MIA: History: ETOL: Document: Workers Party/Independent Socialist League: Neither Capitalism nor Socialism

Workers Party/Independent Socialist League

E. Haberkern & Arthur Lipow (eds.)

Neither Capitalism nor Socialism


Chapter II

The Hitler-Stalin Pact


Neither Capitalism nor Socialism, pp. 41–42.


One consequence the signing of the pact between Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany was the proliferation of “wave of the future” theories.

The book bearing this title by Anne Morrow Lindberg set the general tone. The author, taking note of Anglo-Saxon sensitivities, made clear that she herself regretted the excesses of the new totalitarian regimes and was only observing a phenomenon not necessarily approving of it. Fascism was a nice place to visit, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to live there herself.

Nevertheless, the work in general exuded admiration for the vigor of the new regimes as compared to the lethargy and drift of capitalism mired in the depression.

On the left it was James Burnham who captured this spirit in his book the Managerial Revolution. A synopsis of this book appeared in The Partisan Review, a literary and political review then generally sympathetic to Trotsky and left socialism in general. This article is reprinted here. It speaks for itself and demonstrates how Trotsky’s insistence on the progressive role of statification and national planning could become the basis of an apology for Stalinism and fascism. Ironically, it was Burnham, when he was still a Trotskyist, who had warned against such a development.

Dwight MacDonald’s article in the same issue of Partisan Review is of interest because it was one of the few serious attempts to explain how Nazi Germany had ceased to be capitalist even though no outright seizure of private property took place.

The last selection attempts to refute this “new wave” analysis. Max Shachtman’s Is Russia a Workers’ State? while recognizing the futility of trying to show that either the working class or the capitalist class has any power left in Stalin’s Russia still clings to Trotsky’s emphasis on the historically progressive role played by the bureaucracy in defending nationalized property.

Shachtman refuses to follow Burnham in awarding similar honors to the fascist bureaucracy by emphasizing that Hitler halted before challenging the “juridical detail” of private property. The question of whether such a confiscation by the fascist party would be progressive just as Stalin’s was is effectively dodged. In the section of Poland occupied by the Russians the capitalist class was expropriated and, simultaneously, every working class organization including the Communists was wiped out. This certainly placed in doubt the claim that all Stalin was doing, or was capable of doing, was preserving the achievements of the Russian Revolution. This issue is not discussed.

The Managerial Revolution – James Burnham

The End of Capitalism in Germany – Dwight MacDonald

Is Russia a Workers’ State? – Max Shachtman

Last updated on 8 November 2020