Trotskyism is the theory of Marxism as advocated by the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. Trotsky identified as an orthodox Marxist and Bolshevik–Leninist. He supported founding a vanguard party of the proletariat, proletarian internationalism and a dictatorship of the proletariat based on working class self-emancipation and mass democracy. Trotskyists are critical of Stalinism as they oppose Joseph Stalin's theory of socialism in one country in favor of Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution. Trotskyists also criticize the bureaucracy that developed in the Soviet Union under Stalin.
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Vladimir Lenin and Trotsky were close both ideologically and personally during the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, and some call Trotsky its "co-leader". Trotsky was the paramount leader of the Red Army in the direct aftermath of the Revolutionary period. Trotsky initially opposed some aspects of Leninism, but he concluded that unity between the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks was impossible and joined the Bolsheviks. Trotsky played a leading role with Lenin in the revolution. Assessing Trotsky, Lenin wrote: "Trotsky long ago said that unification is impossible. Trotsky understood this and from that time on there has been no better Bolshevik."
Under Stalin's orders, Trotsky was removed from power (October 1927), expelled from the Communist Party (November 1927), exiled first to Alma-Ata (January 1928), and then from the Soviet Union (February 1929). As the head of the Fourth International, Trotsky continued from exile to oppose the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union. On 20 August 1940, Trotsky was attacked by Ramón Mercader, a Spanish-born NKVD agent, and died the next day in a hospital. His murder is considered a political assassination. Almost all of the Trotskyists within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union were executed in the Great Purges of 1937–1938, effectively removing all of Trotsky's internal influence in the Soviet Union.
Trotsky's Fourth International was established in France in 1938, when Trotskyists argued that the Comintern or Third International had become irretrievably "lost to Stalinism" and thus incapable of leading the international working class to political power. In contemporary English language usage, an advocate of Trotsky's ideas is often called a "Trotskyist". A Trotskyist can be called a "Trotskyite" or "Trot", especially by a critic of Trotskyism.
According to Trotsky, his program could be distinguished from other Marxist theories by five key elements:
- Support for the strategy of permanent revolution, in opposition to the two-stage theory of his opponents.
- Criticism of the post-1924 leadership of the Soviet Union, analysis of its features; after 1933 also support for political revolution in the Soviet Union and in what Trotskyists term the deformed workers' states.
- Support for social revolution in the advanced capitalist countries through working-class mass action.
- Support for proletarian internationalism.
- Use of a transitional programme of demands that bridge between daily struggles of the working class and the maximal ideas of the socialist transformation of society.
On the political spectrum of Marxism, Trotskyists are usually considered to be towards the left. In the 1920s they called themselves the Left Opposition, although today's left communism is distinct and usually non-Bolshevik. The terminological disagreement can be confusing because different versions of a left-right political spectrum are used. Anti-revisionists consider themselves the ultimate leftists on a spectrum from communism on the left to imperialist capitalism on the right, but given that Stalinism is often labeled rightist within the communist spectrum and left communism leftist, anti-revisionists' idea of left is very different from that of left communism. Despite being Bolshevik-Leninist comrades during the Russian Revolution and Russian Civil War, Trotsky and Stalin became enemies in the 1920s and thereafter opposed the legitimacy of each other's forms of Leninism. Trotsky was extremely critical of the Stalinist USSR for suppressing democracy and lack of adequate economic planning.
In 1905, Trotsky formulated his theory of permanent revolution that later became a defining characteristic of Trotskyism. Until 1905, some revolutionaries claimed that Marx's theory of history posited that only a revolution in a European capitalist society would lead to a socialist one. According to this position, it was impossible for a socialist revolution to occur in a backward, feudal country such as early 20th century Russia when it had such a small and almost powerless capitalist class.
The theory of permanent revolution addressed the question of how such feudal regimes were to be overthrown and how socialism could be established given the lack of economic prerequisites. Trotsky argued that in Russia only the working class could overthrow feudalism and win the support of the peasantry. Furthermore, he argued that the Russian working class would not stop there. They would win their own revolution against the weak capitalist class, establish a workers' state in Russia and appeal to the working class in the advanced capitalist countries around the world. As a result, the global working class would come to Russia's aid and socialism could develop worldwide.
Capitalist or bourgeois-democratic revolution
Revolutions in Britain in the 17th century and in France in 1789 abolished feudalism and established the basic requisites for the development of capitalism. Trotsky argued that these revolutions would not be repeated in Russia.
In Results and Prospects, written in 1906, Trotsky outlines his theory in detail, arguing: "History does not repeat itself. However much one may compare the Russian Revolution with the Great French Revolution, the former can never be transformed into a repetition of the latter." In the French Revolution of 1789, France experienced what Marxists called a "bourgeois-democratic revolution"—a regime was established wherein the bourgeoisie overthrew the existing French feudalistic system. The bourgeoisie then moved towards establishing a regime of democratic parliamentary institutions. However, while democratic rights were extended to the bourgeoisie, they were not generally extended to a universal franchise. The freedom for workers to organize unions or to strike was not achieved without considerable struggle.
Passivity of the bourgeoisie
Trotsky argues that countries like Russia had no "enlightened, active" revolutionary bourgeoisie which could play the same role and the working class constituted a very small minority. By the time of the European revolutions of 1848, "the bourgeoisie was already unable to play a comparable role. It did not want and was not able to undertake the revolutionary liquidation of the social system that stood in its path to power."
The theory of permanent revolution considers that in many countries that are thought under Trotskyism to have not yet completed a bourgeois-democratic revolution, the capitalist class opposes the creation of any revolutionary situation. They fear stirring the working class into fighting for its own revolutionary aspirations against their exploitation by capitalism. In Russia, the working class, although a small minority in a predominantly peasant-based society, were organised in vast factories owned by the capitalist class and into large working-class districts. During the Russian Revolution of 1905, the capitalist class found it necessary to ally with reactionary elements such as the essentially feudal landlords and ultimately the existing Czarist Russian state forces. This was to protect their ownership of their property—factories, banks, etc.—from expropriation by the revolutionary working class.
Therefore, according to the theory of permanent revolution the capitalist classes of economically backward countries are weak and incapable of carrying through revolutionary change. As a result, they are linked to and rely on the feudal landowners in many ways. Thus Trotsky argues that because a majority of the branches of industry in Russia were originated under the direct influence of government measures—sometimes with the help of government subsidies—the capitalist class was again tied to the ruling elite. The capitalist class were subservient to European capital.
Incapability of the peasantry
The theory of permanent revolution further considers that the peasantry as a whole cannot take on the task of carrying through the revolution, because it is dispersed in small holdings throughout the country and forms a heterogeneous grouping, including the rich peasants who employ rural workers and aspire to landlordism as well as the poor peasants who aspire to own more land. Trotsky argues: "All historical experience [...] shows that the peasantry are absolutely incapable of taking up an independent political role".
The key role of the proletariat
Trotskyists differ on the extent to which this is true today, but even the most orthodox tend to recognise in the late twentieth century a new development in the revolts of the rural poor, the self-organising struggles of the landless; and many other struggles which in some ways reflect the militant united organised struggles of the working class; and which to various degrees do not bear the marks of class divisions typical of the heroic peasant struggles of previous epochs. However, orthodox Trotskyists today still argue that the town- and city-based working-class struggle is central to the task of a successful socialist revolution, linked to these struggles of the rural poor. They argue that the working class learns of necessity to conduct a collective struggle, for instance in trade unions, arising from its social conditions in the factories and workplaces; and that the collective consciousness it achieves as a result is an essential ingredient of the socialist reconstruction of society.
Trotsky himself argued that only the proletariat or working class were capable of achieving the tasks of that bourgeois revolution. In 1905, the working class in Russia, a generation brought together in vast factories from the relative isolation of peasant life, saw the result of its labour as a vast collective effort and the only means of struggling against its oppression in terms of a collective effort and forming workers councils (soviets) in the course of the revolution of that year. In 1906, Trotsky argued:
The factory system brings the proletariat to the foreground [...] The proletariat immediately found itself concentrated in tremendous masses, while between these masses and the autocracy there stood a capitalist bourgeoisie, very small in numbers, isolated from the "people", half-foreign, without historical traditions, and inspired only by the greed for gain.— Leon Trotsky, Results and Prospects
For instance, the Putilov Factory numbered 12,000 workers in 1900 and according to Trotsky 36,000 in July 1917.
Although only a small minority in Russian society, the proletariat would lead a revolution to emancipate the peasantry and thus "secure the support of the peasantry" as part of that revolution, on whose support it will rely. However, in order to improve their own conditions the working class will find it necessary to create a revolution of their own, which would accomplish both the bourgeois revolution and then establish a workers' state.
According to classical Marxism, revolution in peasant-based countries such as Russia prepares the ground ultimately only for a development of capitalism since the liberated peasants become small owners, producers and traders which leads to the growth of commodity markets, from which a new capitalist class emerges. Only fully developed capitalist conditions prepare the basis for socialism.
Trotsky agreed that a new socialist state and economy in a country like Russia would not be able to hold out against the pressures of a hostile capitalist world as well as the internal pressures of its backward economy. The revolution, Trotsky argued, must quickly spread to capitalist countries, bringing about a socialist revolution which must spread worldwide. In this way the revolution is "permanent", moving out of necessity first, from the bourgeois revolution to the workers’ revolution and from there uninterruptedly to European and worldwide revolutions.
An internationalist outlook of permanent revolution is found in the works of Karl Marx. The term "permanent revolution" is taken from a remark of Marx from his March 1850 Address: "it is our task", Marx said:
[...] 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.— Karl Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League
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Schools of thought
According to Trotsky, the term "Trotskyism" was coined by Pavel Milyukov (sometimes transliterated as Paul Miliukoff), the ideological leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party (Kadets) in Russia. Milyukov waged a bitter war against Trotskyism "as early as 1905".
Trotsky was elected chairman of the St. Petersburg Soviet during the Russian Revolution of 1905. He pursued a policy of proletarian revolution at a time when other socialist trends advocated a transition to a "bourgeois" (capitalist) regime to replace the essentially feudal Romanov state. It was during this year that Trotsky developed the theory of permanent revolution, as it later became known (see below). In 1905, Trotsky quotes from a postscript to a book by Milyukov, The Elections to the Second State Duma, published no later than May 1907:
Those who reproach the Kadets with failure to protest at that time, by organising meetings, against the "revolutionary illusions" of Trotskyism and the relapse into Blanquism, simply do not understand [...] the mood of the democratic public at meetings during that period.— Pavel Milyukov, The Elections to the Second State Duma
Milyukov suggests that the mood of the "democratic public" was in support of Trotsky's policy of the overthrow of the Romanov regime alongside a workers' revolution to overthrow the capitalist owners of industry, support for strike action and the establishment of democratically elected workers' councils or "soviets".
Trotskyism and the 1917 Russian Revolution
During his leadership of the Russian revolution of 1905, Trotsky argued that once it became clear that the Tsar's army would not come out in support of the workers, it was necessary to retreat before the armed might of the state in as good an order as possible. In 1917, Trotsky was again elected chairman of the Petrograd soviet, but this time soon came to lead the Military Revolutionary Committee which had the allegiance of the Petrograd garrison and carried through the October 1917 insurrection. Stalin wrote:
All practical work in connection with the organisation of the uprising was done under the immediate direction of Comrade Trotsky, the President of the Petrograd Soviet. It can be stated with certainty that the Party is indebted primarily and principally to Comrade Trotsky for the rapid going over of the garrison to the side of the Soviet and the efficient manner in which the work of the Military Revolutionary Committee was organized.
As a result of his role in the Russian Revolution of 1917, the theory of permanent revolution was embraced by the young Soviet state until 1924.
The Russian revolution of 1917 was marked by two revolutions: the relatively spontaneous February 1917 revolution, and the 25 October 1917 seizure of power by the Bolsheviks, who had gained the leadership of the Petrograd soviet.
Before the February 1917 Russian revolution, Lenin had formulated a slogan calling for the "democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry", but after the February revolution through his April Theses, Lenin instead called for "all power to the Soviets". Lenin nevertheless continued to emphasise (as did Trotsky also) the classical Marxist position that the peasantry formed a basis for the development of capitalism, not socialism.
Also before February 1917, Trotsky had not accepted the importance of a Bolshevik style organisation. Once the February 1917 Russian revolution had broken out, Trotsky admitted the importance of a Bolshevik organisation and joined the Bolsheviks in July 1917. Despite the fact that many like Stalin saw Trotsky's role in the October 1917 Russian revolution as central, Trotsky wrote that without Lenin and the Bolshevik Party, the October revolution of 1917 would not have taken place.
As a result, since 1917 Trotskyism as a political theory is fully committed to a Leninist style of democratic centralist party organisation, which Trotskyists argue must not be confused with the party organisation as it later developed under Stalin. Trotsky had previously suggested that Lenin's method of organisation would lead to a dictatorship, but it is important to emphasise that after 1917 orthodox Trotskyists argue that the loss of democracy in the Soviet Union was caused by the failure of the revolution to spread internationally and the consequent wars, isolation, and imperialist intervention, not the Bolshevik style of organisation.
Lenin's outlook had always been that the Russian revolution would need to stimulate a Socialist revolution in Western Europe in order that this European socialist society would then come to the aid of the Russian revolution and enable Russia to advance towards socialism. Lenin stated:
We have stressed in a good many written works, in all our public utterances, and in all our statements in the press that [...] the socialist revolution can triumph only on two conditions. First, if it is given timely support by a socialist revolution in one or several advanced countries.— Vladimir Lenin, Speech at Tenth Congress of the RCP(B)
This outlook matched precisely Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution. Trotsky's permanent revolution had foreseen that the working class would not stop at the bourgeois democratic stage of the revolution, but proceed towards a workers' state as happened in 1917. The Polish Trotskyist Isaac Deutscher maintains that in 1917 Lenin changed his attitude to Trotsky's theory of Permanent Revolution and after the October revolution it was adopted by the Bolsheviks.
Lenin was met with initial disbelief in April 1917. Trotsky argues that:
[...] up to the outbreak of the February revolution and for a time after Trotskyism did not mean the idea that it was impossible to build a socialist society within the national boundaries of Russia (which "possibility" was never expressed by anybody up to 1924 and hardly came into anybody’s head). Trotskyism meant the idea that the Russian proletariat might win the power in advance of the Western proletariat, and that in that case it could not confine itself within the limits of a democratic dictatorship but would be compelled to undertake the initial socialist measures. It is not surprising, then, that the April theses of Lenin were condemned as Trotskyist.— Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution
"Legend of Trotskyism"
In The Stalin School of Falsification, Trotsky argues that what he calls the "legend of Trotskyism" was formulated by Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev in collaboration with Stalin in 1924 in response to the criticisms Trotsky raised of Politburo policy. Orlando Figes argues: "The urge to silence Trotsky, and all criticism of the Politburo, was in itself a crucial factor in Stalin's rise to power".
During 1922–1924, Lenin suffered a series of strokes and became increasingly incapacitated. Before his death in 1924, while describing Trotsky as "distinguished not only by his exceptional abilities—personally he is, to be sure, the most able man in the present Central Committee" and also maintaining that "his non-Bolshevik past should not be held against him", Lenin criticized him for "showing excessive preoccupation with the purely administrative side of the work" and also requested that Stalin be removed from his position of General Secretary, but his notes remained suppressed until 1956. Zinoviev and Kamenev broke with Stalin in 1925 and joined Trotsky in 1926 in what was known as the United Opposition.
In 1926, Stalin allied with Nikolai Bukharin who then led the campaign against "Trotskyism". In The Stalin School of Falsification, Trotsky quotes Bukharin's 1918 pamphlet, From the Collapse of Czarism to the Fall of the Bourgeoisie, which was re-printed in 1923 by the party publishing house, Proletari. In this pamphlet, Bukharin explains and embraces Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution, writing: "The Russian proletariat is confronted more sharply than ever before with the problem of the international revolution ... The grand total of relationships which have arisen in Europe leads to this inevitable conclusion. Thus, the permanent revolution in Russia is passing into the European proletarian revolution". Yet it is common knowledge, Trotsky argues, that three years later in 1926 "Bukharin was the chief and indeed the sole theoretician of the entire campaign against 'Trotskyism', summed up in the struggle against the theory of the permanent revolution."
Trotsky wrote that the Left Opposition grew in influence throughout the 1920s, attempting to reform the Communist Party, but in 1927 Stalin declared "civil war" against them:
During the first ten years of its struggle, the Left Opposition did not abandon the program of ideological conquest of the party for that of conquest of power against the party. Its slogan was: reform, not revolution. The bureaucracy, however, even in those times, was ready for any revolution in order to defend itself against a democratic reform.
In 1927, when the struggle reached an especially bitter stage, Stalin declared at a session of the Central Committee, addressing himself to the Opposition: "Those cadres can be removed only by civil war!" What was a threat in Stalin’s words became, thanks to a series of defeats of the European proletariat, a historic fact. The road of reform was turned into a road of revolution.— Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed: What Is the Soviet Union and Where Is It Going?, p. 279, Pathfinder
Defeat of the European working class led to further isolation in Russia and further suppression of the Opposition. Trotsky argued that the "so-called struggle against 'Trotskyism' grew out of the bureaucratic reaction against the October Revolution [of 1917]". He responded to the one-sided civil war with his Letter to the Bureau of Party History (1927), contrasting what he claimed to be the falsification of history with the official history of just a few years before. He further accused Stalin of derailing the Chinese revolution and causing the massacre of the Chinese workers:
In the year 1918, Stalin, at the very outset of his campaign against me, found it necessary, as we have already learned, to write the following words:"All the work of practical organization of the insurrection was carried out under the direct leadership of the Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, comrade Trotsky..." (Stalin, Pravda, 6 November 1918)
With full responsibility for my words, I am now compelled to say that the cruel massacre of the Chinese proletariat and the Chinese Revolution at its three most important turning points, the strengthening of the position of the trade union agents of British imperialism after the General Strike of 1926, and, finally, the general weakening of the position of the Communist International and the Soviet Union, the party owes principally and above all to Stalin.— Leon Trotsky, The Stalin School of Falsification, p. 87, Pathfinder (1971).
Trotsky was sent into internal exile and his supporters were jailed. For instance, Victor Serge first "spent six weeks in a cell" after a visit at midnight, then 85 days in an inner GPU cell, most of it in solitary confinement. He details the jailings of the Left Opposition. However, the Left Opposition continued to work in secret within the Soviet Union. Trotsky was eventually exiled to Turkey and moved from there to France, Norway and finally to Mexico.
After 1928, the various Communist Parties throughout the world expelled Trotskyists from their ranks. Most Trotskyists defend the economic achievements of the planned economy in the Soviet Union during the 1920s and 1930s, despite the "misleadership" of the Soviet bureaucracy and what they claim to be the loss of democracy. Trotskyists claim that in 1928 inner party democracy and indeed soviet democracy, which was at the foundation of Bolshevism, had been destroyed within the various Communist Parties. Anyone who disagreed with the party line was labeled a Trotskyist and even a fascist.
In 1937, Stalin again unleashed what Trotskyists say was a political terror against their Left Opposition and many of the remaining Old Bolsheviks (those who had played key roles in the October Revolution in 1917) in the face of increased opposition, particularly in the army.
Founding of the Fourth International
Trotsky founded the International Left Opposition in 1930. It was meant to be an opposition group within the Comintern, but anyone who joined or was suspected of joining the ILO was immediately expelled from the Comintern. The ILO, therefore, concluded that opposing Stalinism from within the communist organizations controlled by Stalin's supporters had become impossible, so new organizations had to be formed. In 1933, the ILO was renamed the International Communist League (ICL), which formed the basis of the Fourth International, founded in Paris in 1938.
Trotsky said that only the Fourth International, basing itself on Lenin's theory of the vanguard party, could lead the world revolution and that it would need to be built in opposition to both the capitalists and the Stalinists.
Trotsky argued that the defeat of the German working class and the coming to power of Hitler in 1933 was due in part to the mistakes of the Third Period policy of the Communist International and that the subsequent failure of the Communist Parties to draw the correct lessons from those defeats showed that they were no longer capable of reform and a new international organisation of the working class must be organised. The transitional demand tactic had to be a key element.
At the time of the founding of the Fourth International in 1938, Trotskyism was a mass political current in Vietnam, Sri Lanka and slightly later Bolivia. There was also a substantial Trotskyist movement in China which included the founding father of the Chinese communist movement, Chen Duxiu, amongst its number. Wherever Stalinists gained power, they made it a priority to hunt down Trotskyists and treated them as the worst of enemies.
The Fourth International suffered repression and disruption through the Second World War. Isolated from each other and faced with political developments quite unlike those anticipated by Trotsky, some Trotskyist organizations decided that the Soviet Union no longer could be called a degenerated workers' state and withdrew from the Fourth International. After 1945, Trotskyism was smashed as a mass movement in Vietnam and marginalised in a number of other countries.
The International Secretariat of the Fourth International (ISFI) organised an international conference in 1946 and then World Congresses in 1948 and 1951 to assess the expropriation of the capitalists in Eastern Europe and Yugoslavia, the threat of a Third World War and the tasks for revolutionaries. The Eastern European Communist-led governments which came into being after World War II without a social revolution were described by a resolution of the 1948 congress as presiding over capitalist economies. By 1951, the Congress had concluded that they had become "deformed workers' states". As the Cold War intensified, the ISFI's 1951 World Congress adopted theses by Michel Pablo that anticipated an international civil war. Pablo's followers considered that the Communist Parties, insofar as they were placed under pressure by the real workers' movement, could escape Stalin's manipulations and follow a revolutionary orientation.
The 1951 Congress argued that Trotskyists should start to conduct systematic work inside those Communist Parties which were followed by the majority of the working class. However, the ISFI's view that the Soviet leadership was counter-revolutionary remained unchanged. The 1951 Congress argued that the Soviet Union took over these countries because of the military and political results of World War II and instituted nationalized property relations only after its attempts at placating capitalism failed to protect those countries from the threat of incursion by the West.
Pablo began expelling large numbers of people who did not agree with his thesis and who did not want to dissolve their organizations within the Communist Parties. For instance, he expelled the majority of the French section and replaced its leadership. As a result, the opposition to Pablo eventually rose to the surface, with the Open Letter to Trotskyists of the World, by Socialist Workers Party leader James P. Cannon.
The Fourth International split in 1953 into two public factions. The International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) was established by several sections of the International as an alternative centre to the International Secretariat, in which they felt a revisionist faction led by Michel Pablo had taken power and recommitted themselves to the Lenin-Trotsky Theory of the Party and Trotsky's theory of Permanent Revolution. From 1960, led by the U.S Socialist Workers Party, a number of ICFI sections began the reunification process with the IS, but factions split off and continued their commitment to the ICFI. Today, national parties committed to the ICFI call themselves the Socialist Equality Party.
Trotskyism has had some influence in some recent major social upheavals, particularly in Latin America.
The Bolivian Trotskyist party (Partido Obrero Revolucionario, POR) became a mass party in the period of the late 1940s and early 1950s and together with other groups played a central role during and immediately after the period termed the Bolivian National Revolution.
In Brazil, as an officially recognised platform or faction of the PT until 1992, the Trotskyist Movimento Convergência Socialista (CS), which founded the United Socialist Workers' Party (PSTU) in 1994, saw a number of its members elected to national, state and local legislative bodies during the 1980s. The Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL) presidential candidate in the 2006 general elections Heloísa Helena is termed a Trotskyist who was a member of the Workers Party of Brazil (PT), a legislative deputy in Alagoas and in 1999 was elected to the Federal Senate. Expelled from the PT in December 2003, she helped found PSOL in which various Trotskyist groups play a prominent role.
In Argentina, the Workers' Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores, PRT) lay in the merger of two leftist organizations in 1965, the Revolutionary and Popular Amerindian Front (Frente Revolucionario Indoamericano Popular, FRIP) and Worker's Word (Palabra Obrera, PO). In 1968, the PRT adhered to the Fourth International, based in Paris. That same year a related organisation was founded in Argentina, the ERP (People's Revolutionary Army) that became the strongest rural guerrilla movement in South America during the 1970s. The PRT left the Fourth International in 1973. Both the PRT and the ERP were suppressed by the Argentine military regime during the Dirty War. ERP commander Roberto Santucho was killed in July 1976. Owing to the ruthless repression PRT showed no signs of activity after 1977. During the 1980s in Argentina, the Trotskyist party founded in 1982 by Nahuel Moreno, MAS, (Movimiento al Socialismo, Movement Toward Socialism), claimed to be the "largest Trotskyist party" in the world before it broke into a number of different fragments in the late 1980s, including the present-day MST, PTS, Nuevo MAS, IS, PRS, FOS, etc. In 1989 in an electoral front with the Communist Party and Christian nationalists groups, called Izquierda Unida ("United Left"), obtained 3.49% of the vote, representing 580,944 voters. Today, the Workers' Party in Argentina has an electoral base in Salta Province in the far north, particularly in the city of Salta itself; and has become the third political force in the provinces of Tucumán, also in the north; and Santa Cruz, in the south.
Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez declared himself to be a Trotskyist during his swearing-in of his cabinet, two days before his own inauguration on 10 January 2007. Venezuelan Trotskyist organizations do not regard Chávez as a Trotskyist, with some describing him as a bourgeois nationalist and other considering him an honest revolutionary leader who has made major mistakes because he lacks a Marxist analysis.
Besides the more contemporary groups, South America has also had several run-ins with the stranger side of Trotskyism, namely Posadism. The Posadist movement, organized under the Fourth International Posadist, based its ideology on the theories of Juan Posadas, a major politician in Argentina. Posadas had a plethora of strange, and unorthodox ideas, including fascinations with UFOs, extraterrestrials, and optimism surrounding nuclear war. Despite this, the Fourth International Posadist was a major part of Left-Wing politics in South America, as Posadist parties were often the only Left parties in some areas. However, Posadism failed to materialize successful movements outside of South America. After Posadas' death, the FPI fell in popularity, and now remains a shadow of its former self.
In China various left opposition groups in the late 1920s sought to engage Trotsky against the Comintern policy of support for the Kuomintang. In 1931, at Trotsky's urging, the various factions united in the Communist League of China, adopting Trotsky’s document "The Political Situation in China and the Task of the Bolshevik-Leninist Opposition". The League and persecuted by the Nationalist government and by the Chinese Communist Party.
In 1939, Ho Chi Minh, then a Comintern agent in southern China, reported that while "everyone united to fight the Japanese except the Trotskyists. These traitors . . . adopted the ‘resolution’: ‘In the war against the Japanese, our position is clear: those who wanted the war and have illusions about the Kuomintang government, those concretely have committed treason. The union between the Communist Party and the Kuomintang is nothing but conscious treason’. And other ignominies of this kind." The Trotskyists were to be "crushed." In 1949, the Revolutionary Communist Party of China (Chinese: 中國革命共產黨; RCP) fled to Hong Kong. Since 1974, the party has been legally active as October Review, its official publication.
In French Indochina during the 1930s, Vietnamese Trotskyism led by Tạ Thu Thâu was a significant current, particularly in Saigon, Cochinchina. In 1929, in the French Left Opposition La Vérité, Ta Thu Thau had condemned the Comintern for leading Chinese Communists (in 1927) to "the graveyard" through its support for the Kuomintang. The "'Sun Yat-sen-ist' synthesis of democracy, nationalism and socialism" was "a kind of nationalist mysticism." In Indochina it could only obscure "the concrete class relationships, and the real, organic liaison between the indigenous bourgeoisie and French imperialism," in the light of which the call for independence is "mechanical and formalistic." "A revolution based on the organisation of the proletarian and peasant masses is the only one capable of liberating the colonies ... The question of independence must be bound up with that of the proletarian socialist revolution."
For a period in the 1930s Ta Thu Thau's Struggle group, centred around the newspaper La Lutte , was sufficiently strong to induce "Stalinists" (members of the then Indochinese Communist Party) to collaborate with the Trotskyists in support of labour and peasant struggles, and in the presentation of a common Workers Slate for Saigon municipal, and Cochinchina Council, elections. Ta Thu Thau was captured and executed by the Communist-front Viet Minh in September 1945. Many, if not most, of his fellow luttuers were subsequently killed caught between the Viet Minh and the French effort at colonial reconquest.
In Sri Lanka, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) expelled its pro-Moscow wing in 1940, becoming a Trotskyist-led party. It was led by South Asia's pioneer Trotskyist, Philip Gunawardena and his colleague N. M. Perera. In 1942, following the escape of the leaders of the LSSP from a British prison, a unified Bolshevik–Leninist Party of India, Ceylon and Burma (BLPI) was established in India, bringing together the many Trotskyist groups in the subcontinent. The BLPI was active in the Quit India Movement as well as the labour movement, capturing the second oldest union in India. Its high point was when it led the strikes which followed the Bombay Mutiny. After the war, the Sri Lanka section split into the Lanka Sama Samaja Party and the Bolshevik Samasamaja Party (BSP). The Indian section of the BLPI later fused with the Congress Socialist Party. In the general election of 1947, the LSSP became the main opposition party, winning 10 seats, the BSP winning a further 5. It joined the Trotskyist Fourth International after fusion with the BSP in 1950 and led a general strike (Hartal) in 1953.
In 1964, a section of the LSSP split to form the LSSP (Revolutionary) and joined the Fourth International after the LSSP proper was expelled. The LSSP (Revolutionary) later split into factions led by Bala Tampoe and Edmund Samarakkody. The LSSP joined the "coalition" government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike, where three of its members, NM Perera, Cholmondely Goonewardena and Anil Moonesinghe were brought into the new cabinet.
In 1974, a secret faction of the LSSP, allied to the Militant group in the United Kingdom emerged. In 1977, this faction was expelled and formed the Nava Sama Samaja Party, led by Vasudeva Nanayakkara.
In India the BLPI fractured. In 1948, at the request of the Fourth International, the rump of the party dissolved into the Congress Socialist Party as an exercise in entryism.
The French section of the Fourth International was the Internationalist Communist Party (PCI). In 1952 the party split when the Fourth International removed its Central Committee, and split again when in 1953 the Fourth International itself divided. Further divisions occurred over which independence faction to support in the Algerian War.
In 1967, the rump of the PCI renamed itself the "Internationalist Communist Organisation" (Organisation Communiste Internationaliste, OCI). It grew rapidly during the May 1968 student demonstrations, but was banned alongside other far left groups, such as the Gauche prolétarienne (Proletarian Left). Members temporarily reconstituted the group as the Trotskyist Organisation, but soon obtained a state order permitting the reformation of the OCI. By 1970, the OCI was able to organise a 10,000-strong youth rally. The group also gained a strong base in trade unions. But further splits and disintegration followed.
In 2016 Jean-Luc Mélenchon, formerly of the ICO, launched the left-wing political platform La France Insoumise' (Unbowed France) subsequently endorsed by several parties, including his own Left Party and the French Communist Party. In the 2017 French Presidential Election he received 19% in the first round.' In the same election, Philippe Poutou of the New Anticapitalist Party, into which the Revolutionary Communist League (Ligue communiste révolutionnaire) dissolved itself in 2008, won 1.20% of the vote. The only openly Trotskyist candidate, Nathalie Arthaud of Workers' Struggle (Lutte Ouvrière) won 0.64% of the vote.
In Britain during the 1980s, the entryist Militant group operated within the Labour Party with three Members of Parliament and effective control of Liverpool City Council. Described by journalist Michael Crick as "Britain's fifth most important political party" in 1986, it played a prominent role in the 1989–1991 anti-poll tax movement which was widely thought to have led to the downfall of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
The most enduring of several Trotskyist parties in Britain has been the Socialist Workers Party, formerly the International Socialists (IS). Its founder Tony Cliff rejected the orthodox Trotskyist view of the USSR as a "deformed worker's state." Communist-party regimes were "state capitalist." The SWP has founded several front organisations through which they have sought to exert influence over the wider left, such as the Anti-Nazi League in the late 1970s and the Stop the War Coalition in 2001. It also formed an alliance with George Galloway and Respect whose dissolution in 2007 caused an internal crisis in the SWP. A more serious internal crisis, leading to a significant decline in the party's membership, emerged in 2013. Allegations of rape and sexual assault made against a leading member of the party, developed into a dispute over the practice of democratic centralism (defended by the party's international secretary Alex Callinicos).
In April 2019, a rival splinter from IS made headlines when three former members of the Revolutionary Communist Party campaigned in the European Parliamentary election as candidates for the Brexit Party, and a fourth, Munira Mirza, was appointed head of the Number 10 [Downing Street] policy unit by the new Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The RCP's rejection of the SWP's critical engagement with the Labour Party and with trade unions had morphed into an embrace of right-wing libertarian positions.
The Socialist Party in Ireland was formed in 1990 by members who had been expelled by the Irish Labour Party's leader Dick Spring. It has had support in the Fingal electoral district as well as in the city of Limerick. In 2018, it had three elected officials in Dáil Éireann. Paul Murphy, representing Dublin West (Dáil constituency), Mick Barry representing Cork North-Central (Dáil constituency) and Ruth Coppinger representing Dublin West (Dáil constituency).
In Portugal's October 2015 parliamentary election, the Left Bloc won 550,945 votes, which translated into 10.19% of the expressed votes and the election of 19 (out of 230) deputados (members of parliament). Although founded by several leftist tendencies, it still expresses much of the Trotskyist thought upheld and developed by its former leader, Francisco Louçã.
In Turkey, there are some Trotksyist organizations, including the International Socialist Tendency's section (Revolutionary Workers' Socialist Party), Coordinating Committee for the Refoundation of the Fourth International's section (Revolutionary Workers' Party), Permanent Revolution Movement (SDH), Socialism Magazine (sympathizers of the International Committee of the Fourth International), and several small groups.
The Fourth International derives from the 1963 reunification of the two public factions into which the Fourth International split in 1953: the International Secretariat of the Fourth International (ISFI) and some sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI). It is often referred to as the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, the name of its leading committee before 2003. The USFI retains sections and sympathizing organizations in over 50 countries, including the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire (LCR) of France, as well as sections in Portugal, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Pakistan.
The International Committee of the Fourth International maintains its independent organization and publishes the World Socialist Web Site.
The Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) was founded in 1974 and now has sections in over 35 countries. Before 1997, most organisations affiliated to the CWI sought to build an entrist Marxist wing within the large social democratic parties. The CWI has adopted a range of tactics, including working with trade unions, but in some cases working within or supporting other parties, endorsing Bernie Sanders for the 2016 U.S. Democratic Party nomination and encouraging him to run independently.
In France, the LCR is rivalled by Lutte Ouvrière, the French section of the Internationalist Communist Union (UCI), with small sections in a handful of other countries. It focuses its activities, whether propaganda or intervention, within the industrial proletariat.
The founders of the Committee for a Marxist International (CMI) claim they were expelled from the CWI when the CWI abandoned entryism. The CWI claims they left and no expulsions were carried out. Since 2006, it has been known as the International Marxist Tendency (IMT). CMI/IMT groups continue the policy of entering mainstream social democratic, communist or radical parties.
Currently, International Marxist Tendency (IMT) is headed by Alan Woods. The list of Trotskyist internationals shows that there are a large number of other multinational tendencies that stand in the tradition of Leon Trotsky.
Trotskyism has been criticised from various directions. In 1935, Marxist–Leninist Moissaye J. Olgin argued that Trotskyism was "the enemy of the working class" and "should be shunned by anybody who has sympathy for the revolutionary movement of the exploited and oppressed the world over." The African American Marxist–Leninist Harry Haywood, who spent much time in the Soviet Union during the 1920s and 1930s, stated that although he had been somewhat interested in Trotsky’s ideas when he was young, he came to see it as "a disruptive force on the fringes of the international revolutionary movement" which eventually developed into "a counter-revolutionary conspiracy against the Party and the Soviet state". He continued to put forward his following belief:
- Trotsky was not defeated by bureaucratic decisions or Stalin's control of the Party apparatus—as his partisans and Trotskyite historians claim. He had his day in court and finally lost because his whole position flew in the face of Soviet and world realities. He was doomed to defeat because his ideas were incorrect and failed to conform to objective conditions, as well as the needs and interests of the Soviet people.
Other figures associated with Marxism-Leninism criticized Trotskyist political theory, including Régis Debray. and Earl Browder.
Polish philosopher Leszek Kołakowski wrote: "Both Trotsky and Bukharin were emphatic in their assurances that forced labour was an organic part of the new society."
The way Trotskyists organise to promote their beliefs has been criticised often by ex-members of their organisations. Dennis Tourish, a former member of the CWI, asserts that these organisations typically value doctrinal orthodoxy over critical reflection, have illusions in the absolute correctness of their own party's analysis, a fear of dissent, the demonising of dissenters and critical opinion, overworking of members, a sectarian attitude to the rest of the left and the concentration of power among a small group of leaders.
Some Left Communists such as Paul Mattick claim that the October Revolution was totalitarian from the start and therefore Trotskyism has no real differences from Stalinism either in practice or theory.
In the United States, Dwight Macdonald broke with Trotsky and left the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party by raising the question of the Kronstadt rebellion, which Trotsky as leader of the Soviet Red Army and the other Bolsheviks had brutally repressed. He then moved towards democratic socialism and anarchism. A similar critique on Trotsky's role on the events around the Kronstadt rebellion was raised by the American anarchist Emma Goldman. In her essay "Trotsky Protests Too Much", she says: "I admit, the dictatorship under Stalin's rule has become monstrous. That does not, however, lessen the guilt of Leon Trotsky as one of the actors in the revolutionary drama of which Kronstadt was one of the bloodiest scenes". Trotsky defended the actions of the Red Army in his essay "Hue and Cry over Kronstadt".
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- Many would put, for instance, the Committee for a Workers' International in this category of orthodox Trotskyists. See for instance Che Guevara: A revolutionary fighter. Archived 13 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 7 October 2007.
- Trotsky, Results and Prospects, p. 183, New Park (1962)
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- Trotsky, Leon, Results and Prospects, p 204–5, New Park publications (1962). Trotsky adds that the revolution must raise the cultural and political consciousness of the peasantry.
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- Trotsky, Leon, 1905, Pelican books, (1971) p217 ff
- This summary of Trotsky's role in 1917, written by Stalin for Pravda, November 6, 1918, was quoted in Stalin's book The October Revolution issued in 1934, but it was expunged in Stalin's Works released in 1949.
- "Peasant farming continues to be... an extremely broad and very sound, deep-rooted basis for capitalism, a basis on which capitalism persists or arises anew in a bitter struggle against communism." Lenin Economics and Politics in the era of the dictatorship of the proletariat, October 30, 1919, Collected works, Vol 30, p109
- Lenin, Report on the substitution of a tax in kind for the surplus-grain appropriation system, Tenth Congress, March 15, 1921, Collected works, vol. 32, p. 215. This speech, of course, introduced the New Economic Policy (NEP), which was intended to reinforce the basis of the second of the two conditions Lenin mentions in the quote, the support of the peasantry for the workers' state.
- Deutscher, Isaac, Stalin, p285, Penguin, (1966)
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- See also Deutscher, Isaac, Stalin, p 293, Penguin (1966)
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- Lenin, Collected works, Vol 36, pp593–98: "Stalin is too rude and this defect [...] becomes intolerable in a Secretary-General. That is why I suggest that the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post [...] it is a detail which can assume decisive importance."
- Trotsky, Leon, The Stalin School of Falsification, pp89ff, Pathfinder (1971)
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- Rogovin, Vadim, 1937: Stalin's Year of Terror Mehring Books, 1998, p. 374. Also see the chapter 'Trotskyists in the camps': "A new, young generation of Trotskyists had grown up in the Soviet Union...lots of them go to their deaths crying 'Long live Trotsky!' " Until this research became available after the fall of the Soviet Union, little was known about the strength of the Trotskyists within the Soviet Union.
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