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The Collapse of Stalinism



"1991 marked a turning point...We have entered a more disturbed period in world history, marked by sharper inter-imperialist rivalries and a deepening capitalist crisis." (The Collapse of Stalinism, para 1 - 3)

The world watched as the former Stalinist regimes of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union crumbled. The destabilising effects of the collapse of these bureaucratic dictatorships can and capitalist restoration in these countries still be felt today.

In contrast to the euphoria of the bourgeoisie at the time, and the demoralisation of many on the left, the analysis of the Committee for a Workers' International in the documents in this section of stands the test of time.

Revolution and Counter-revolution in the Soviet Union and The Collapse of Stalinism explain developments from a Marxist perspective and anticipate in a general way the subsequent events. They contrast with the document of a minority then within the CWI at the time, "The Truth about the Coup", which we also present on this site.

The development of a "majority" and "minority" within the CWI during 1991 is explained in the documents on the 'Open Turn' debate, also on A general overview of the developing crisis which enveloped the Stalinist countries of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and their political reflection within the CWI, can be found in the chapter, Russia, Trotsky And The Collapse Of Stalinism in The Rise of Militant by Peter Taaffe, on the Socialist Party website.

A more detailed criticism of the politics of this minority can be found on the section Militant's real History on this site. In particular, the following excerpt gives an insight into the situation faced by the CWI. Peter Taaffe explains that this Minority, led by Ted Grant and Alan Woods, made:

An even worse blunder centred on perspectives for Stalinism in the USSR and the possibility of capitalist restoration. Militant and the CWI had underestimated the possibility of capitalist restoration in the USSR and Eastern Europe. This was partly explained by our lack of a base within the Stalinist states and, thereby, the absence of a gauge with which to measure fully the degeneration of the Stalinist regimes. However, it was those -who subsequently became the majority of Militant - who first raised the possibility of capitalist restoration. This was fervently denied by Grant and Woods, who operated, and still do, with an outmoded perception of the real situation which existed.

Following Thatcher's visit to Poland in 1988 and the tumultuous support that she received in Gdansk, we began to pose the possibility of bourgeois restoration. In fact, pro-capitalist features were strongly represented in the movement of 1980-81 around Solidarity and, going further back, even in the events in Czechoslovakia in 1968. At that stage, however, the possibility of 'reform', of Dubcek's "Socialism with a human face", was still quite strong. The boom of the 1980s and the further collapse of the Stalinist states contributed, particularly in Poland after the suppression of the movement of 1980-81, to a pronounced pro-capitalist mood, reflected in the support Thatcher and George Bush senior received in visits to Poland. The 1980s boom helped to reinforce this mood in all the Stalinist states.

We therefore posed tentatively, too tentatively as it turned out, at the CWI's World Congress of 1988, the possibility of capitalist restoration in Poland and the rest of the Stalinist world. This was before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, but it was quite evident that there was growing opposition to the Stalinist regimes then. Such a possibility was vehemently denied by Grant. In a lead-off on Stalinism in 1988, I 'set a hare running' by posing the issue of bourgeois restoration. This caused a certain amount of controversy at the congress but Grant as the so-called "leading theoretician", refused to speak. He confided privately that it was because he disagreed with my lead-off but was not prepared to take the floor to answer it.

This was not the case later when an increasing divergence developed between the two trends on the issue of Stalinism. We sent delegations to Eastern Europe - particularly to Poland - who reported back on the mass sentiment for a return to capitalism. Grant refused to recognise this and condemned those who gave the report as "being out of touch". The same thing happened when comrades spent a period in Russia and reported on a growing pro-capitalist mood.

The differences on this issue came to the fore over the August 1991 coup in the Soviet Union. (Peter Taaffe, Militant's real History)

The CWI published its analysis of the events surrounding the 1991 coup in the first document in this section: Revolution and Counter-revolution in the Soviet UnionAfter a lengthy delay, the "Minority" produced "The Truth about the Coup" in reply. The Committee for a Workers' International can confidently put the discussion documents of our former opponents on our site so that our readers can make up their own minds about the claims and counter claims.

 In early 1992 the Minority split from the Committee for a Workers' International, before the publication of the CWI's reply: The Collapse of Stalinism. The ex-Minority document was still circulated within the CWI, however, so that the political ideas could still be clarified.

These documents demonstrate that, unfortunately,  over a period of time there had opened up two quite separate political, strategic and tactical orientations in the CWI, between the Majority and the Minority, which could not and would not be reconcilled.





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