Statement of the International Committee of the Fourth International
Globalization and the International Working Class

The USSR’s dissolution and the crisis of capitalism

In other words, the Soviet state, because of its prolonged economic isolation, was the first victim of global economic processes which had intensified the contradiction between the world economy and the nation-state system. These same processes, however, are preparing immense crises and revolutionary eruptions within the capitalist countries themselves. This was the essential perspective developed by the International Committee.

Spartacist’s demoralized response to the Soviet Union’s liquidation excluded any connection between it and a wider global crisis. Behind its radical rhetoric, it adapted itself to the “death of socialism” propaganda developed by the bourgeoisie.

Workers Vanguard asserts that by pointing to the objective source of Stalinism’s crisis, the International Committee had “effectively repudiated the program of proletarian political revolution against the Stalinist bureaucracy as even a historical possibility in this supposedly new era of ‘globalized’ capitalist production.” They go on to assert that, for the IC, “the Soviet working class simply did not exist as a potential force in deciding the fate of the Soviet Union.” [1]

This assertion is refuted by the documented record, which makes clear that the International Committee fought to arouse the Soviet and international working class to the dangers it confronted. Indeed, as Gorbachev was being lauded by the petty-bourgeois radicals around the world, and his program of glasnost and perestroika was being hailed as the political revolution, the International Committee alone warned that the bureaucracy’s program was aimed at the restoration of capitalism.

In the event, the working class was not able to overthrow the bureaucracy before the Stalinist regime carried through the restoration of capitalist relations and began to integrate itself within the structure of the world capitalist economy as a type of comprador bourgeoisie, organizing the plunder of the resources of the former Soviet economy.

No amount of denunciations of the International Committee by the Spartacists can cover up the basic question, which the Spartacists dare not address: what were the objective causes for the collapse of the Soviet Union? In equating the attempt to uncover these causes with a renunciation of the perspective of political revolution against Stalinism, Spartacist only reveals the logic of its own position.

Certainly the assessment that the crisis of the Soviet Union was bound up with international economic processes did not represent a recent theoretical innovation for Trotskyism. More than 70 years ago, Trotsky spelled out the profound contradiction between the global character of the productive forces built up under capitalism and the restricted national character of socialist construction in the USSR. It was this understanding which underlay his attack on the Stalinist theory of “socialism in one country.”

Both Lenin and Trotsky wrote repeatedly that the degeneration and destruction of the October Revolution were not only “objectively determined” but inevitable, in so far as the USSR remained isolated and encircled by a hostile capitalist world.

They insisted, as opposed to the anti-Marxist conception of “socialism in one country”, that the Soviet Union could obtain the resources necessary to overcome the backwardness inherited from Tsarism and construct a socialist society only through the extention of the socialist revolution internationally.

The contradiction between the world economy and the nationally-isolated workers’ state could be resolved in only one of two ways: either on a socialist basis, through the working class taking power in the rest of the capitalist countries and establishing a world socialist republic; or by the bureaucracy restoring private property and reintegrating the USSR into the structure of world capitalism. The political revolution within the USSR was conceived within this international context.

The International Committee, basing itself on the whole theoretical heritage of Trotsky, has explained that the liquidation of the USSR was rooted in the transformation in the forms of production, which rendered the nationalist methods of the Stalinist bureaucracy unviable.

Trotsky had explained that, in the short term, military intervention by the imperialist powers posed an immediate danger to the Soviet Union. But in the longer term, the greatest danger was that the productivity of labor in the advanced capitalist countries remained, and would continue to remain, far higher than that attained in the Soviet Union. As Trotsky put it, an even greater danger than military intervention was the cheap goods in the baggage trains.

The bankruptcy of the Spartacists’ subjectivist method, and its glorification of the military apparatus, is revealed when some basic questions are posed. How was it that the Soviet Union was able to defeat the 14-nation imperialist intervention in the aftermath of the revolution, and 20 years later roll back the Nazi invasion, yet, collapsed in the 1980s? Today, the economy of the former Soviet Union operates under the dictates of the IMF and the World Bank, without a single shot having being fired. What neither the imperialist armies nor the Nazis could accomplish—the plundering of the resources of Russia and the other former Soviet republics—is now being carried out through the operations of the capitalist financial system.

The history of Vietnam, likewise, demonstrates that it is far easier to defeat the armies of the imperialist powers than break the grip of the international financial system. The Vietnamese workers and peasants were able to militarily defeat the interventions by French and then United States imperialism in a 10,000-day war. But Vietnam today is even more firmly in the grip of international finance capital than it was in the days when it was occupied by the US armed forces.


Workers Vanguard, February 21, 1997