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 IV

The Third Camp


Neither Capitalism nor Socialism, pp. 171–172.


The events of the year 1948 made clear that the Russian experience was not going to be an isolated one. One could no longer claim with Trotsky that Stalinism was only defending what was left of the October Revolution.

In Czechoslovakia the Communist Party expropriated what was left of the bourgeoisie politically and economically. While the presence of the Red Army in the wings certainly aided the Communists it was the internal situation of the country that made their victory possible. Capitalism was discredited and the working class exhausted. As had happened earlier in Russia, the Communist Party filled the vacuum.

In China, it was clear to all that Mao’s victory owed nothing to Russian help. Most political observers were aware that Stalin and the Russians were not sympathetic to Mao’s attempt to seize power; they preferred a sharing of power with the Kuomintang.

In Yugoslavia, Tito’s break with Stalin raised the possibility of a bureaucratic collectivist state hostile to Russia and allied to the capitalist states diplomatically.

Clearly, this new system, neither capitalist nor socialist, was not going to be remain a peculiar byway of history. For socialists, the issue that had been debated for ten years inside the Trotskyist movement became an issue all had to take a stand on. This new system was anti-capitalist. It was also clearly oppressive and based on the intensive exploitation of the working class. Did socialists have to support it because of its anti-capitalism? Trotsky had tried to dodge the issue by arguing that the progressive aspect of Russia, nationalized property, was a result of the October revolution and could not be defended for long by the bureaucracy. That dodge would no longer work. Indeed, Trotsky himself had qualified his position. He stated that his thesis would no longer hold if the bureaucracy lasted through the war. The extension of its power over more than a quarter of the world’s population he did not even anticipate.

Trotsky was not alone. Few political analysts, bourgeois or socialist, expected the rapid collapse of the capitalist system in as large a part of the world. Those socialists who had rejected support for the bureaucracy in any circumstances had used the term “Third Camp” to describe their position. It was not just a case of rejecting the two military alliances that temporarily formed during the Hitler-Stalin pact nor the latter alliance of the capitalist democracies and Stalin’s Russia. For them the future of socialism, and civilization, depended on an independent, popular movement opposed to both systems.

It was from this perspective that the articles reprinted here analyzing the events of 1948 were written. They demonstrate the ability of such an approach to deal with the complex reality of the post war world in a way that those who saw it in simpler terms of socialism versus capitalism were unable to.

Triangle of Forces – Hal Draper

The Economic Drive Behind Tito – Hal Draper

The Nature of the Chinese State – Jack Brad

The Strange Case of Anna Louise Strong – Jack Brad

Last updated on 8 November 2020