Ted Grant

The Iberian Revolution

Marxism and the historical development of the international situation

Written: May 1975
Markup: Emil 2006

Marxism would be a very simple theory if all that was necessary was a slavish repetition of the ideas of the past. Sectarians and opportunists of all the different cliques and sects ignore the methods and principles which retain their validity and from which invaluable lessons can be drawn from the works of the great teachers. They repeat a few phrases gleaned from the past which they think turn them into brilliant strategists. The works of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky form a precious heritage and we must encourage young comrades to study them assiduously. But they do not provide blueprints for the process of history.

Due to the throwing back of Marxism by the betrayals of reformism and Stalinism, the genuine Marxists were reduced to a tiny handful. Trotsky could truly claim that like Marx he sowed dragons but reaped not fleas but harmful microbes. Since the Second World War the cliques of Hansen and the SWP, Mandel, Pablo, Healy, Maitain, and Lambert have been completely incapable of orienting and re-orienting to the development of events. Revolution, which is the crucial test for revolutionaries, has found them wanting. Thus they showed themselves completely incapable of understanding the events in Greece in 1944, the development of Stalinist states in Eastern Europe, the revolution in China and Cuba, the transformation of Syria and Burma and the French movement of 1968. Now as could be expected they have not an iota of comprehension of the development of the revolution in Ethiopia and more important Portugal. They are good for nothing - except to sow confusion among students which constitute their main support.

However, we deal with some of their ideas in the section on Portugal

The reaction between the objective and subjective factors of history has a rich literature in the theory of Marxism. It is the lack of a strong revolutionary International - due to the degeneration of the Third International - which is responsible for the peculiar course of the revolution in the under-developed world and the events in China, Vietnam, Eastern Europe and so on.

Only the dialectical method can help us unravel the contradictions of world developments in the last era.

For a period of approximately three decades world capitalism has developed all the potentialities that remained in the system in the industrialised countries and partly also in the under-developed World.

Production has been developed at a rate among the highest in history. Four times the productive forces created in the entire history of humanity up to the Second World War have been produced since the holocaust.

It was this that gave a relative stability to the capitalist system and in its turn sealed the degeneration of Stalinism and Reformism. This in turn reinforced the power of capitalism.

But even at the height of the boom the Colonial Revolution in Africa, Asia and Latin America, on the peripheries of world capitalism was an indication of processes which later would affect the heart.

The Colonial Revolution manifested itself in peculiar ways and in a distorted form due to the world balance of forces, the pressure of the insoluble problems under capitalism - Imperialism and Landlordism - and the urgent necessity of a transformation of society, if that society was not to stagnate and impose ferocious conditions of hunger and penury on the masses. It was the impossibility of fully developing the forces of production under capitalism-landlordism which gave the drive to the colonial revolution.

But without a pole of attraction in dynamic mass Marxist parties in the industrial countries or even a single healthy workers' state, the colonial revolution has been perverted. On the road of capitalism there was no way forward. With the world balance of forces and the model of Stalinist Russia - the mighty Chinese revolution from its inception developed, in the aims of its leaders, as a Stalinist state - even though in the beginning, and probably also at the present stage, with the support of the overwhelming majority of the population and of the workers.

This in its turn has put its stamp on the revolution in colonial countries. The Cuban Revolution, beginning with bourgeois democratic leadership and aims, ended in the organisation of a form of Proletarian Bonapartism. The Ethiopian revolution, like that of Syria and Burma, seems to be developing on the lines of sections of the officer corps, leaning on the support of the workers and peasants, purging the country of feudalism and then with the incapacity and feebleness of the native bourgeois carrying the revolution through by expropriating the bourgeoisie which has shown itself incapable of leading the fight for the development of a modern economy. With the backwardness of the country, the limited understanding of the military caste leadership leads them to accept "socialism", i.e. the military-bureaucratic caste system on the model of Russia, China and Cuba, as the solution to the problems of economic expansion so imperatively necessary for the country. The economic might of Russia and China, which is abolishing backwardness with seven-league boots, acts as a mighty magnet. The narrow national limitedness of the rulers in Stalinist states far from repelling them acts as a mighty attraction. Not least of the attractions consists in the organisation of "socialism" and the privileges of the military and bureaucratic castes, which the intelligentsia and military middle layers would consider to be the natural order of society.

Consequently, because the development of productive forces is hampered by the elements of capitalism and big business which are subordinate to, and collaborators of, imperialism, they are swept away. In a twisted version of the permanent revolution this lower officer caste becomes - for a period - the unconscious agent of history, in carrying through the necessary tasks of the state-ification of the economy.

All these processes are due to the delay of the proletarian revolution in the advanced countries. But they constitute the lappings at the edges and the undermining of the foundations of world capitalism. Not accidently most of the bourgeois Bonapartist dictators and the rulers of most of the colonial countries which have gained their independence rule in the name of a mythical form of "socialism". This is because of the profound effects in the consciousness of myriads of the oppressed of the Russian and Chinese Revolutions. But this in turn for a whole epoch has reinforced the hold of the Russian bureaucracy over the Russian masses. At the same time it has strengthened the power of the reformist and Stalinist parties in the industrialised countries and deepened their nationalist limited outlook and de-generation.

In previous documents we have sketched out the consequences of this process in the isolation of genuine Marxism, i.e. Trotskyism - the loss of revolutionary tradition and the degeneration of the cliques claiming to represent the Fourth International. The whole process has served as a sort of chain reaction. Each factor - the boom in the industrial states, distorted or deformed workers states being set up in colonial countries, the gangrenous degeneration of the mass workers' parties, have acted to reinforce and prop each other up. For a whole epoch that has been the situation. It has been a vicious circle - one factor reinforcing and tending to develop the opposing factors.

In this situation there could be no room for the organisation of mass Trotskyist parties - leaving aside the strategic, tactical and political errors of a momentous magnitude made by the sects claiming to be Trotskyist. These objective factors are the main reason for the weakness of the revolutionary current. The destruction and degeneration of the self-styled "Trotskyist" cliques was a consequence of this period. They have become more and more remote, with not the slightest possibility of becoming mass working class organisations.

Even as a tradition Trotskyism was largely obliterated in this period. What in the main attracted radical moving petit-bourgeois were the ideas of Castroism and Guevarism. Left opposition in the CP frustrated by the out and out reformist degeneration of the leadership, tended to move in this direction, not only in the colonial or ex-colonial World but in the industrialised countries with powerful working classes also.

The European Revolution has Begun

Now the world situation is changing. There has been an accumulation of deep contradictions. We are now in a period of upheavals, sharp changes and sudden turns in all continents and all countries.

The World recession of 1974-5 has been far deeper than any of the small slumps in the post war period. For the first time mass unemployment has appeared in all the countries of the OECD simultaneously and the recession is practically universal in the industrially developed countries.

The rate of profit has fallen in all these countries, as has the amount of investment. With the collapse of the illusion of permanent enrichment of "all classes", the universal inflation and now the economic recession, has come a sobering up of the capitalists (and the reflection of their ideas in the theories of the CP, left and right reformists, Mandel and the IS as to the possibilities of the capitalists over-coming their problems "by state expenditure" (Mandel) or the "Permanent Arms economy" (Cliff) etc.) and the beginning of panic within the ruling class and their strategists.

Never before in history with the world balance of forces against them, because of the colonial revolution, the power of Russia, and China, and the most potent factor of all, the crushing potential power of the world working class, have the strategists and representatives of capital been so afraid of the future course of events.

One of the key factors in the development of revolution is the demoralisation of the ruling class itself. Now in the decisive countries of capitalism, splits and fissures are opening up in the ruling class. They look with dread to the processes taking place in Europe and the World. The most powerful of all, the United States capitalists, who looked towards a century of world domination, and being the policeman of the colonial and capitalist countries, are as demoralised as the rest.

The defeat in Indo-China against the (deformed) war of national and social liberation is the first defeat in war of American Imperialism. Despite the expenditure of staggering amounts of money in arms and aid to their puppets of $300,000 million over 15 years, they had to retreat despite all the devilish ingenuity of scientific devices, of chemical and bacteriological weapons, the most concentrated and sustained amount of bombing in tonnage and number of any war, including the Second World War: they had to retreat.

This was because of the resistance of the peasant masses, which triggered off the resistance and opposition of the American people. The American Army became even more demoralised than the Tzarist army of 1917! Had there existed a mass revolutionary party in America this position and the defeat in the war would have led to a revolutionary situation as did a similar unsuccessful war by the weakest of the Imperialist powers, Portugal.

But American Imperialism had to accept retreat with a gnashing of teeth, in a situation of 8 to 10 million unemployed, the greatest number in the post-war period. Symbolic of the situation was the episode of the Mayaguez. Unable to intervene any longer against the revolution (even if distorted) in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, because of the opposition of the masses of the American people, (middle class and awakening workers) they took their revenge, bringing to bear their enormous power, on this trifling issue of a seized ship which could have been easily settled diplomatically. This was at the cost of 40 to 50 lives of American marines. It was similar to the slinking away of the British naval destroyer Amethyst from the Yangtse river in 1949 as the Chinese Red Army occupied the Chinese coast, which the British capitalists headlined in the press as a victory. But at least that cost no blood.

The American ruling class, the most powerful, but the most ignorant, of all the bourgeoisies of the major capitalist countries, wanted to show the jingos and hysterical sections of the patriotic petit-bourgeoisie, that they still possessed enormous power and could use it when necessary. It is like the hunter who turns tail from a lion and then shows his prowess by swatting a fly! In reality the ruling class of America has largely exhausted itself in the jungles of Vietnam and was therefore incapable of intervening with military force against the Greek, and especially the Portuguese revolution. This, despite the discreet and covert suggestions of the European imperialists behind the scenes. In effect the American imperialists reply in the rude vernacular was "after you, Jack!"

The development of revolution in the European Mediterranean is only a dress rehearsal for similar developments in all the countries of European capitalism. Long before the Utopian and reactionary dream of a European super-state (EEC Economic, Monetary, and Political integration into a single state, which in any event has not the remotest chance of being carried through to the end) reaches fruition, all these states will go through revolutionary convulsions. The paralysis of the Italian ruling class for 5 years of unprecedented pre-revolutionary crisis, is because they have been afraid of provoking the revolutionary intervention of the masses, against any open move towards military dictatorship. For 2 or 3 years - a longer period than Mussolini between 1920-22, the Neo-Fascists have conducted their provocations against the working class parties and trade unionists. In numbers they are stronger than the bands of lumpen proletarians, petit-bourgeois and even some backward workers, of the thugs and hooligans of Mussolini.

They have had the same co-operation from the ministers of the Christian Democratic coalition governments (as they would in a Popular Front Government) as did Mussolini from its forerunner, the Catholic Popular Party. The Ministers of Justice and the Interior, the heads of the armed forces and the police have acted hand in glove with the Fascist conspiracy. The assassins and armed bands of the MSI and even more crazed groups have murdered, bombed and assassinated almost with impunity. They have done so with the full collaboration of the forces of the state.

Yet the pre-revolutionary situation has lingered. It has not changed into a revolutionary situation because of the policies of the leadership of the working class parties and trade unions, who have paralysed the initiative of the masses and frittered away their energies with a stream of 24 hour and shorter national and general strikes, against the provocations of the fascists. In this they repeat the mistakes of their predecessors which prepared the way for the victory of the fascists.

Yet this situation is different. This is shown by the aims of the Fascist rabble in their attempt to organise anarchy and chaos in Italy. It is not as with Mussolini - Power for the Fascists - but the creation of conditions for the intervention of the army and a military coup d'etat. Bankers and industrialists have declared that the situation is "intolerable" and spoken openly of the need for a military coup to "restore order" - i.e. destroy the rights and organisations of the working class.

Everything is ready...yet the generals have procrastinated. They fear the army will break in their hands. The conscripted workers and peasants in uniform will not accept a military dictatorship.

The working class in Italy, as in all Europe, is a thousand times stronger than pre-war. The ruling class is enfeebled in numbers and strength. The relationship of forces between the capitalists, petit-bourgeoisie and proletariat is far more favourable to the latter. The working class in numbers, cohesion and social role has a dominating position in Italian and European society (and even in the colonial and semi-colonial countries). Thus the denouement in Italy is constantly postponed by the representatives of capital, because they fear it would provoke a counter-movement on the part of the proletariat and a situation like that of Spain in July 1936, with an even more unfavourable environment for capitalism nationally and internationally. But ultimately, the ruling class will have to stake everything on crushing the workers. They are looking for a favourable opportunity, possibly after a Popular Front has revealed its incapacity to solve the problems of the Italian people. At a time of the ebbing of the workers' movement or possibly even of a renewed offensive, under the shelter of the Popular Front, the military and capitalist conspiracy may unfold.

A new period in European and World history opens up with the collapse of the military-police dictatorship in Greece and Portugal and the coming fall of the Franco regime in Spain. Trotsky's anticipation of a revolutionary wave arising out of World War 2 was realised in enormous movements of the proletariat in Eastern and Western Europe, and revolutionary reverberations in a continuous sequence in the colonial world.

Then the frustration of the revolution by the Stalinists and reformists in Western Europe, laid the political basis for the economic upswing and this in turn led to the further consolidation of Stalinism in Russia, Eastern Europe and China. The economic upswing of Western capitalism was on a higher level than in any other historical period, but nevertheless it marked the coming of twilight to World capitalism. The potential power of the world working class has increased to a level never before seen in history. Despite, and in a sense because of the boom, the vitality of world capitalism has been sapped. The scandal of pollution, the decay of the bourgeois mores in relation to the family, the primitive revolt of the youth, the movement to the left of students which has been a world phenomenon; all these are indications of the crisis of bourgeois society which challenge the very existence of capitalism.

The first universal and deep recession since the war has shaken capitalism to its foundations. The plague of mass unemployment in most countries has only temporarily slackened inflation. These twin evils, at a time of unparalleled technical, scientific and productive capacity are shaking the foundations of capitalism.

The awakening to national consciousness of the colonial peoples has, despite the technical and military superiority of the capitalist powers over them rendered impotent the imperialist powers. To quell this movement America undertook the role of military gendarme in Vietnam, after the defeat of France, and suffered a mortifying reversal.

Now the imperialists have been unable to intervene against the colonial revolution or what is even a greater threat, the revolution in Portugal and Spain.

Even before the coming wave of revolution the confidence of the bourgeoisie in the vitality and permanence of their system has disappeared. They regard with pessimism the world outlook.

It is appropriate that the strongest imperialism and the weakest one - the Portuguese - were both placed in a blind alley by colonial wars.

The disintegration of the armies of both powers was an expression of the end of the progressive side of capitalism which was manifested in the past, even if it was maintained with bloody and reactionary means.

The Greek revolution and that of Portugal, with the impending collapse of the Franco regime, will see in capitalist Europe for the first time for 300 years, not a single military-police dictatorship or autocratic rule.

This is not an expression of strength, as might appear at first sight, but of debilitating weakness.

The enormous social, economic and political significance of this fact is that it is because of the pressure of the proletariat which has accumulated an over-whelming potential might. If capitalism has a basis in Western Europe this is only because of the complete blindness, pessimism, cowardice, downright stupidity, and lack of perspective of the leadership of the proletariat. In a period of decay and futility of the ruling class they have become bound up with the apparatus and state machine of the democratic facade of capitalism. The Trade Union, Communist Party, and Socialist Party leaders have, in the period of "prosperity" lost all confidence in the power and capacity of the working class. Having raised themselves above the working class, they regard them with contempt, and are consequently searching for compromises with the ruling class.

The strategists of capital have a far keener understanding of the period facing the system, because of the forces slumbering in the depths of the proletariat. That is why they regard with foreboding the coming clashes between labour and capital in all capitalist countries.

The contradictions have been piling up in the last decades. The main contradictions have been between the power of the working class and the perfidious policies of the leadership of the proletariat. The objective possibilities for the overthrow of capitalism and Stalinism are reaching a new and higher level. In the wave of revolutions that are developing within Europe and the world the traditional organisations of the working class will be tested over and over again. From within their ranks, among the working class fighters will come the forces of Marxism-Leninism. Outside of the mass organisations nothing of lasting substance will be created.

May, 1975