The Verdict of History – Prologue to Russian Edition


This new edition, now in Russian, of The Verdict of History ,is added to the one in Portuguese (2008), the one in Spanish (2009), and the upcoming one in English.
The several editions of this book show the interest it awoke among those who seek to understand what happened with the states where bourgeoisie was expropriated in the past. Specifically, the ex-USSR, the European East, China, and Cuba.
The Verdict contains various works developed between 1994 and 2001. Thus, over 20 years have passed since the first works, developed with a great number of comrades and friends over such a controversial and exciting subject: revolution and restoration in the ex-worker states.
In these two decades, many changes occurred in these states, which could have led me to update this book instead of simply re-editing it. However, I was inclined towards this last alternative for considering the observations and conclusions from twenty years ago to be essentially correct, which implies they do not require clarifications, updates, or even corrections.
When these texts were written, in the 90s, there was a great debate among intellectuals and left organizations on the meaning of the processes of the East. This debate remains until today and one must not be shocked if it continues for some decades, given the importance of the matter.
However, in those years, the debate acquired forms different than the current ones. It was mainly discussed whether, in the workers’ states, capitalism had been restored or not and, from there, a series of very controversial conclusions were taken.
Our works faced most of the stands because from 1994 (actually, with a lot of delay) we began to point out that a qualitative change had taken place in all workers’ states regarding their class nature. They had gone from degenerated worker states (in the case of the ex-USSR) or bureaucratized worker states (the others) to capitalist states, and capitalist restoration had begun with different rhythms in each.
In this context, also in opposition to almost all organizations and left intellectuals, we pointed out that capitalist restoration had not begun in the USSR, from Gorbachev’s Perestroika, but in China, from the “Four Modernizations” adopted by the Communist Party of China in 1978.
Also against the much-disseminated idea that the masses, with their mobilization, had ended the workers’ states in the European East, we pointed that the states had changed their nature before the great demonstrations. So, the great mobilization confronted capitalist states, not workers’ states. Thus, they overthrew dictatorial, bourgeois regimes led by communist parties.
During those years, many (not all) acknowledged that capitalism had been restored in the ex-USSR, but practically no left sector acknowledged this for China, Vietnam, and Cuba.
This difference of analysis expressed a deep political difference. Stalinist currents, or those deeply influenced by them (like many “Trotskyist” organizations,) that stated mass mobilizations enabled the capitalist restoration had no way to explain the restoration in those countries where such mobilizations had not taken place, like the cases of Vietnam and Cuba, or where the mobilization was defeated, like in China.
We believe that reality itself verified our analysis. Today, very few consider capitalism was not restored in China or Vietnam. At the same time, more and more people surrender before evidence and acknowledge that the same thing happened in Cuba.
Regarding the periodization of the process in European East (the nature of the states changed first, and then the great mobilizations took place against the regimes,) there is still great resistance in acknowledging this fact, which is very simple to verify: it is enough to study the dates of these facts. The resistance to accepting reality is still very strong.
However, as I said before, our analysis and conclusions require some specifications and even corrections.
The Verdict has the merit of pointing out that capitalist restoration did not begin in the ex-USSR, because such a process had taken place a decade before, in China. However, the text does not take into consideration that Tito took the first steps towards capitalist restoration with the self-management policy, in the 60s, in Yugoslavia. If we, Marxists, studied this reality deeply, we would have hardly been as surprised as we were with the process of China and European East. Everything showed that what happened in Yugoslavia anticipated what would happen later in all the ex-worker states.
From the point of view of analysis, it is also necessary to highlight something that is not clearly developed in the book, and furthermore, contradictory formulations appear, sometimes. I am referring to the relation between the change of nature of a state (from workers’ to capitalist) and capitalist restoration.
In the book, there is some confusion because there is an equal sign between these two concepts.
It is not clear enough if capitalist restoration emerged because of the change in the nature of the state when the bourgeoisie, through its agents, recover power. Neither is it clear that the seizing of power by the bourgeoisie took place in a specific moment (in a date,) but, on the contrary, capitalist restoration is a process that develops through time.
Trotsky in the 30s, foreseeing the restoration, warned: “Should a bourgeois counter-revolution succeed in the USSR, the new government for a lengthy period would have to base itself upon the nationalized economy.”[1] This happened in all ex-worker states, although it was not “for a lengthy period.”
This specification is important because the misunderstanding on the relation between these two concepts led many (myself among them, until 1994) to consider that those states continued to be workers’ states because the restoration had not culminated, or because it was “bogged down”. Whereas from the change in the class nature of the state on, restoration was unavoidable unless a social revolution impeded it.
It is necessary to identify there is a mistake in The Verdict, which is common to almost all organizations that claim to be Trotskyists. Nevertheless, it is a mistake.
Without a doubt, the East processes generated great confusion among organizations who vindicated themselves as Trotskyists, which led to crisis, splits, and disaggregation. This led us to say what seemed obvious at the time, “there was a deepening of the crisis of revolutionary leadership…” These words appear in the preface of the first edition of The Verdict (1995).
This idea is deeply mistaken. Trotsky, in 1938, verifying the weakness of the revolutionary leadership regarding Social Democracy and Stalinism, correctly stated: “The historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership.” [2]
This crisis had two components. On one hand, the extreme weakness of the revolutionary leadership; on the other hand, the strengthening of the counter-revolutionary leadership with Social Democracy joining Stalinism.
This crisis of revolutionary leadership deepened after Trotsky’s death. On one hand, due to his own murder as part of the genocide of a generation of revolutionaries. On the other, due to the strengthening of Stalinism after World War II because of the role of the USSR (despite Stalin) in the defeat of Fascism. In the post-war period, in the framework of a great revolutionary ascent, the crisis of revolutionary leadership deepened as never before, because there was a qualitative strengthening of the counterrevolutionary leadership.
The processes of the East, with the downfall of the Stalinist apparatus due to the revolutionary action of the masses, went in the opposite direction to what happened in the post-war period. Although there was no significant growth of the already weak revolutionary leadership, there was a qualitative weakening of the powerful counter-revolutionary leadership, and largely, this cleared the way to attempt a solution to the main contradiction of humanity, pointed out by Trotsky.
The Programmatic Challenge
The deep transformations that took place in the ex-worker states posed two great challenges to Marxists.
There was a need to understand what actually happened (which I was previously referring to,) and to draw conclusions regarding the test on our program.
With the break of Social Democracy with Marxism and the Stalinist degeneration, Trotsky and his comrades had to interpret what was happening in the ex-USSR, and its international consequences, as well as the tasks for the proletariat drawn from this understanding. In the 30s, the Trotskyist program was outlined in opposition to Social Democracy and Stalinism.
What happened in the ex-worker states, specifically in the ex-USSR, tested this program.
The main preoccupation of the book was to answer this question, thus its name, The Verdict of History. It was a verdict from facts on validity and relevance of the Trotskyist program, which, as Nahuel Moreno often said, it was and is – I add – the only Marxist current in the present.
The proof of facts
The October Revolution enabled the expropriation the bourgeoisie, replacing market economy with centralized planned economy and monopolizing foreign trade by the new worker state. This enabled a spectacular development of economy and culture in the USSR, which led Stalin to state, by early 30s, that the USSR was a socialist state on its way to communism.
Trotsky, in his book The Revolution Betrayed and other works, approached this subject deeply, stating that the USSR was not yet a socialist state (it was in transition towards it). However, the results obtained in less than two decades showed “the right to victory of socialism,” because in the history of humanity a backward country had never reached such a development in such a short period.
However, at the same time he stated this, he said that if Stalinist bureaucracy continued leading the State, the return to capitalism was posed instead of socialism and communism. “The political prognosis has an alternative character: either the bureaucracy, becoming ever more the organ of the world bourgeoisie in the workers’ state, will overthrow the new forms of property and plunge the country back to capitalism; or the working class will crush the bureaucracy and open the way to socialism.” [3]
Trotsky stated this because, behind the Stalinist policy, there was a theory/program: it was a theory to justify the interests of a parasite caste emerged within a workers’ state. The famous theory made up by Stalin against all Marxist tradition, “Socialism in one country,” had a content: the abandonment of the triumph of the world revolution to defend, from an isolated state, the “pacific coexistence with imperialism.”
The agreements, with Hitler first and the Americans and British later, just as the murder, on Stalin’s command, of hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants – among them, those who led the October Revolution of 1917 – were to sustain this policy. Six decades after its formulation, the world was able to contemplate the results of this policy. In Stalin’s “socialist” country walking “towards communism,” capitalism was restored and restoration did not come through a military invasion of imperialism but, as Trotsky anticipated, from a choice of the ruling bureaucracy.
Reality verified the disjunctive posed by Trotsky, but the Trotskyist program did not limit itself to present alternative prognostics. It had a strategy for the triumph of the progressive alternative. This alternative was the defense of a revolution within the revolution: a political revolution which should preserve the achievements of October that still existed (mainly, nationalized enterprises, monopoly of foreign trade, and centralized planned economy), but it had to expel the bureaucracy in office for the working class with its organisms, Soviets, and revolutionary party to lead the state.
Stalinists accused Trotsky of counter-revolutionary because he defended the overthrow of the bureaucracy. At the same time, many of his followers drifted apart because they believed he capitulated to Stalinism because he defended the worker state before imperialism, although it had degenerated.
The verdict of history was demolishing. The working class, despite its attempts (revolutionary uprisings in Eastern Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia) did not manage to crush bureaucracy, and as Trotsky said, bureaucracy became “the organ of world bourgeoisie in the worker state [that] destroyed the new forms of property and sank the country in capitalism again.”
Capitalist restoration meant a brutal setback of economy in the ex-workers’ states, which are or are on the way of becoming semi-colonies of imperialist powers. This also verifies the accuracy of the Trotskyist program in having defended those states from imperialism despite their leadership, because this meant defending the achievements of the October revolution.
Bureaucracy managed to defeat the political revolution. Thus, workers’ states were destroyed. This proved that only Trotskyists had a program to avoid capitalist restoration and resume the path towards socialism.
A necessary clarification
In our book, we defined as “Stalinist” the government led by Stalin and all the governments that followed it, and with the same definition, we grouped different currents. This type of definition will surely surprise the Russian reader because this is not the way the events after Stalin’s death were identified in Russia.
This broad definition of ours of the category “Stalinism” requires an explanation.
The period called of “de-Stalinization” emerged in the XX Congress of the CPSU, where Nikita Kruschev presented his famous secret report where he denounced Stalin’s crimes, but it did not mean a break with the essence of Stalinism. In other words, pacific co-existence with imperialism, abandonment of the world revolution, denial of workers’ democracy, international policy of class collaboration through popular fronts, and from all this, systematic betrayals to all revolutions that threatened its interests and agreements with the bourgeoisie and imperialism.
Thus, we call “Stalinists” to all governments that followed Stalin, despite their denunciations against him, because these denunciations were not the expression of a struggle against bureaucracy but an internal, inter-bureaucratic struggle for Stalin’s succession when the masses’ discontent was growing in several countries, even the USSR.
We also name as Stalinists the different currents that, independently on whether they identify with Stalin or not, defend its program in essence. Specifically, Titoism, Maoism, and Castroism.
In the West, people speak of different Marxist currents. We think it is more precise to speak of different currents of Stalinism. Not by chance, all these currents, with significant differences among themselves, had one same policy to face the crisis in their own states, and it was not the policy of the Bolsheviks, to seek the necessary help in the world revolution. Instead, it was to restore capitalism.
Finally, to end this introduction, I could not stop mentioning what is in the introduction of the previous editions of The Verdict: “Stalinism and its successors, with their reign of terror, placed a barrier between revolutionary Marxists of the capitalist world and those of Eastern Europe. The East revolutions began to tumble down these barriers, but the “happy reencounter” is not easy. During all these years of dispersion, different political languages were built, which the idiomatic barriers, which are neither few nor secondary, aggravate. We must add to this, on our behalf, the Western Marxists maintain in many aspects –forgive the repetition- a “western” perspective on the reality these countries lived and live. This last element obliges us to be even more careful and open with our works, and apologize beforehand to these comrades for the mistakes we will surely commit.”
Martín Hernández
São Paulo, June 2, 2017
Translation: Alejandra Ramírez.
[1] León Trotsky, “Not a Workers’ and not a Bourgeois State?” November 25, 1937. In:
[2] Trotsky, Leon. The Transitional Program. 1938. In:
[3] Trotsky, Leon. The Transitional Program. 1938. In:


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