Deformed Workers' States

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.

The events that unfolded towards the end of 1956 in Hungary shook all the Communist Parties of the world. The official line of the Communist Parties was that what was taking place in Hungary was a Fascist counter-revolution! Not all the ranks of the CPs were fooled. Many could see that the workers of Hungary had risen up against the bureaucratic elite in power. This could be no counter-revolution. 

The NEC of the Labour Party in 1954 argued in favour of German rearmament against the Soviet "threat". The Labour left argued that a re-armed West Germany, backed by the United States, would be facing a hostile and armed East Germany, backed by Russia, making World War III "inevitable." Ted Grant replied to both, putting forward an internationalist position.

Not only was Ted Grant's analysis of the Eastern European states able to explain the Tito-Stalin split, it could also anticipate - and this is the test of the correctness of theory, in politics as in science - other splits, along national lines, within the Eastern European monolith. More prophetically still, the document not only anticipated in advance the establishment of a Stalinist state in China after the revolution, but it predicted the inevitability of a split between the Chinese and the Russian bureaucracy, on the same basis, although on a far larger scale, as in the case of Yugoslavia.

In June 1948, Tony Cliff, an RCP member, published a lengthy document entitled The Nature of Stalinist Russia. This work has been extended over the years, and the arguments partly modified, but its essence has always been the idea that Russia, under Stalin, became 'state capitalist'. It followed from this that the other states of the Eastern bloc were also 'state capitalist'. Taken as a whole, the reply to this by Ted Grant is itself a modern 'classic', a major contribution to the theoretical arsenal of Marxism. It is to this day the most definitive defence, and a deepening, of the original arguments of Leon Trotsky, that Russia was a degenerated workers' state, and in

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Using the method of Marxism to describe the regime of Tito, and hence explain the split with Stalin, this document by Ted Grant from 1949 takes the argument further and extends it to the example of China. It elaborates further the process by which Mao Tse Tung established his regime, explaining that it was, of necessity, 'deformed' from the very beginning.

We reprint this article by Ted Grant, first published in the July 1948 edition of Socialist Appeal which analyses the real reasons behind the split between Tito and Stalin.

This article from 1948 describes and explains the 'February events' in Czechoslovakia, the so-called 'Prague coup'. Here, the Stalinist-dominated government, leaning on the working class through 'action committees', overcame the resistance of the capitalist class and carried through the nationalisation of industry and the major part of the economy. The end result, as the article explained, provided 'the economic basis for a workers' state', but without the democratic control of the state by the workers, 'all the rights which the workers still possess will be strangled and an uncontrolled bureaucracy will ride roughshod over the masses, as in Russia.'

In late 1946 Stalin announced that the immediate task in the Soviet Union was one of building "Communism". At the same time he set in motion new purges among the lower layers of the bureaucracy. Imposing these limits on corruption among the lower bureaucrats, Ted Grant argued, arose from the need to gain support from the pauperised and deprived masses for the reconstruction effort, in order to preserve the general privileges of the bureaucracy as a whole.

After WWII, the leadership of the Fourth International were still repeating old and out-dated ideas. Among such leaders was Pierre Frank, one of the leaders of the Parti Communiste Internationaliste (PCI), the French section of the International. He wrote an article which argued that in Western Europe, there had been established only Bonapartist governments, ie 'Governments by the Sword', denying, in other words, that 'normal' capitalist democracy existed. Ted Grant's reply was a devastating critique of Frank's muddled and un-Marxist approach.

In 1946, while offering the exiled White Guards full citizenship, Stalin retaliated against the Chechen-Ingush and Crimean peoples and dissolved their autonomous republics, accusing them of having not rebelled against the Nazis during the War. 1,500,000 men, women and children were deported. "How [does one] explain the fact that the peoples see no advantages in the Stalinist regime, but the White Guard capitalist elements do?" Ted Grant asked.