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Trotting after Trotsky


Socialist Courier has recently posted a number of articles on Leninism. Its equally evil twin, Trotskyism,  should not be overlooked.

"Permanent Revolution"

Trotsky acquired the phrase from Marx’s writings and very much like Lenin and his use of “dictatorship of the proletariat” from Marx, applied it in such a way that it was not originally intended to be used by Marx.

Marx first used the phrase in the following passage from The Holy Family, 1845 He wrote:

 “Napoleon represented the last battle of revolutionary terror against the bourgeois society which had been proclaimed by this same Revolution, and against its policy. Napoleon, of course, already discerned the essence of the modern state; he understood that it is based on the unhampered development of bourgeois society, on the free movement of private interest, etc. He decided to recognise and protect this basis. He was no terrorist with his head in the clouds. Yet at the same time he still regarded the state as an end in itself and civil life only as a treasurer and his subordinate which must have no will of its own. He perfected the Terror by substituting permanent war for permanent revolution. He fed the egoism of the French nation to complete satiety but demanded also the sacrifice of bourgeois business, enjoyments, wealth, etc., whenever this was required by the political aim of conquest. If he despotically suppressed the liberalism of bourgeois society — the political idealism of its daily practice — he showed no more consideration for its essential material interests, trade and industry, whenever they conflicted with his political interests. …. Paris exchange- brokers forced him by means of an artificially created famine to delay the opening of the Russian campaign by nearly two months and thus to launch it too late in the year.”

In this passage, Marx says that Napoleon prevented the 'bourgeois revolution' in France from becoming fulfilled: that is, he prevented bourgeois political forces from achieving a total expression of their interests. According to Marx, he did this by suppressing the 'liberalism of bourgeois society'; and he did it because he saw 'the state as an end in itself', a value which supported his 'political aim of conquest'. Thus, he substituted 'permanent war for permanent revolution'. The final two sentences, however, show that the bourgeoisie did not give up hope, but continued to pursue their interests. This tells us that, for Marx, 'permanent revolution' involves a revolutionary class (in this case, the bourgeoisie) continuing to push for, and achieve, its interests despite the political dominance of actors with opposing interests.



 Marx's most famous use of the phrase 'permanent revolution' is his March 1850 Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League. He enjoins the proletariat in Germany, faced with the prospect that 'the petty-bourgeois democrats will for the moment acquire a predominant influence' - i.e. temporary political power -
“...to make the revolution permanent until all the more or less propertied classes have been driven from their ruling positions, until the proletariat has conquered state power and until the association of the proletarians has progressed sufficiently far - not only in one country but in all the leading countries of the world - that competition between the proletarians of these countries ceases and at least the decisive forces of production are concentrated in the hands of the workers...”

In the remainder of the text, Marx outlines the content of his proposal that the proletariat “make the revolution permanent”. In essence, it consists of the working class maintaining a militant and independent approach to politics both before, during and after the struggle which will bring the petty-bourgeois democrats to power. What permanent revolution in this sense means is that the proletariat should organise autonomously

Marx is concerned that throughout the process of this impending political change, the petty-bourgeoisie will seek to ensnare the workers in a party organization in which general social-democratic phrases prevail while their particular interests are kept hidden behind, and in which, for the sake of preserving the peace, the specific demands of the proletariat may not be presented. Such a unity would be to their advantage alone and to the complete disadvantage of the proletariat. The proletariat would lose all its hard-won independent position and be reduced once more to a mere appendage of official bourgeois democracy.

Marx outlines how the proletariat should respond to this threat. First, he says that “above all the [Communist] League, must work for the creation of an independent organization of the workers” party, both secret and open, and alongside the official democrats, and the League must aim to make every one of its communes a centre and nucleus of workers' associations in which the position and interests of the proletariat can be discussed free from bourgeois influence...” That is, “...it is essential above all for them to be independently organized and centralized in clubs...”.

 Marx does say that “an association of momentary expedience” is permissible if, and only if, “an enemy has to be fought directly” - though this is not an excuse for a long term alliance, since emergency alliances will arise satisfactorily when needed.

 In an article two years earlier, Marx had referred to “a programme of permanent revolution, of progressive taxes and death duties, and of organisation of labour” This confirms the impression that Marx's theory of “permanent revolution” is not about revolution per se, rather more about the attitude that a revolutionary class should adopt in the period of their political subjection, including the programme of political demands they should propose. This aspect is raised in the Address. As well as overtures for organisational alliance with the petty bourgeoisie, Marx is concerned about attempts to “....bribe the workers with a more or less disguised form of alms and to break their revolutionary strength by temporarily rendering their situation tolerable...."Therefore, the workers' party must use their autonomous organisation to push a political programme which threatens the bourgeois status quo, along the following lines:

“1. They can force the democrats to make inroads into as many areas of the existing social order as possible, so as to disturb its regular functioning and so that the petty-bourgeois democrats compromise themselves; furthermore, the workers can force the concentration of as many productive forces as possible - means of transport, factories, railways, etc. - in the hands of the state.
2. They must drive the proposals of the democrats to their logical extreme (the democrats will in any case act in a reformist and not a revolutionary manner) and transform these proposals into direct attacks on private property. If, for instance, the petty bourgeoisie propose the purchase of the railways and factories, the workers must demand that these railways and factories simply be confiscated by the state without compensation as the property of reactionaries. [...] The demands of the workers will thus have to be adjusted according to the measures and concessions of the democrats.”

In this passage, we can see that Marx believes the proletariat should refuse to moderate its demands to the petty-bourgeois consensus, and advocate extensive nationalisation. Furthermore, the demand of the workers should always seek to push the bourgeois further than they are prepared to go.
To put the Address in context Marx concludes his Address by summarising the themes elucidated above:

“Although the German workers cannot come to power and achieve the realization of their class interests without passing through a protracted revolutionary development, this time they can at least be certain that the first act of the approaching revolutionary drama will coincide with the direct victory of their own class in France and will thereby be accelerated. But they themselves must contribute most to their final victory, by informing themselves of their own class interests, by taking up their independent political position as soon as possible, by not allowing themselves to be misled by the hypocritical phrases of the democratic petty bourgeoisie into doubting for one minute the necessity of an independently organized party of the proletariat. Their battle-cry must be: The Permanent Revolution.”

It is worthwhile to have some idea of how Marx saw the context in which he advocated “permanent revolution”.

It seems that he believed that “...the first act of the approaching revolutionary drama [in Germany] will coincide with the direct victory of their own class in France and will thereby be accelerated...". That is, the petty-bourgeois are expected to come to power in Germany at the same time as the “direct victory” of the proletariat in France. Furthermore, Marx seems to believe of the former (and hence, of both) that it is 'imminent' (c.f. the third paragraph of the Address ). Marx clearly believes, therefore, that Europe is entering a time, and is at a level of development of the “productive forces” in which the proletariat have the social revolution within their reach. If Marx is understood to be consistent about his emphasis on historical circumstance, it is unclear how the relevance of his theory of permanent revolution should be evaluated in times in which the social revolution is not expected to be imminent. Indeed, after 1850 there is no record of Marx or Engels ever using the term.

Summary: Marx’s Theory
Marx advocated 'permanent revolution' as the proletarian strategy of maintaining organisational independence along class lines, and a consistently militant series of political demands and tactics. It will be noted that at no stage does Marx make the central claim with which Trotsky's conception (see below) of  “permanent revolution" is concerned - i.e. that it is possible for a country to pass directly from the dominance of the semi-feudal aristocrats, who held political power in Russia in the early part of the 19th Century, to the dominance of the working class, without an interceding period of dominance by the bourgeois. On the contrary, Marx's statements in his March 1850 Address explicitly contradict such a view, assuming a “period of petty-bourgeois predominance over the classes which have been overthrown and over the proletariat”.

Marx does claim, as does Trotsky, that socialism is impossible in one country, but they also say that 'in all probability, the proletarian revolution will transform existing society gradually and will be able to abolish private property only when the means of production are available in sufficient quantity' (Engels' The Principles of Communism, Sections 17 and 19 ).

The Communist Manifesto alludes to Marx's view that the dominance of the bourgeoisie is a necessary prelude to that of the proletariat: 'the bourgeoisie therefore produces ... its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable' .

In this sense, Trotsky's version of the theory represents both a different development and a contradiction of the expressed opinions of Marx

Trotsky’s Theory

The basic points of this theory rest on the assumption that power could be held by Socialists in Russia long enough to enable the workers of the more advanced Western countries, helped, of course, by their Russian comrades, to introduce Socialism. Then the material backwardness of Russia could be overcome through the united efforts of a Socialist Europe.

None of the Bolsheviks, including Lenin, accepted this view until after the seizure of power in October, 1917. Trotsky in fact only joined the Bolsheviks in August of that year.

Trotsky accepted the Bolshevik view that the only revolutionary class in Russia were the working class. But he argued that if, in the course of the bourgeois revolution, the workers were to get power they would not stop at introducing democracy but would begin to make inroads into capitalism. The revolution would begin as a bourgeois one and finish up socialist. This was what Trotsky meant by “permanent revolution” (a phrase borrowed from Marx as we have seen above).

Trotsky did not think that socialism could be established in Russia alone. The success of the socialist revolution in Russia would depend, he said, on that of the socialist revolution in Europe. Trotsky's conception of Permanent Revolution is based on his understanding, drawing on the work of fellow Russian Alexander Parvus, that in 'backward' countries the tasks of the Bourgeois Democratic Revolution could not be achieved by the bourgeoisie itself. This conception was first developed in the essays later collected in his book 1905 and in his essay Results and Prospects

Trotsky's theory was developed as an alternative to the accepted Social Democratic theory that undeveloped countries must pass through two distinct revolutions. First the Bourgeois Democratic Revolution, which socialists would assist, and at a later stage, the Socialist Revolution with an evolutionary period of capitalist development separating those stages. This is often referred to as the Theory of Stages, the 2-Stage Theory or as Stageism.

Lenin and the Bolsheviks initially held to a version of the Stagist theory, since they were still connected to the Social Democrats at the time. Lenin's earlier theory shared Trotsky's premise that the bourgeoisie would not complete a bourgeois revolution. Lenin thought that a 'Democratic Dictatorship' of the workers and peasants could complete the tasks of the bourgeoisie. Lenin was arguing by 1917 not only that the Russian bourgeoisie would not be able to carry through the tasks of the Bourgeois Democratic Revolution and therefore the proletariat had to take state power, but also that it should take economic power through the Soviets. This position was put forward to the Bolsheviks on his return to Russia, in his April Theses.

Trotsky later generalised his Theory of Permanent Revolution, which had only been applied in the case of Russia previously, and argued that the proletariat needed to take power in a process of uninterrupted and Permanent Revolution in order to carry out the tasks of the Bourgeois Democratic revolution.

His position was put forward in his essay entitled The Permanent Revolution . Not only did Trotsky generalise his theory of Permanent Revolution in this essay but he also grounded it in the idea of combined and uneven development. This argument goes, again in contrast to the conceptions inherent within Stagist theory, that capitalist nations, indeed all class-based societies, develop unevenly and that some parts will develop more swiftly than others.

The above is taken from the wikipedia entry on Permanent Revolution

This theory is still the kernel of "Trotskyism," and from the S.P.G.B. standpoint that kernel is rotten with error.

Lenin himself had to admit that their hopes for a Socialist revolution in the West had been frustrated, but he and Trotsky blamed this on bad and treacherous leadership. What the Bolsheviks did not grasp, then any more than their would-be imitators can do to-day, is the need for an understanding of Socialism by a majority of the .working-class. This understanding alone would make leadership, good or bad, impossible. We would also argue that ideas are social and that world wide interaction would reduce this uneven development. But Trotsky who himself failed to grasp all the implications of Socialism, continued to nourish these illusions to the end.

Fundamentally, Trotsky fell from power because his theory of Permanent Revolution and his consequent insistence on continued revolutionary agitation abroad would have cut off all technical aid from the Western world, and so made any attempt at industrial development more difficult in Russia.

As their dreams of a European revolution faded the Bolsheviks were forced to pursuea more realistic policy. Their aim became to get international recognition as the legitimate government of Russia. In March 1921 an Anglo-Soviet trade agreement was signed and in 1922 the Bolshevik government was invited to an international conference in Genoa. Later in the year the treaty of Rapallo with Germany was signed. The Bolsheviks justified these moves as a means of gaining time by playing off capitalist states against each other. But with the failure of the insurrection led bythe Comintern in Bulgaria and Germany in 1923, failure in China too , the Bolshevik government, now coming increasingly under the control of the Stalin group, began to abandon all hope of a world revolution and to concentrate on building up industrial strength at home.During the years that followed the Bolshevik government gradually gained international recognition.

From Socialist Standard :-Trotsky , the Prophet Debunked

Nature of Russia

His view that Russia under Stalin was a Workers State, not a perfect one, certainly, but a Workers State nevertheless, was set out in his book The Revolution Betrayed first published in 1936. This is the origin of the Trotskyist dogma that Russia is a "degenerate Workers State" in which a bureaucracy had usurped political power from the working class but without changing the social basis (nationalisation and planning).

This view is so absurd as to be hardly worth considering seriously: how could the adjective "workers" be applied to a regime where workers could be sent to a labour camp for turning up late for work and shot for going on strike? Trotsky was only able to sustain his point of view by making the completely un-marxist assumption that capitalist distribution relations (the privileges of the Stalinist bureaucracy) could exist on the basis of socialist production relations. Marx, by contrast, had concluded, from a study of past and present societies, that the mode of distribution was entirely determined by the mode of production. Thus the existence of privileged distribution relations in Russia should itself have been sufficient proof that Russia had nothing to do with socialism.

Trotsky rejected the view that Russia was state capitalist on the flimsiest of grounds: the absence of a private capitalist class, of private shareholders and bondholders who could inherit and bequeath their property. He failed to see that what made Russia capitalist was the existence there of wage-labour and capital accumulation not the nature and mode of recruitment of its ruling class.

As Engels explains “the state is an organisation of the possessing class for its protection against the non-possessing class.” from Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.

Trotsky's view that Russia under Stalin was still some sort of "Workers State" was so absurd that it soon aroused criticism within the ranks of the Trotskyist movement itself which, since 1938, had been organised as the Fourth International. Two alternative views emerged. One was that Russia was neither capitalist nor a Workers State but some new kind of exploiting class society - bureaucratic collectivism. The other was that Russia was state capitalist. The most easily accessible example of the first view is James Burnham's: The Managerial Revolution and of the second Tony Cliff's Russia: A Marxist Analysis.
Both books are well worth reading, though in fact neither Burnham nor Cliff could claim to be the originators of the theories they put forward. The majority of Trotskyists, however, remain committed to the dogma that Russia is a "degenerate Workers State". Cliff popularised the state capitalist thesis within the British Trotskyist movement, first of all in a discussion paper within the main Trotskyist party in Britain at the time, the Revolutionary Communist Party, and then in his book. The reality is that Cliff`s description of the Soviet Union as state capitalist was not even "unique" within the Trotskyist movement itself let alone outside it. Furthermore, it is a matter of record that the theory of state capitalism when applied to the Soviet Union was not an invention of the Trotskyist movement at all.

Trotsky entirely identified capitalism with private capitalism and so concluded that society would cease to be capitalist once the private capitalist class had been expropriated. This meant that, in contrast to Lenin who mistakenly saw state capitalism as a necessary step towards socialism, Trotsky committed the different mistake of seeing state capitalism as the negation of capitalism. For Trotsky, economic democracy was not an issue. It played no role in determining the socialist nature of a society. Rather state ownership did. Thus he did not question one-man management in the workplace nor the capitalist social relationships it generated.
For Trotsky, it was :-

"...necessary for each state-owned factory, with its technical director and with its commercial director, to be subjected not only to control from the top -- by the state organs -- but also from below, by the market which will remain the regulator of the state economy for a long time to come...."

In spite of the obvious fact that the workers did not control their labour or its product, Trotsky asserted that:-

"No class exploitation exists here, and consequently neither does capitalism exist."

Ultimately, it was not self-management that mattered, it was :-

"....the growth of Soviet state industry which signifies the growth of socialism itself, a direct strengthening of the power of the proletariat"

[The First 5 Years of the Communist International]

Trotsky's "opposition" in no way presented any real alternative to Stalinism. Indeed, Stalinism simply took over and applied Trotsky's demands for increased industrialisation. At no time did Trotsky question the fundamental social relationships within Soviet society. He simply wished the ruling elite to apply different policies while allowing him and his followers more space and freedom within the party structures.

What system of society exists in Russia? Trotsky, in exile, argued that although Russia was not socialist, as Stalin claimed, it could not be described as capitalist either. He held that in 1917 the working class in Russia had seized power and had begun the transition from capitalism to Socialism. However, owing to backwardness and isolation, what he called a ‘bureaucratic caste’ managed to usurp power. According to Trotsky, Russia was thus between capitalism and Socialism; it could either go forward to Socialism, but only with the rest of the world, or return to capitalism. He kept this view till his murder in 1940. Some of his followers still argue this. Others say Russia can now only be described as State capitalism. The Socialist Party of Great Britain too argues that this is the best description. We do not, however, think that Russia set off for socialism and ended up as State capitalism, that Russia did not, and could not, have established Socialism in 1917. Capitalism has always existed in post-revolutionary Russia and the working class there has never had political power.-

3. Leadership and corrupt leaders

Trotskyist theory and practice is rather neatly summed up in the opening sentence of the manifesto the Fourth International adopted at its foundation in 1938. Called The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International, and drafted by Trotsky himself, it began with the absurd declaration: "The world political situation is chiefly characterised by historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat". This tendency to reduce everything to a question of the right leadership (Trotsky once wrote a pamphlet on the Paris Commune in which he explained its failure by the absence of a Bolshevik Party there) reminds us that Trotskyists are 102 per cent Leninists and believers in the vanguard party. They believe, in other words, that workers by their own efforts are incapable of emancipating themselves and so must be led by an enlightened minority of professional revolutionaries (generally bourgeois intellectuals like Lenin and Trotsky). Thus they fall under the general criticism of Leninism and indeed of all theories which proclaim that workers need leaders.

Tactics, said Trotsky, should have been framed so as to win workers over from their Social Democratic leaders, under the command of the Communist Party:-

“We must understand how to tear the workers away from their leaders”. According to Trotsky, the official Communist leaders would not follow his policies because they were constituted of “not a few cowardly careerists and fakers whose little posts, whose incomes, and more than that, whose hides, are dear to them” (Trotsky - 'For a Workers United Front Against Fascism', December 1931)

“Uneven consciousness” among workers necessitates the need for leaders, and for an organisation that can bring it together with non-socialist workers in the name of immediate given ends, be those organisations trade unions, or – as above – workers' councils. Thus, the Soviets beloved of Leninists, and trade unions too, become locations for 'united front' work. This admirably demonstrates that Julius Martov's accusation in his State and Socialist Revolution that Bolsheviks supported soviets in order to help seize power as a minority was acknowledged by the very leaders of the Russian coup d'√©tat. -

"The revolutionary dictatorship of a proletarian party is for me not a thing that one can freely accept or reject: It is an objective necessity imposed upon us by the social realities -- the class struggle, the heterogeneity of the revolutionary class, the necessity for a selected vanguard in order to assure the victory. The dictatorship of a party belongs to the barbarian prehistory as does the state itself, but we can not jump over this chapter, which can open (not at one stroke) genuine human history. . . The revolutionary party (vanguard) which renounces its own dictatorship surrenders the masses to the counter-revolution . . . Abstractly speaking, it would be very well if the party dictatorship could be replaced by the 'dictatorship' of the whole toiling people without any party, but this presupposes such a high level of political development among the masses that it can never be achieved under capitalist conditions. The reason for the revolution comes from the circumstance that capitalism does not permit the material and the moral development of the masses." [Trotsky, Writings 1936-37, pp. 513-4]

In relation to the soviets , in Terrorism and Communism. 1920 we discover Trotsky arguing that:-

"We have more than once been accused of having substituted for the dictatorships of the Soviets the dictatorship of the party. Yet it can be said with complete justice that the dictatorship of the Soviets became possible only by means of the dictatorship of the party. It is thanks to the . . . party . . . [that] the Soviets . . . [became] transformed from shapeless parliaments of labour into the apparatus of the supremacy of labour. In this 'substitution' of the power of the party for the power of the working class these is nothing accidental, and in reality there is no substitution at all. The Communists express the fundamental interests of the working class."

And to demonstrate this remained his view he again writes in 1937

"Those who propose the abstraction of Soviets to the party dictatorship should understand that only thanks to the party dictatorship were the Soviets able to lift themselves out of the mud of reformism and attain the state form of the proletariat." [Trotsky, "Bolshevism and Stalinism"]

4. Trotsky, the Stalinist

Without entering the debate of Trotsky’s role in the destruction of the Kronstadt Commune or the Ukrainian anarchist Makhnovists guerrilla movement, which were expressions of non - Bolshevik resistance, how did Trotsky respond to internal dissent within the Bolshevik Party before he himself became to be the Opposition within the Bolshevik Party. Trotsky in fact actively denounced other oppositionists.

His reaction to the state repression of Miasnikov's Workers' Group as Deutscher notes in The Prophet Unarmed
[Trotsky]"....did not protest when their adherents were thrown into prison . . . Nor was he inclined to countenance industrial unrest . . . Nor was he at all eager to support the demand for Soviet democracy in the extreme form in which the Workers' Opposition and its splinter groups [like the Workers' Group] had raised it."
Dzerzhinsky was given the task of breaking the opposition groups by the central committee. He found that even party members of unquestioned loyalty regarded them as comrades and refused to testify against them. He then turned to the Politburo and asked it to declare it was the duty of any party member to denounce to the GPU people inside the party engaged aggressive action against the official leaders. Trotsky "did not tell the Politburo plainly that it should reject Dzerzhinsky's demand. He evaded the question."

Trotskyist Tony Cliff presents a similar picture of Trotsky's lack of concern for opposition groups and his utter failure to support working class self-activity or calls for real democracy. He notes that in July and August 1923 Moscow and Petrograd

"...were shaken by industrial unrest . . . Unofficial strikes broke out in many places . . . In November 1923, rumours of a general strike circulated throughout Moscow, and the movement seems at the point of turning into a political revolt. Not since the Kronstadt rising of 1921 had there been so much tension in the working class and so much alarm in the ruling circles."

The ruling elite, including Trotsky, acted to maintain their position and the secret police turned on any political group which could influence the movement. The strike wave gave a new lease of life to the Mensheviks and so "the GPU carried out a massive round up of Mensheviks, and as many as one thousand were arrested in Moscow alone...."

When it was the turn of the Workers Group and Workers Truth, Trotsky:-

"...did not condemn their persecution" and he "did not support their incitement of workers to industrial unrest." Moreover, "Nor was Trotsky ready to support the demand for workers' democracy in the extreme form to which the Workers Group and Workers Truth raised it...." [Trotsky, vol. 3, ]

Trotsky did not call for workers' democracy in any meaningful form.

Indeed, his "New Course Resolution" even went so far as to say that "it is obvious that there can be no toleration of the formation of groupings whose ideological content is directed against the party as a whole and against the dictatorship of the proletariat. as for instance the Workers' Truth and Workers' Group."

Thus we come to the strange fact that it was Lenin and Trotsky themselves who knowingly destroyed the groups which represent what modern day Trotskyists assert is the "real" essence of Leninism. Furthermore, modern day Trotskyists generally ignore these opposition groups when they discuss alternatives to Stalinism or the bureaucratisation under Lenin and Trotsky .

This seems a strange fate to befall tendencies which, if we take Leninists at their word, expressed what their tradition stands for. The "Workers' Opposition" did have some constructive suggests to make as regards combating the economic bureaucratisation which existed under Lenin. Yet almost all modern Trotskyists (like their mentors Lenin and Trotsky) dismiss them as "syndicalist" and utopian.

5. Reformism

One important point of the Fourth International was the concept of "transitional demands" , i.e. advocating reforms known not to work, in order to draw workers into “Communist” ranks through their inevitable disappointment. The manifesto contained a whole list of reform demands which was called "the transitional programme".

Trotsky urges that transitional demands should include the call for the expropriation of various groups of capitalists- sometimes translated in modern terms into the nationalisation of various sectors [ Demands for the nationalisation of the 200 big companies and banks by the Militant Tendency during the 70s and 80s ] - under the control and management of the workers. Transitional demands should include opposition to imperialist war. Such demands intend to challenge the capitalist class's right to rule. By fighting for these "transitional" demands, in the opinion of the Trotskyists, the workers will come to realize that capitalism cannot meet their needs, and they will then embrace the full program of the Fourth International.

This reform programme was said to be different from those of openly reformist parties like Labour in Britain and the Social Democratic parties on the Continent in that Trotskyists claimed to be under no illusion that the reforms demanded could be achieved within the framework of capitalism. They were posed as bait by the vanguard party to get workers to struggle for them, on the theory that the workers would learn in the course of the struggle that these demands could not be achieved within capitalism and so would come to struggle (under the leadership of the vanguard party) to abolish capitalism .

Actually, most Trotskyists are not as cynical as they pretend to be here: in discussion with them you gain the clear impression that they share the illusion that the reforms they advocate can be achieved under capitalism (as, indeed, some of them could be). In other words, they are often the victims of their own "tactics". Trotskyism, the movement he gave rise to, is a blend of Leninism and Reformism, committed on paper to replacing private capitalism with state capitalism through a violent insurrection led by a vanguard party, but in practice working to achieve state capitalism through reforms to be enacted by Labour governments. As a tiny minority, they get to work with organisations which can more easily attract members, and can thus be part of campaigns and struggles that reach out well beyond the tiny numbers of political activists in any given situation .The salient fact remains, though, that despite providing all this assistance, the “revolutionaries” are incapable of taking these campaigns and trade unions further than the bulk of the membership are willing to tolerate .

Thus there has been an abject failure of entryism, first into the Independent Labour Party  during the 1930s and post- war, into the Labour Party attempted by Militant and by the I.S [SWP]. through “rank and file committees “ in the 70s and now Stop the War Movement and Respect or SSP /Solidarity

6. Personal attributes

Trotsky's personal qualities are of minor interests to socialists. As a political pamphleteer he was outstanding and he was also a first-class orator.

But unless the world-proletariat can harness such gifts to serve the struggle for Socialism, they will be wasted and even harmful to workers' interests , although, and as in the case of Leon Trotsky, there is no doubt that his whole life was sincerely dedicated to their cause.

His talent for military organisation and strategy helped to save the Bolsheviks from being defeated by the armies of the Czarist generals and the half-hearted intervention of the Allies.
This was often asserted by Lenin and, at the time, admitted by Stalin.

But Trotsky did not achieve this military success without ruthless discipline, a ruthlessness which showed itself again in his suppression of the revolt of the sailors at Kronstadt. When charged by Kautsky with using methods of terrorism, Trotsky replied with a defence justifying the means by the end, as if the two could ever be separated.

Socialism, the pinnacle of human development, can never be achieved by methods that are themselves reactionary and anti-human; it is more than the irony of his logic that Trotsky himself should have met his end in such a violent manner.

Live by the sword, die by the sword - or in Trotsky’s case, an ice pick .

Trotskyism, the movement he gave rise to, is a blend of Leninism and Reformism, committed on paper to replacing private capitalism with state capitalism through a violent insurrection led by a vanguard party, but in practice working to achieve state capitalism .

In the words of the Trotskyist Harry Ratner - "So were Kautsky and the Mensheviks right to oppose the October Revolution from the start, as an attempt prematurely to go beyond the 'bourgeois' stage of the Russian revolution? Were they right to declare a socialist working-class revolution in a backward Russia premature and doomed to failure because the conditions for socialism were not ripe-both as regards the economic base and the social and cultural level of the working class? On the face of it, subsequent history would seem to justify them…All one can say is that the 'workers' state' that was born in October 1917 was premature and infected from infancy. Unfortunately, as it degenerated, it infected the working-class movement internationally, and proved an obstacle on the road to socialism. My old comrade, the late Alex Acheson, who joined the movement in the 1930s and remained a committed Trotskyist till his death last year, once told me: 'It might have been better if the October Revolution had never occurred'".- New Interventions

Trotsky overview

When the split in the Russian Social-Democratic Party took place at a conference in London in 1903, Trotsky took an individual stand. It is not true that he was a Menshevik, for, although he, like the Mensheviks, opposed Lenin's plan for an organisation of revolutionary conspirators to be controlled by a dictatorship in the centre, his fundamental views differed from both factions. Trotsky himself made it clear that he did not consider the controversy important enough to warrant a split, and continued to work with both groups in an attempt to re-establish unity. whereas both factions were agreed that the coming Russian Revolution would be essentially capitalist and that Russia would consequently have to pass through an era of capitalist democracy, Trotsky was alone in proclaiming that the overthrow of Czardom could be accomplished by the Russian movement alone, which could maintain itself in power and so cut out completely the period of capitalist transition. This point of view he elaborated into a theory called "Permanent Revolution".Trotsky took up a position, arguing that if the working class were to come to power in the course of the coming bourgeois revolution in Russia it was unreasonable to expect them to hand over power to the bourgeoisie; they would, and should according to Trotsky, take steps to transform society in a socialist direction. The basic points of this theory rest on the assumption that power could be held by socialists in Russia long enough to enable the workers of the more advanced Western countries, helped, of course, by their Russian comrades, to introduce Socialism. Then the material backwardness of Russia could be overcome through the united efforts of a Socialist Europe. It was adopted by Lenin himself in April 1917 when he returned to Russia from exile in Switzerland. As a result Trotsky himself then rallied to the Bolsheviks.

When hopes for a socialist revolution in the West had been frustrated, Trotsky blamed this on bad and treacherous leadership. The debates between Trotskyists and Stalinists always revolved around such questions of leadership – if only the leaders had acted in such-and-such a way, things would have turned out better. Tactics, said Trotsky, should have been framed so as to win workers over from their Social Democratic leaders, under the command of the Communist Party: “We must understand how to tear the workers away from their leaders”. Trotskyists continue to attach themselves to larger movements in the hope of providing alternative leaderships and of being at the heart of the struggle.


Trotsky defended Russian state-capitalism on the grounds that the Russian economic system, i.e., state control, was essentially working-class, and apparently required only a change in its political administration to perfect it for working-class needs.This error is bound up with Trotsky's confusion between State-capitalism and Socialism, evidence of which can be found in his writings. Trotsky fell from power because his theory of Permanent Revolution and his consequent insistence on continued revolutionary agitation abroad would have cut off all technical aid from the Western world, and so made any attempt at industrial development more difficult in Russia. In exile Trotsky played the role of "loyal opposition" to the Stalin regime in Russia. He was very critical of the various political aspects of this regime but to his dying day he defended the view that the Russian revolution had established a "Workers State" in Russia and that this represented a gain for the working class both of Russia and of the whole world. Russia under Stalin was a Workers State, not a perfect one, certainly, but a Workers State nevertheless. Trotsky was only able to sustain his point of view by making the completely un-Marxist assumption that capitalist distribution relations (the privileges of the Stalinist bureaucracy) could exist on the basis of socialist production relations. Marx concluded that the mode of distribution was entirely determined by the mode of production. Thus the existence of privileged distribution relations in Russia should itself have been sufficient proof that Russia was not socialist. Trotsky rejected the view that Russia was state capitalist on the of grounds of the absence of a private capitalist class, of private shareholders and bondholders who could inherit and bequeath their property.

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