Workers Vanguard No. 900

12 October 2007


BT’s Anti-Soviet Embellishment of German Imperialism

The Bundeswehr—A “Defensive Army”?!

The following article is translated from Spartakist No. 167, Summer 2007, newspaper of the Spartakist Workers Party of Germany, section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist). It incorporates corrections published in Spartakist No. 168, Fall 2007.

In the last two issues of its newspaper, the Gruppe Spartakus, German affiliate of the International Bolshevik Tendency (BT), propagates anti-Communist nostalgia about the Bundeswehr [German army]. Their latest issue informs us that “the army was made smaller, in order to change it from a defensive army into an offensive army of attack” (Bolschewik, January 2007). This was not simply a slip of the tongue. Already a year ago they had written: “After the end of the Cold War, there was a change in the duties of the German Bundeswehr, which was supposed to function as a defensive army during the bloc confrontation” (Bolschewik, January 2006). The impulse to describe the functions of the army of German imperialism as “defensive” during the “bloc confrontation” with the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies flows straight from the Cold War mythology that the “democratic” West was threatened by “Soviet expansionism.”

The BT took this line from the books of the Left Party of Gregor Gysi and Oskar Lafontaine, which presents itself as a “peace-loving” opponent of foreign deployments of the Bundeswehr, if they are not covered by a UN mandate. Just recently, Lafontaine complained that the armament plans published in the Bundeswehr’s White Book would threaten “to turn the Bundeswehr from a defensive army into an armed force for protecting raw materials and trade routes” (press release, 25 October 2006). What the social-patriotic ideologues of the Left Party stand for is an alternative strategy for German imperialism: to obtain more independence from its U.S. imperialist rival through a closer alliance with imperialist France and Russia.

The BT’s glorification of the Bundeswehr’s role before capitalist reunification of Germany as a “defensive army” is further evidence of its deep-seated anti-Sovietism. Taken to its logical conclusion, this position leads to siding with the German bourgeoisie against the Soviet Union and the DDR [German Democratic Republic; East Germany], i.e., for the defense of the capitalist fatherland. As the American Trotskyist leader James P. Cannon observed about the defense of Soviet Russia: “Defensists at home were defeatists on Russia. Defensists on Russia were defeatists at home” (“Speech on the Russian Question,” 15 October 1939).

In 1945, the heroic Soviet Red Army smashed the Nazi regime. With the presence of Soviet troops in the eastern parts of Germany after 1945 and the onset of the imperialists’ Cold War against the USSR, the DDR, a deformed workers state, was established, and the German bourgeoisie was expropriated in those areas. In the West German occupation zones, the allied imperialists of the U.S., Britain and France propped up the rule of the German bourgeoisie as a bulwark against the “Red Hordes” from the East.

The Bundeswehr was created by Hitler’s former Wehrmacht generals and officers. This tank-heavy army was designed to put military pressure on and tie up the Soviet troops in Germany in the overall context of NATO’s plans for “containment” and ultimate conquest of the Soviet Union, including through a U.S. nuclear first strike. In this confrontation between the imperialist powers and the USSR, we Trotskyists stood unflinchingly for the unconditional military defense of the Soviet degenerated workers state and the deformed workers states of East Europe against imperialist attack.

Not so the BT, whose founding members are an assortment of embittered ex-members of our organization who got cold feet about our Soviet defensism in the early 1980s when the winds of Cold War II were blowing. They hated our call “Hail Red Army! Extend Social Gains of October Revolution to Afghan Peoples!” with which we greeted the Soviet intervention against the CIA-sponsored mujahedin in 1979. In 1981 we responded to the counterrevolutionary bid for power by the anti-Semitic, clerical-reactionary Solidarność in Poland with the call to “Stop Solidarność Counterrevolution!” Flinching from this position, a founder of the German BT’s predecessor, the GIVI (Gruppe Vierte Internationale), argued on his way out of our organization that “the smashing of the counterrevolutionary forces around Walesa/Wojtyla and [then chancellor] Schmidt and [then U.S. president] Reagan requires the overthrow of the Russian and Polish bureaucrats.” He placed the condition of overthrowing the Stalinist bureaucracies before the necessary defense of the workers states. We stand with Leon Trotsky who argued on the eve of WWII against the petty-bourgeois opposition in the then-revolutionary American SWP [Socialist Workers Party]:

“We must not lose sight for a single moment of the fact that the question of overthrowing the Soviet bureaucracy is for us subordinate to the question of preserving state property in the means of production in the USSR; that the question of preserving state property in the means of production in the USSR is subordinate for us to the question of the world proletarian revolution.”

—“The USSR in War,”
September 1939

In order to justify its cowardly flight from our Trotskyist program, the BT tends to accuse us of Stalinophilia, as in a 2003 leaflet in Britain, which declared that our statement of military support to the Kremlin Stalinists, should they have intervened to stop Solidarność counterrevolution in 1981, was a “Stalinophilic perversion of the Trotskyist position of unconditional military defense of the bureaucratized workers states.” Au contraire—it is the BT that perverts Trotskyism! Theirs is the politics of Stalinophobia. As Cannon described this phenomenon:

“The sentiment of hatred and fear of Stalinism, with its police state and its slave labor camps, its frame-ups and its murders of working class opponents, is healthy, natural, normal, and progressive. This sentiment goes wrong only when it leads to reconciliation with American imperialism, and to the assignment of the fight against Stalinism to that same imperialism. In the language of Trotskyism, that and nothing else is Stalinophobia.”

—“Stalinist Conciliationism and Stalinophobia,” 6 April 1953

The German BT affiliates were molded in the climate of the 1980s resurgence of German nationalism in Green colors. The huge “peace movement” at the time was directed against the stationing of nuclear-armed American Pershing 2 missiles [in West Germany] and the stationing of Soviet SS-20 missiles [in the DDR]. At bottom, the “peace movement” reacted in opposition to the possibility of a nuclear war carried out on German soil. This attitude corresponded to the German bourgeoisie’s aims at the time, which were to gain more independence from U.S. imperialism in order to pursue their “Ostpolitik”—first pronounced by SPD [Social Democratic Party] leader Willy Brandt in the 1970s
—of economically undermining and eventually destroying the workers states of East Europe. Imbibing this climate of anti-Sovietism and German nationalism, the GIVI coalesced around a petition campaign in late 1982 against us for excluding one Ulrich Sandhaus from one of our public forums. Sandhaus, a proto-fascist who wallowed in Nazi memorabilia, had earlier been expelled from our party for his racist proclivities. In 1984 Sandhaus planned and oversaw a brutal physical attack against a woman comrade of ours in Berlin.

If the BT simply hated us because we are the contemporary embodiment of the program of international proletarian revolution, it would make them but one among many opponents of revolutionary Marxism. But there is a unique and truly sinister quality about the BT, which eagerly tries to serve the purposes of those who would like to destroy us. For instance, their slanderous smears of our party as an “obedience cult” combined with tales of corruption and worse were picked up in 1995 by the mouthpiece of the American capitalist ruling class, the Wall Street Journal [WSJ], in order to undercut the growing domestic and international protests against the threatened execution of black death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. It did not escape the WSJ that these protests happened in large part as a result of the efforts of our fraternally allied legal defense organization in the U.S., the Partisan Defense Committee (see also “BT: Renegades for Hire,” Workers Vanguard No. 807, 1 August 2003).

The BT slanders of our organization as an “obedience cult” took no small amount of chutzpah, given that the 1982 founding declaration of the BT’s predecessor, the ET (External Tendency), portrayed one Bill Logan as a victim and scapegoat of our allegedly bureaucratic regime. Logan, whom the BT later openly embraced as its anointed leader, had been expelled from our organization at the first International Conference of our tendency in 1979 for being “a proven, massive liar and a sexual sociopath who manipulated the private lives of comrades for reasons of power politics and his own aberrant appetites and compulsions in the guise of Marxism.” In an August 1979 party trial, the trial body found Logan guilty among other things of “inhuman torture of a mother, rendered suicidal in his attempt to destroy and take away her baby.”

In our article “Bolshevik Tendency: Kneeling Before the Body of General Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham” (Workers Vanguard No. 827, 28 May 2004), we observed:

“The BT’s politics, such as they are, are fully in keeping with its hoary ‘darkness at noon’ depiction of our communist organization as a Stalin-style gulag and personality cult. So central and intertwined are social-democratic anti-Communism and a hostile obsession with us to the BT’s existence that, by its own admission, the ‘focal point’ of the German group’s fusion with the tiny Gruppe Leo Trotzki in 2002 was shared hostility to any possibility of a revolutionary outcome in East Germany in 1989-90 and to the one organization that fought to realize this, the ICL.”

In the autumn of 1989, hundreds of thousands of workers took to the streets of East Germany to demand a genuinely egalitarian socialist society. We mobilized our resources internationally in the effort to provide Trotskyist leadership to that incipient political revolution and to fight for revolutionary reunification—for a Red Germany of workers councils in a socialist Europe. We did not prevail, but we fought! The BT’s “intervention” into those revolutionary events was to smear the ICL as a bureaucratic cult akin to the Stalinists. In their May 1991 Trotzkistisches Bulletin No. 1, titled “The SpAD in the DDR: Opportunism in Revolutionary Disguise,” they sneer that we had invented an “imaginary political revolution.” Only those in thrall to the anti-Communist myth that “Stalinist totalitarianism” had rendered the workers in the deformed workers states mindless automatons incapable of struggle could so blithely dismiss any outcome other than capitalist counterrevolution (see also “Antispartakisten im Sog der Sozialdemokratie” [Anti-Spartacists in the Vortex of Social Democracy], Spartakist No. 87, June 1991).

An entire chapter of the BT bulletin is devoted to “The Phobia of the SpAD Against the Social Democracy.” They complain that we did not invite the SPD to the 250,000-strong united-front protest in East Berlin’s Treptow Park on 3 January 1990. That united front, initiated by us and taken up by the ruling Stalinist SED-PDS [Socialist Unity Party-Party of Democratic Socialism], was called to protest the fascist desecration of the memorial to the Soviet soldiers who died liberating Berlin in 1945. This rally was pro-Soviet and in defense of the workers states—an objective that was directly counterposed to the SPD’s campaign for capitalist reunification of Germany.

In our struggle against the capitalist reunification of Germany, we made strong efforts to bring about fraternization between East German workers and soldiers of the NVA [East German National People’s Army] and the Red Army troops in the DDR. The BT had only scorn for these attempts and accused us of “disappear[ing] in a criminal way that there is a blood line between the ordinary soldiers and their officers” in an army of a deformed workers state (emphasis in original). Thus, in the immediate aftermath of capitalist reunification, the BT contributed its share to the anti-Communist witchhunt against former DDR bureaucrats who were tried by the vengeful German bourgeoisie for acts of defending the DDR against capitalist counterrevolution.

One only needs to compare the poison and gall that the BT spits in the direction of the Red Army and the NVA to their embellishment of the Bundeswehr, whose hardware is decorated to this day with the blood-drenched Iron Cross of German imperialism, to understand the truly anti-Communist fiber of this organization.