achievements” or “management efficiency” of nations and
is it to depend on these factors in the future.
The rise of
socialism is inevitable as long as exploitation, oppression and
injustice persist in existing bourgeois society, and as long as
there remains the conviction that this society has to be
replaced by another, entirely different one. This conviction results – periodically at any rate – in
practical liberating action by the social class which has the
economic potential and the organizing ability required to build
up a new society based on solidarity, cooperation and equality,
rather than on competition, lust for money and the struggle for
all against all. By
this social class I mean the proletariat in a broad sense of the
word, i.e., all hired labour.
convinced that today these factors have gained greater momentum
than ever before. This
makes me confident that socialism and communism have a future.
that it was necessary to eliminate any social conditions under
which human beings are humiliated, enslaved, left to the mercy
of fate and despised. Stalin and his ilk committed the crime of sacrificing the
principles of socialism to cynical and suppressive
socialism and communism go back to the original ideas which have
given them birth, they will be invincible.