Eastern and Western Europe today

First published: May 1989

Europe is today undergoing its greatest changes since World War II. This is obvious in Eastern Europe which has seen the greatest political shifts since 1945. In Western Europe structural shifts on a less dramatic scale, but still the greatest since World War II, have marked the two last decades. How are these developments linked, and what are their driving forces?

The first issue to be clarified in examining European trends, and the development of European politics, is the relation between the uniqueness of each state and the overall situation. There are no two countries in Europe in which the organisation of capital, the structure of the state, or the relations in the labour movement are duplicated or in which political tactics can be the same. Nevertheless this does not prevent there being a clear general European development. If we are to understand the individual process in each country in Europe we must first examine the international reality in which it develops. The aim of this article is to consider these broad trends of European development in their full scope. Within that framework the specific situation in each country can then be situated.


This development of Europe as a whole is clear. World War I shattered the equilibrium of Europe. The European powers, after spreading through the world, ‘imploded’. From 1914 onwards, starkly from 1917, Europe no longer dominated the world. As Max Silberschmidt put it: ‘During the previous four centuries world history had been dominated by Europe; from 1917 onwards the impulses which have given the contemporary world its distinctive appearance emanated from Russia and the United States, Europe’s flanking powers.’

The first force unleashed by World War I, the impact of the Russian Revolution, is understood by every socialist. Following October 1917, revolution spread to Hungary, Austria and Germany. Communist Parties were formed in all major European countries. The impact of the Russian revolution reshaped the European labour movement. Then, after 1941, the USSR emerged as the victor over fascist Germany. This time not merely defeated revolutions but the destruction of capitalism struck Eastern Europe. This impact of the Russian Revolution needs no elaborating.

The East European imperialist states, with their more powerful ruling classes, put up much stronger resistance but this in itself, for reasons we will show, would not have been enough to stop the revolutionary wave spreading through Europe. The force which stopped this, which first confined the revolution to Russia and then to Eastern Europe, and which decisively shaped the political nature of the continent, was not internal to Europe. It was the United States, with its colossal economic and military resources which, entering Europe from the west, twice allowed the blocking of the revolution from Russia. The Social Democratic bureaucracy, the instrument by which revolution was checked after World War I, was able to sustain that role only because of the economic room for manoeuvre given to it by the United States. The collision of the US with the impulse generated by the Russian Revolution determined the political shape of the European continent.

The consequence within the USSR of the stabilisation of capitalist Europe by the Dawes plan after 1923 was decisive. In 1923 Stalin’s was not the majority faction in the CPSU. Stalin formed only a part of a triumvirate with Kamenev and Zinoviev. and outside this were both the supporters of Trotsky and the Right Opposition of Bukharin. But Stalinism bred on defeat as well as causing it – the most notable in this period being that in China in 1926–27. The stabilisation of Europe by US funds in 1924–29 blocked any new revolutionary wave in Western Europe. By the time the US reversed its capital flows into Europe in 1929, and the collapse of the European economy showed that the continent’s stability was dependent on the United States, Stalin was consolidated in power in the USSR. History then followed a course which is well known.

Similar developments followed World War II. If revolution had spread into Western Europe after World War II it would have created the conditions for the destruction of Stalinism – Stalinism was, pre-eminently, the product of the isolation of the revolution in a backward country. Not merely did Stalin orient to blocking revolution in Western Europe but the United States economically sustained the Western European capitalist states through the Marshall Plan without being able to advance into Eastern Europe itself. The destruction of capitalism was achieved, outside Yugoslavia, by the Soviet regime. The effect was therefore to consolidate Stalinism in Eastern Europe following World War II.

This historical dialectic is clear. Stalinism, as Trotsky always insisted, was bonapartism – a force resting on a contradictory clash of two more fundamental social powers neither of which was able to prevail. Internally to the USSR Stalinism appeared as the ‘centre’ between the two more fundamental class forces of the Left Opposition, which represented the attempt of the working class to regain the momentum of the Russian Revolution, and the Right Opposition of Bukharin – which represented the pressure of capitalism on the USSR.

But Stalin’s bonapartism did not rest primarily on forces within the USSR. The Russian peasants, or pathetically small capitalists, could not overthrow the Soviet workers’ state – and could do so even less today. The small capitalist forces in the USSR were significant only insofar as they were backed up by, and linked to, the forces of international capitalism – which were, of course, economically far stronger than the USSR. Stalinism represented the contradictory clash of two fundamental social forces. The Russian Revolution was unable to spread into Europe because of the US which confined the revolution to a backward country – and which in turn produced the bureaucracy. At the same time capitalism, propelled by the US, was unable to overturn the Soviet workers’ state. The ‘bonapartism’ produced by the inability of either fundamental class force to prevail was Stalin – and, after World War II, the expansion of Stalinism into Eastern Europe. Stalinism was not a social formation in its own right, or even an essential social force, but the product of the contradictory clash of two more fundamental class powers.

This point relates to a fundamental misconception prevalent on the left regarding the ‘Yalta’ division of Europe in 1945. It is frequently believed that the West and Stalin ‘agreed’ the division of Europe. But this is a fundamental misunderstanding – ability to forswear expansion is impossible for capitalism. The division of Europe was not ‘agreed’. It was a product of a clash between two social forces, two different classes embodied in different states, neither of which could, at that time, prevail over the other. Such a ‘division’ by its very nature could only be temporary. Either capitalism would overthrow the workers’ states in Eastern Europe or socialist revolution would spread to Western Europe – and as always the United States stood as the fundamental barrier to the latter.

The US never took the division of Europe as ‘agreed’ at all. On the contrary it regarded the division of Europe as a defeat – a product of its inability to impose its will in Eastern Europe. The reality was best expressed by George Kennan, the leading US expert on relations with the USSR, at the time of Yalta itself. If the US wished to achieve its goals in Europe after 1945 then, in the conditions prevailing at that time, it had to be prepared to go to war. Kennan himself favoured ‘a fully fledged and realistic showdown with the Soviet Union’. However Kennan also spelt out the alternative. If the West was not willing, he wrote at the time of Yalta, ‘to go the whole hog’ to frustrate the Soviet Union, then the only thing to do was ‘partition Germany, divide the continent into spheres’. This clash of forces, not ‘agreement’, produced the division of Europe. As George Bush declared on granting $1 billion of credits to Poland ‘we never accepted Yalta’.

In turn during the period of capitalist boom of the 1950s and 1960s this division could exist and remain unchallenged. Capitalism had neither the necessity nor the possibility to attempt to reverse the division in its favour and equally the forces of the working class had no possibility to reverse the split in their favour – spreading socialism into Western Europe and, thereby, destroying the basis for the bureaucracy in the East. With the beginning of the capitalist economic crisis from the late 1960s, however, that compromise became untenable. Inevitably both classes would attempt to break down the division of Europe from totally different directions and serving two totally different class interests.

The way this developed after 1968, the turning point in the process, was inevitable given that war was not a viable option. The two fundamental classes existed across Europe – the various class states were ‘simply’ their most powerful instruments. Across Europe each class possessed not only its own states – but representatives of its class interests in the others’ states. Inevitably, therefore, the initial attempt to break down the division of Europe, that is to resolve the conflict between the capitalist and non capitalist modes of production in the continent, was for each side to use the representatives it possessed in the others states. The class conflicts were waged primarily within the states without, as in 1941, the dominant feature being a violent military clash between states of a different class character.

Given that each class possessed agents within the other’s camp, the unfolding of class struggle posing breaking down of the division of Europe was evident.

The first shift came with the impact of the international offensive of the working class in 1968–75 commenced by the January 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam and which found its base in Western Europe in the developing capitalist economic crisis. The May–June 1968 General Strike in France, the ‘hot autumn’ of 1969 in Italy, the rising crisis of Francoism, and the Portuguese revolution of 1974–75 all signalled a powerful spreading of the working class struggle into Western Europe. But in each country these working class struggles ended in defeats – although not all the ground gained was lost. The second wave of such struggle, much weaker than the first, was the anti–missiles movement. But this also was defeated. Out of these defeats imperialism regained the initiative and has begun to attempt to break down the division of Europe from its side – that is to begin to try to reintroduce capitalism into Eastern European states.

In the 1930s, culminating in 1941, the form of capitalist assault on the USSR was frontal and military – a direct onslaught on the USSR and its bureaucracy. In 1941 the working class, and its most advanced political representatives, were forced into a united front with the bureaucracy against a capitalist attack.

The distinctive feature of the present situation is that imperialism, far from directly assaulting the bureaucracy, sees it as its most important instrument in strengthening capital in Eastern Europe. Not merely does the bureaucracy repress the working class, thereby sapping its strength and permitting the penetration of capital, but it also directly creates the conditions for the spawning of small, medium – and not so small capitalists.

This reality determines the attitude which has to be taken by the working class to the different factions within the bureaucracy. It is not possible for any strategic alliance to exist with the Gorbachevite wing of the bureaucracy. Its proposals for democratic rights in the political field must be supported – for the most vital question in Eastern Europe is to reintroduce the mass of the working class into active politics (a point we elaborate below). But the working class will fundamentally clash with the Gorbachevite wing of the bureaucracy on all more essential issues of policy.

First the international policies of the working class clash with Gorbachev directly. Support for the international extension of socialism and the revolution – which alone corresponds to the international interests of the working class, and is also the only way to lead Eastern Europe out of its impasse – fundamentally clashes with Gorbachev’s policy of appeasement of imperialism. Support for the struggle in South Africa, of the FSLN and FMLN in Central America, and, doubtless, at a later date for working class struggles in Europe, clashes with the policy of Gorbachev. The fact that individual initiatives, such as the INF treaty and the proposals for arms reductions, must be supported, does not alter the fundamental further accommodation to imperialism represented by Gorbachev’s policies.

Secondly, internally, is the market reform. The market reform worsens the position of the working class and reduces its weight in society. On the economic and social field the working class directly clashes with the policies of Gorbachev.

Equally, clearly no alliance is possible with the Stalinist faction of the bureaucracy – and not simply because of its blatant repression, corruption, and suppression of democracy. It was the Stalinist wing of the bureaucracy which created the situation in the first place. Their overall international policy propped up imperialism. Their repression and depoliticisation of the working class created the conditions in which illusions in Western imperialism and pro–capitalist currents in their own countries could emerge.

No strategic alliance can exist with either the Gorbachevites or Ligachevites – as, in a previous historical period, no strategic alliance could exist for Trotsky with either Bukharin or Stalin.

The only way forward in Eastern Europe which meets the needs of the working class lies in the re-entry of the East European working class into active politics – to break the political apathy and repression which has gripped the Soviet working class since the 1920s and that of Eastern Europe during most of the post-war period in Eastern Europe.

This reality is strikingly demonstrated in the one case, Poland, where clearly advanced political forces have emerged standing to the left of the bureaucracy: the Polish Socialist Party Democratic Revolution (PPS-DR). The programme of the PPS-DR leaves no room for capitalism in Poland and it opposes capitalism on the international plane. Equally it is totally opposed to the bureaucracy.

But the PPS-DR is the product of more than three decades of political debate in Poland. Unlike Hungary, the Polish masses were not completely defeated in 1956. A certain ‘compromise’ with the bureaucracy after 1956 allowed a freer political life in which intellectual debate could take place. This, in turn, prepared the political currents which linked up with the Polish working class following its re-entry into political life in 1970. Then for almost two decades, Poland passed through recurrent mass working class struggles which culminated in the creation, rebanning, and then relegalisation of Solidarnosc. Only via this whole period of struggle, debate, and mass participation in politics could a political party be created standing to the left of the bureaucracy.

The same process applies, only more so, at the level of the mass of the working class. In the East European states outside the USSR illusions in capitalism, including in the majority of the working class, are deep. It could not be otherwise given the stability and higher living standards of Western Europe and the US – which rest on an imperialist system which is not understood by the masses in Eastern Europe – and given the degree of political liberty in the Western imperialist states compared to the repression exercised in Eastern Europe.

But illusions in capitalism are one thing, its reality is another. The market reform is the first practical taste the working class in Eastern Europe gets of what a movement towards capitalism means. And while the working class does not rebel against its illusions in capitalism as such – no class forms its actions on the basis of ideas – the East European workers do rebel against the practical consequences of moves back to capitalism as every workers’ state into which a market reform has been introduced shows.

The historical dialectic in Eastern Europe is evident. The most advanced political currents are created by the possibility of free political debate. The entry of the mass of the working class into politics, alone, can break the atomisation produced by Stalinism. The two combined alone produce rebirth of left currents. That is the dialectic of political advance in Eastern Europe.

But if we turn to Western Europe what conditions operate there?

The first major progressive advance of the West European working class in the post-war period came in 1968–75. This inter-related not only with a capitalist economic crisis in general but a profound historical shift in the relation between Western Europe and the United States.

From 1914 to the mid-1960s the US was the great subsidiser of Western Europe. However from the mid-1960s onwards, amid the Vietnam war, the US struck progressively greater economic blows against Europe. First inflation fed by the Vietnam War, then the oil price increases of 1973 produced by collaboration of the US with OPEC, and then the effects of ‘Reaganomics’ hit the West European economies. The result was, first, an explosion of working class struggle in Europe from 1968–75 and then, after this, a profound realignment of forces in the European labour movement.

As regards capital in Europe the effect of the crisis was to drive the European capitalist classes more firmly into the arms of the US. Indeed this is inevitable and logical. West European capital’s subordination to the United States is based on three great pillars – the fact that since 1914 Western Europe has not been economically stable without the United States, the strength of the West European labour movement, and Western Europe’s military inferiority to the USSR. Simple economic growth does not compensate for these basic realities – furthermore since 1973 European growth, and even more the rate of growth of European capital formation, has fallen behind that of the US.

This process since 1968 is clear. The one capitalist politician in Europe who showed even demagogic independence from US policy, de Gaulle, fell as a direct result of the May–June events. Then, following the oil price increase of 1973, Gaullism lost the French presidency. Gaullism collapsed not merely because its economy was too weak but politically – as soon as the working class moves into action the European capitalist classes necessarily turn to the US for support. It is sufficient to see the European bourgeois response on Cruise and Pershing missiles, in which all meekly toed the American line, to see the weakness and worthlessness of any capitalist opposition to the United States in Europe.

It is absurd to expect, as do forces ranging from Peter Tatchell to those trade unionists who gave EEC Commissioner Jacques Delors a standing ovation at the TUC Congress, that we will see resistance to the United States based on European capital or the EEC. European capital is not a force for resisting the United States, it is a force which historically capitulated to it seventy years ago and has no possibility whatever of reversing that course. The precondition for a capitalist policy in Europe independent of the United States would be that the European labour movement had been smashed and therefore posed no threat – a fascist solution in Europe.

Further this capitulation applies on the economic level. The period since 1968 has been one in which the US has increasingly subordinated the European economics to its interests. The 1971 devaluation of the dollar, carried out without any consultation with its allies, commenced the US counter–offensive against Europe. The 1973 oil price increase consolidated it.

The effects of this post–1973 economic period are evident. From 1945 until 1973 the West European economies grew more rapidly than the United States. In the 15 years since 1973 the US has grown more rapidly than Western Europe and its rate of capital formation has far exceeded that of Western Europe. By accepting the economic tutelage of the US, the EEC condemned itself to relative economic stagnation.

But that subordination to the US is undoubtedly a far more rational choice for European capitalists than to embark on the hazardous, indeed impossibly dangerous, course of attempting to gain independence from the one force which since 1917 has been the guarantor of their survival.

A break with the United States would mean the European capitalist classes would have to face on the European continent, alone, the strongest labour movements in any imperialist country and the military reality of the USSR. Better to be a poorer capitalist than to risk not being a capitalist at all is the logic of European capital’s capitulation to the US!

The projects of European capital for the 1990s, in particular the Single European Act (1992) are not projects for resisting the United States but for copying it and capitulating to it. The EEC is quite open about this. The project of 1992 is couched in explicitly Reaganite terms. In the words of the official study commissioned by the EEC, the Cecchini report, 1992 is a ‘supply side shock… of macroeconomic proportions’ ‘a supply side shock given by market integration’.

Far from being a challenge to the United States, 1992 is about importing US methods into Europe. The goal, and effect, of these is the same as in the US – to weaken the labour movement. Furthermore it is not accompanied by any political break with the US as is vividly illustrated in the question of the ‘modernisation’ of nuclear weapons. There is not a serious capitalist opposition to this in Europe at all. The opposition developing in West Germany is based not on capital’s objections but on fear of the electoral consequences, that is a political reaction in the working class, not on capitalist opposition to US policy. Kohl himself would undoubtedly like to introduce the missiles.

However this case of West Germany, together with France and Spain, does graphically illustrate one major effect of the policies leading to 1992. This is a crisis in the capitalist parties in western Europe. The project of 1992 means untrammelled supremacy of big capital. Structurally 1992 includes rationalising European capital through the elimination of major sections of the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie who form a major part of the base of the main capitalist parties. This tends to produce a crisis within these parties.

This tendency is strengthened by the fact that following the October 1987 crash European and Japanese capital capitulated to the demands of the United States and recommenced financing its expansion. This ensured political stability in the United States – but at the expense of spreading a crisis not only into the third world, through exacerbation of the debt but also destablising the ruling parties in the other imperialist countries. The financial scandals and the crisis of Takeshita in Japan, and the current crisis of the Kohl government in West Germany, are by-products of the strain imposed on West Germany and Japan by capitulation to US demands following October 1987.

But if the bourgeoisie capitulates to the US the situation with the working class is different. The force bearing the brunt not only of European capital’s demands, and also the extra pressure of the United States, is not European capital but the European working class. The resistance which has come to the United States in Western Europe has not come from capital but from the working class and its allies – as shown graphically in the anti–Vietnam war, the anti–missiles movements and the present fears of the West German government.

The West European working class today, however, is fighting under definite conditions which shape its struggle and explain the fundamental features of the reorganisation of the working class movement.

Firstly. taking the most fundamental trend, the changed economic relation of the US to Western Europe, the fact that it is no longer subsidising but striking blows against its European allies, broke the back of the cravenly pro–American currents in the European Socialist Parties.

The right wing of the European social democracy now see its saviour not in the United States but in the EEC.

This orientation plays a dual role. On the one hand it corresponded to the need of the Socialist Parties to maintain their base in the working class in conditions where the latter were swinging sharply away from support for the United States. Secondly this orientation played a decisive role for European capital. Given the crisis of the petty bourgeoisie and its impact on the capitalist parties, the right wing social democracy, with its firm pro-EEC orientation, appears as a bulwark of cohesion and stability for capital.

These political trends fit in perfectly with the economic/social trends produced by the new period of capital – the emergence of the dual society and the tendency to a ‘core’ of secure, well paid, white, chiefly male, workers surrounded by a ‘periphery’ of low paid, unskilled, insecure, frequently black, workers whose conditions rapidly deteriorated – and even outside these the widening layers of the long term unemployed. This ‘dual society’ sharply shapes the radicalisation of both the left and the extreme right.

The forces excluded by the drive to 1992 are the petty bourgeoisie and the unskilled and unemployed ‘periphery’. The social bloc represented by the right wing social democracy, in particular, is an alliance of the labour bureaucracy and the best off sections of the working class – of the ‘core’, of those least touched by austerity – with big capital against the petty bourgeoisie and the poorest sections of the working class.

In that framework the rise of both currents of the left and of the extreme right is logical. Both are based on the forces pushed outside the orbit of big capital and right wing social democracy. The emphasis in the contemporary European left wing on women and black people, as well as ecology and other themes taken up by the Greens, the left wing of the Labour Party, those who voted for Juquin and the ecologists in France, the left socialists in Denmark, reflects the social recomposition of the working class since World War 11 and the development of the dual society. At the same time the pressure on layers of the petty bourgeoisie and the growth of unemployment creates space for the right.

But unlike the inter-war period, currents emerging to the left of right wing social democracy are not being drawn into the Communist Parties. The discrediting of the East European bureaucracies is now such that their local representatives, the West European CPs, are no longer capable of attracting the majority of radicalised forces.

However this decline of the CPs does not mean a rise of anti-Sovietism or Cold War myths. The Communist Parties are not representatives of the Soviet Union, that is the workers’ state, but of the bureaucracy which rests on it. The decline of the Communist Parties is accompanied by a more favourable attitude by the masses towards the USSR – rejection of the view that it is an aggressor power, belief that the fundamental problem in the world is the US etc. Radicalisation in Europe today is passing through the Greens, the left of the Labour Party, and similar forces.

Finally, these processes give rise to the fundamental trends of development in Europe over the next decade. Every capitalist crisis poses a simple question. It is an illusion created by conditions of capitalist stability that two modes of production, that is two class powers, can co-exist on the European continent. Any crisis, such as the present, brings this out into the open. One must eventually prevail and overthrow the other – a question which will be decided both by the objective relation of forces and by the subjective quality of leadership given to them. We will examine each in turn.

At the objective level undoubtedly the most fundamental problem that is faced, indeed the most fateful for the entire world political situation, is that today the crisis in the USSR is qualitatively more advanced than in the United States. By centralising the resources of world imperialism in its own hands the US under Reagan underwent seven years of powerful economic growth and significantly rebuilt its military machine. It is this force which stands behind the West European capitalists – without it they would be extremely strategically weak. The US proletariat today is the only major working class in the world which has not engaged in active struggle as a class since the beginning of the capitalist crisis. In contrast bureaucratic misrule in the USSR has led its economy into profound stagnation and crisis.

Put aphoristically, whereas Jesse Jackson, the first symptom (although not the solution) of profound political shifts in the US and the break-up of the Democratic Party, was knocked back, a major crisis now exists in the USSR. That the United States remains a pillar of relative political stability in the situation gives to imperialism its relative political advantage – an advantage, incidentally, which can reflect itself not simply in direct drives to capitalist restoration in Eastern Europe but also, in reactions against this, in the revival of directly Stalinist trends as with Milosevic in Yugoslavia.

This situation places a tremendous responsibility on the West European proletariat not only from the point of view of its own struggles but because it is the chief force which can break the encirclement of the East European working class.

This is indeed doubly necessary. In the inter-war period the workers’ state of the USSR was protected against a combined imperialist offensive by intense inter-imperialist competition, culminating in war. After 1923, even more after 1933, the European working class suffered crushing defeat. Today inter-imperialist competition is not remotely so strong but the working class of Western Europe has not suffered any defeat comparable to those after 1923. This marks a distinct difference to the situation in the inter-war period. It is the West European working class which must break the encirclement of Eastern Europe.

What is theoretically posed is shown by the fact that since 1968 the working class in both the Western and Eastern parts of the European continent has been engaged in mass struggles. The ideal variant would of course be that these struggles were synchronised. Under those conditions it would obviously be the West European working class, not capitalism, that would have been the pole of attraction for the East European working class. But unfortunately history does not organise itself in such favourable trends of development and behind West European capital continues to lie the power of the United States.

Nevertheless the fundamental trends of development do operate and certain of the movements in Western Europe, notably the peace and ecology movements, and almost certainly very soon the women’s movement, do impact on Eastern Europe. What, therefore, must be the fundamental tasks undertaken by the working class in Western Europe in this situation?

The first is simply that the advance of the class struggle in Western Europe completely coincides with the interests of that in Eastern Europe. The more the West European proletariat advances in its own struggles – against austerity, against nuclear modernisation, against unemployment, for women, for ecology – the more it appears as the pole of attraction for the East European proletariat. The more, on the contrary, it is Thatcher or Kohl who appear strong and triumphant the more the illusions in Western capitalism among the East Europe proletariat are spread – and the more concessions are made to capital by the bureaucracy. It is of course around these mass struggles that the West European working class will advance.

Similarly outside Europe, every advance by, the colonial revolution weakens the ability of Western imperialism to militarily and economically squeeze Eastern Europe and the USSR. Furthermore it is the struggle in the semi-colonial world in particular which reveals the rapacious character of imperialism to the most advanced sections of the population in Eastern Europe.

The struggle inside the workers’ movement in Western Europe is inseparably connected to this situation. The right wing of the West European social democracy, as with the imperialists, are directly aiding the most pro-capitalist forces in Eastern Europe. Indeed certain of the projects of the East European bureaucracy, such as the creation of pro-capitalist Social Democratic Parties in a number of countries, are directly carried through in collaboration with the Second International. In turn, the right wing social democracy supports the policies of attacks on working class living standards in Eastern Europe, as with the Walesa/Jaruselski agreement, while simultaneously putting up no serious opposition to repression of left wing currents.

But in addition to the direct struggle of the working class in Western Europe it is necessary to be clear what ‘breaking the encirclement’ of the working class in Eastern Europe means. It does not mean that socialist revolution is on the agenda in Western Europe today – although class struggles are. Also the crisis in Eastern Europe itself is going to develop over a certain period of years. What it does mean is extending the class struggle in Western Europe and linking it to that in Eastern Europe in a way that aids both taking up specific tasks directed at Eastern Europe.

The demands of this are specific. The first is for the legalisation of the left wing currents in Eastern Europe. While concessions are made in Eastern Europe today to right wing or pro–capitalist forces the repression of left wing currents continues – indeed as the fight against the market reform starts this is going to deepen. It is symptomatic of what is going to happen that precisely at the same time that Walesa went to see the Pope with the blessing of the Polish bureaucracy, and Bush was announcing $1 billion credits for Poland, Josef Pinior, the leader of the Polish PPS, was refused a passport to travel to the West.

Second is the interrelation of demands for reduction in military spending, and against nuclear weapons. This is both a question of the struggle against the capitalists in Western Europe and, also, corresponds to the most urgent need in Eastern Europe – which is to improve the living and cultural conditions of the working class and thereby its weight in society by releasing extra economic resources. This relates immediately to partial demands such as the elimination of all short range nuclear weapons, in the medium term to the demand for the denuclearisation of Europe, and to more far reaching demands such as the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the countries of Europe – a demand completely unacceptable to Western European capital because breaking their dependence on the US is impossible for them.

Third is the question of economic credits from Socialist Party governments. Credits from the Western governments are tied to strengthening their class forces in Eastern Europe – tied to austerity programmes, market reforms, and, at best, individual human liberties (which in themselves of course are to be supported). Naturally they do not include such questions as the right of socialist political currents to function. The issue of tying of credits to the right of currents such as the PPS to exist, including legally, is a demand which must be raised by the left in Western Europe.

Fourth, specific efforts must be undertaken to make known, and aid, the positions of the left wing currents in Eastern Europe. The fashionable orientation today, promoted in this country by the Socialist Conference, is towards Gorbachev – that is to alliance with forces moving against the interests of the international working class in Eastern Europe and internationally. It is clear that where left wing currents do emerge, as with the PPS, they are directly in conflict with the Gorbachevite wing of the bureaucracy as with the direct Stalinists. Capital, as its supports this, is very happy to publicise an orientation to Gorbachev – but not the socialist alternative. Special efforts have therefore to be put into getting out the views of left wing currents in Eastern Europe.

Fifth, every opportunity has to be taken to clarify the attitude of East European political currents towards the colonial revolution. It is here that the nature of Western imperialism is most graphically revealed – and this can be a powerful influence on vanguard currents in Eastern Europe.

Finally the decisive country in Europe, as always, will be Germany – as the development of the fight against both the missiles and nuclear modernisation shows. Twice, despite huge struggles by the German working class. the impact of the Russian Revolution has been halted in Germany by the United States. Whether this can be achieved a third time, or whether on the contrary the West German workers will undermine the grip of the United States, will largely determine the fate of the European continent.

The next decade in Europe will be dominated by that fact that two class powers, that is two modes of production, cannot coexist on the European continent. One must prevail over the other – a crisis merely means that the basic historical choice is posed directly. Which does prevail will play a decisive role in determining the fate of humanity.

The 1990s in Europe will give a large part of that answer to that question.