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Mandel — from Trotskyism towards adaptation to the status quo.

Copyright: Iskra Research; by F. Kreisel; July 23, 1995

We have just heard about the death at the age of 72 of Ernest Mandel. Mandel joined the Belgian Trotskyist movement during World War II and became one of the central leaders of the Fourth International in the late 1940's.

In evaluating Mandel's political career we have drawn two sections from a short survey of the history of the Fourth International. The complete article is here

Pabloism — the disruption of the Fourth International

In such conditions of the stabilization of capitalism and the apparent successes of Stalinism (late forties and early fifties), there developed within the Fourth International an opportunist wing which took this temporary stabilization for a permanent and normal phenomenon. Trotsky defined Stalinism as a temporary reaction against socialism, and a counterrevolutionary agency of imperialism in the working class. In 1949 and again in 1951, the leader of the International Secretariat of the Fourth International, Michel Pablo began to insist that Stalinism is a legitimate phase along the road to socialism, that the Stalinist states will spread and widen, that these vile anti-worker police states will last for centuries. Pablo even advanced a grotesquely pessimistic theory about a nuclear war-revolution between the systems of Stalinism and imperialism, using this perspective to justify his move to support Stalinism. Pablo and Ernest Mandel insisted that Stalin's death in 1953 opened a process of the "self-reform" of Stalinism to the left.

The basic conception of Trotskyism was and continues to be — the construction of a revolutionary party and its assumption of the leadership of the working class. As opposed to that, the conception of Pabloism stated that Stalinism and petty bourgeois nationalism can play a progressive role in the move from capitalism to socialism, that the role of Trotskyism under conditions of continuing isolation of the revolutionary elements lies in criticism, in pushing these "mass movements" to the left. During the early 1950's Pablo, Pierre Frank, Ernest Mandel and many other leaders gave in to the apparent omnipotence of Stalinism and led the 4th International into a series of self-liquidations.

They used their own authority and the authority of the Fourth International, giving directions to the sections of the FI to liquidate themselves into the various Stalinist parties. The differences between the tactic of the "French turn" of the 1930's and the Pabloite strategy of "integration in mass movements" consists in the following. Firstly, in the 1930's some of the social-democratic and centrist mass parties were of an amorphous, indeterminate character, often lacking a defined program, traditions and coloration. The Stalinists of the 50's and 60's had a definite counterrevolutionary tradition. Secondly, following Hitler's victory, inside the French, American and some other socialist parties there developed a strong left wing which had to be wrested from the clutches of the social-democrats and the Stalinists and directed towards revolutionary Marxism. In the post-War period, under conditions of worldwide stabilization of capitalism and the growth of opportunism, the reformist tendencies of the Stalinists and social-democrats could successfully suppress and isolate any leftist criticism.

The third, and most important distinction was that the "French turn" was a temporary tactic, subordinated to the strategy of conquering the advanced masses to the banner of Trotskyism. Pabloite world view, on the other hand, assigned a progressive role to Stalinism or petty bourgeois nationalism. Trotskyism was seen only as a movement of pressure and left criticism. According to Pablo and his cohort Ernest Mandel, the Fourth International was bound to dissolve in the mass Stalinist parties or movements of national liberation.

The United Secretariat and Pabloism in general.

The United Secretariat today is a confederation of parties which grew out of the adaptation towards Stalinism and the petty bourgeois movements of national liberation. In 1969 they published in their journal "Quatrieme Internationale" a survey of their own history written by one of the principal leaders of U. Sec. Mr. Pierre Frank.

This gentleman summarizes the world situation in the following manner: "1. A huge shift in the overall relationship of forces on an international scale, to the advantage of socialism. "2. A tremendous impetus to the colonial revolution, which thenceforth would spread from one colonized continent to another; outbreak of the Korean war in 1950; continuation of the Vietnamese revolution, first against French imperialism, later against American imperialism; extension of the colonial revolution to Latin America and victory of the socialist revolution in Cuba in 1959; extension of the colonial revolution to the Middle East, to North Africa in the 1950s, then to Black Africa from 1960 on. "3. Extension of the crisis of Stalinism" ("The Fourth International", Ink Links, 1979, p. 73).

Mister Frank later on cites the report of Ernest Mandel at the 5th congress of the U. Sec. in October 1957 on the question of Stalinism and the "workers states" (Trotskyists commonly refer to the "degenerated" or the "deformed" workers' states). Mandel reported on the various maneuvers of the Stalinists, the different splits and zigzags in their line, and concluded: "henceforth there can be no danger, except in the highly improbable case of defeat in a world war, of a restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union" (ibid., p. 98). It should be noted here that this thought of Mandel's repeats quite literally the thesis of Stalin and Bukharin about the possibility of constructing socialism in the isolated USSR.

Thirty years later in 1988 Mr. Mandel wrote a whole book about Gorbachev, "Beyond Perestroika; The Future Of Gorbachev's USSR". In this book Mandel describes the process of de-Stalinization, democratization, political pluralism, and calls for giving Gorbachev critical support. He ridicules "the ridiculous theory that the Soviet leader is trying to reintroduce capitalism into the Soviet Union" ("Beyond Perestroika", Verso, 1989, p. 129).

Generally speaking, the United Secretariat represents the inner interests of the imperialist bourgeoisie; it fits itself into the public opinion of the European capitalist countries.

Mr. Mandel's job in the U. Sec.

Within the leadership of the United Secretatiat Mr. Mandel continued to specialize in "the Russian question". This question has, of course, a decisive significance to a revolutionary. Not of a theoretical or a historical import alone, it is a practical question: How to build socialism? Mr. Mandel continued his exhausting search for signs of reform within the bureacracy.

Throughout the 1950's and 1960's Mr. Mandel conferred his "Trotskyist" seal of approval on such Stalinists like Gomulka in Poland, on petty bourgeois nationalists like Fidel Castro, on right wing critics of Stalinism like Jacek Kuron and Lech Walesa, etc. In 1989, Mandel's theory that the restoration of capitalism in the degenerated workers' states was inconceivable, proved wrong. The tottering Stalinist regimes began to require more help from this certified "Trotskyist" than just theories, and Mandel was ready and willing.

In the fall of 1989 huge demonstrations erupted in East Germany. The German section of the International Comittee of the Fourth International was for the first time since the 1920's able to openly address the workers in a Stalinist state. The Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter distributed a hugely popular flyer in a demonstration in Berlin. The flyer called for a political anti-bureaucratic revolution and for the linking with the West German workers in the struggle for world socialism.

Next week Mandel appeared on East German TV and publicly condemned this "interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state". His article was also published in the newspaper of the East German Stalinist youth, the "Junge Welt".

It is interesting to note that although some of Mandel's writings have been translated and circulate in Russia, the United Secretariat is careful to keep quiet about the book "Beyond Perestroika" and about the whole historical perspective of Pabloism.

In effect, throughout his career Mandel lent his "Trotskyist" credentials to prop up Stalinism. He also undermined the authority of real Trotskyism in the eyes of millions of workers throughout Eastern Europe.