Socialist Equality Party (United States)
The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (United States)

The Origins of Pabloite Revisionism

The overall restabilization of capitalist development lent the postwar social struggles their contradictory character. The end of the war brought with it an upsurge of the class struggle in the advanced countries and the anti-imperialist movement in the colonies. However, the economic stabilization vastly expanded the field of operation for bourgeois nationalist movements, Stalinists, trade union bureaucrats and various petty bourgeois tendencies that came to the head of these struggles. The objective function of these movements and organizations was, in one form or another, to provide a base of support within broader sections of the working class and oppressed masses for the maintenance of the global capitalist system. They encouraged the illusion that permanent gains could be realized through the policies of national reform that had been given a new lease on life following the war.

The complexities of the postwar period found expression in the form of a revisionist tendency within the Trotskyist movement that adapted to the bourgeois and petty bourgeois organizations. The revisionists came to see the Stalinist and Social-Democratic tendencies, as well as petty-bourgeois nationalist and radical movements, not as political obstacles to the independent mobilization of the working class, but, rather, as alternative instruments for realizing socialism. It was not, therefore, a matter of opposing to these organizations the independent perspective of the Fourth International, but rather of transforming the Fourth International into a pressure group on the existing leadership of the working class and national movements. The revisionists endowed the Stalinists and bourgeois nationalists with an historically progressive role, rejecting Trotsky’s insistence on their counter-revolutionary character. This revision of the perspective upon which the founding of the Fourth International had been based was advanced initially by two leading figures in the post-war Trotskyist movement in Europe, Michel Pablo and Ernest Mandel.

Pablo’s revisions were an impressionistic response to the political changes in Eastern Europe. The initial reaction of the Fourth International to the establishment of the Stalinist-dominated regimes was based on Trotsky’s conceptions. Notwithstanding the political “successes” of the Stalinists, the Fourth International insisted on their essentially counter-revolutionary role. It stated in 1946:

The unspeakable treacheries, their stamping out of mass uprising, their counterrevolutionary terror, their depredations and plunderings—these are discrediting in the eyes of the toilers the very word, the very idea of communism. How weighty are the East European nationalizations on the scales as against Stalin’s crimes against the working class? The Stalinist counterrevolutionary adventures in Eastern Europe, rather than endowing it with the aura of a progressive mission in history, have made more urgent the necessity of crushing this bloody fiend, and preventing it from doing any more damage than it has already done to the world working class and its struggle for emancipation.

The blindness of Stalinism, its unutterably reactionary character, its historical bankruptcy is exposed glaringly above all in Eastern Europe. For the sake of paltry loot, for the sake of the small change of reparations—completely meaningless so far as solving the USSR’s economic needs—the Kremlin has raised against itself a wall of hatred throughout Eastern Europe and the world. For the sake of military control over the poverty-stricken, bankrupt Balkans, the Kremlin has helped the Anglo-American imperialists crush the revolution and prop up decaying capitalism.[1]

In April 1949, the IEC of the Fourth International wrote:

An evaluation of Stalinism cannot be made on the basis of localized results of its policy but must proceed from the entirety of its actions on a world scale. When we consider the state of decay which capitalism presents even today, four years after the end of the war, and when we consider the concrete situation of 1943-45, there can be no doubt that Stalinism, on a world scale, appeared as the decisive factor in preventing a sudden and simultaneous crash of the capitalist order in Europe and in Asia. In this sense, the ‘successes’ achieved by the bureaucracy in the buffer zone constitute, at most, the price which imperialism paid for services rendered on the world arena—a price which is moreover constantly called into question at the following stage.

From the world point of view, the reforms realized by the Soviet bureaucracy in the sense of an assimilation of the buffer zone to the USSR weigh incomparably less in the balance than the blows dealt by the Soviet bureaucracy, especially through its actions in the buffer zone, against the consciousness of the world proletariat, which it demoralizes, disorients and paralyzes by all its politics and thus renders it susceptible to some extent to the imperialist campaign of war preparations. Even from the point of view of the USSR itself, the defeats and the demoralization of the world proletariat caused by Stalinism constitute an incomparably greater danger than the consolidation of the buffer zone constitutes a reinforcement.[2]


Fourth International, November 1946, p. 345.


David North, The Heritage We Defend, pp. 158-9.