For democracy and socialism

April 17, 1991

ERNEST MANDEL delivered the comments below in Moscow in January, when the Russian edition of the magazine Socialism of the Future was presented to the Soviet media. The magazine is a theoretical journal published by the Spanish, Italian, French and German Social Democratic parties. In addition to Mandel, its directors include Mikhail Gorbachev, Zdenek Mlynar, Adam Schaff, Ota Sik, Andre Gorz and Ralph Miliband. The translation from Mandel's French manuscript is reprinted, slightly abridged, from the US publication Bulletin in Defense of Marxism. We have added the subheads.

The Fourth International, in whose name I speak today, continues the fight of Lev Davidovich Trotsky and the other militants of the Left Opposition against bureaucratism and Stalinism, against capitalism, imperialism and fascism. We pursue the struggle for emancipation and for direct democracy which inspired the October revolution.

Today, the historical truth about Trotsky and the Opposition is coming to light. This work, of moral and political importance, must be completed.

I consider it my duty to express here my recognition of and admiration for the indomitable courage of the Soviet army and the citizens and peoples of the Soviet Union [in World War II], and for all the workers of Moscow, of Leningrad and of besieged Stalingrad. Thanks to their heroic resistance, the attempt at world domination by German imperialism under the Nazis failed.

The activities of the Soviet workers between 1941 and 1944 are the material and moral product of the October socialist revolution. Here that revolution finds an incontestable historic justification. But the bureaucrats who usurped and monopolised power from 1923 undermined and discredited the work of this great revolution.

They discredited it with their monstrous crimes against the communists, the workers, the peasants, the oppressed nationalities of the USSR, against the peoples of Eastern Europe, against the workers of many countries. They undermined it by suffocating the creative initiative of the masses and of the intellectuals, by a generalised irresponsibility and indifference in the economy. The failure of their "command economy" is obvious today for all to see. The economic, social, political, moral crisis which results is extremely grave.


Faced with this crisis, some call for the privatisation of industry as the only possible alternative. They assert likewise that, without the predominance of the private sector, personal liberty, a state based on law, and democratic freedoms for the masses and for nationalities cannot be guaranteed. However, the experience of the capitalist world demonstrates that when private property is predominant, the great majority of working men and women are subject to the despotism of the wealthy. This is no less serious than the despotism of the state.

The masses must, under these circumstances, submit to chronic or conjunctural unemployment, to the periodic lowering of wages, to material and moral misery as a result of decisions over which they are imposed behind their backs.

There are today, in those countries considered rich, 40 million unemployed. This will grow to 50 million during the course of the economic crisis which has already begun. More than 100 million live in poverty.

In the capitalist countries of the Third World there are more than 100 million unemployed and a billion living in poverty.

The attempt to impose a regime of private property in Poland has already brought about a 35% lowering of real wages, a grave decline in production and a crushing poverty.

The politics of Reagan and Mrs Thatcher have produced in the United States and in Great Britain a graver economic crisis than in other countries. The gap between rich and poor has increased without let-up during the last decade.

On a worldwide scale, this gap has grown even more. Between 1980 and 1988, the per capita income went down, in an absolute sense, in 62 countries totalling 808 million inhabitants. In Africa it is 50 times lower than in the USA. And it is certain that, if the Soviet economy becomes privatised, the USSR will become a Third World country, not a Sweden or a Finland.

As the masses resist, sooner or later, these abominations through their struggles, the defenders of private property will have to use repression, restrictions on democratic liberties, just like open dictatorial regimes. Private economy and the rights of men and women are, therefore, opposed to one another; they are far from mutually reinforcing.

Collective economy

Faced with these two dictatorships — of the state of great capitalist wealth — we defend a third path: one of a collective, self-managed and democratically planned economy.

This can be summed up in the idea that the masses of producers/consumers decide for themselves — after a democratic, public, open, pluralist debate — the broad priorities of what should be produced, how it should be produced and how it should be distributed.

When we say "collective economy", we do not mean "state economy". We mean the power to make decisions resting in the hands of the producers/consumers. But the decisions must be coordinated, and therefore planned through democratic bodies elected from below.

This third path is not only more democratic than the dictatorship of the state or the dictatorship of wealth, it is also more efficient. It liberates an immense creative capacity, not only for a small minority of independent entrepreneurs, but for the great majority. They will sense, finally — convinced y experience — that they are working for themselves and for their own verifiable and measurable interests. To eliminate unemployment, to reduce the hours of work, to assure goods and consumer services of a high quality, to guarantee a rapid and honest distribution of goods: this will become the business

The third economic model thus satisfies a moral requirement. This is not the least of its advantages.

Men and women do not live by bread alone. In discrediting socialism, in demoralising the workers and the masses, the Stalinist dictatorship created an immense moral and ideological void. Out of this void today arise cynicism, egoism, indifference and scorn with regard to others — indeed criminality — as well as retrograde ideas which find their sustenance there: irrationalism, chauvinism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, racism.

In the face of this reactionary mentality, we reaffirm our belief in everything that is rational and generous in human nature, particularly cooperation and solidarity as fundamental qualities for the reconstruction of the economy, of society and of the world.

A question of survival

This has become literally a question of physical survival for humanity — since the struggle of each against all, egoism, thirst for private profit, contempt for others, are leading us directly to disaster: nuclear catastrophes, wars of extermination, ecological breakdowns, appalling misery in the Third World.

Each year 17 million children die of hunger or curable diseases. One hundred million children work in inhuman conditions, often approaching slavery.

Solidarity, cooperation — even more, equality — must be extended to everyone, but above all to the most deprived. This means especially the sick, the disabled, the retired, single mothers, marginalised layers, the "new poor". On a world scale, it means the most oppressed and persecuted, our brothers and sisters of South Africa, Central America and Palestine.

We must energetically condemn the war of the Western powers against Iraq. We must condemn the military intervention in Lithuania. We must condemn the collaboration between the governments of the United States and the USSR which tolerate these two acts of aggression.

We advocate unity in the struggle for common objectives, overcoming all the differences that separate the Communist parties and ex-Communist parties on the one hand, and the Social Democratic parties on the other.

The confrontation of different ideas and strategies of struggle is inevitable. But this prohibits neither unity in action nor dialogue. That is the reason I am participating in the publication of this magazine as a leader of the Fourth International. Without such an ongoing dialogue, our indispensable unity in action is impossible.

That is why the confrontation over ideas and strategies must take place under conditions that exclude the utilisation of violence and repression, of prohibitions against written works, of slander, of lies, of falsification of texts, of censorship. Respect for these principles is indispensable for the conquest of socialist democracy, of democratic socialism, of a real democratic soviet power elected on pluralism.

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