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Leon Trotsky
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Trotskyism is the theory of Marxism as advocated by Leon Trotsky. Trotsky considered himself an orthodox Marxist and Bolshevik-Leninist, arguing for the establishment of a vanguard party. His politics differed sharply in some respects from those of Stalin or Mao, most importantly in declaring the need for an international "permanent revolution". Numerous groups around the world continue to describe themselves as Trotskyist, although they have diverse interpretations of Trotsky's writings.

The term "Trotskyism" is sometimes also used critically by those from a Stalinist or social democratic background to denote any of various political currents claiming a tradition of Marxist opposition to both Stalinism and capitalism.

"Trotskyism is not a new movement, a new doctrine, but the restoration, the revival of genuine Marxism as it was expounded and practiced in the Russian revolution and in the early days of the Communist International." - James P. Cannon in History of American Trotskyism.


[edit] Trotsky, the Russian Revolution and Stalin

Trotsky advocated proletarian revolution as set out in his theory of "permanent revolution", and he argued that in countries where the bourgeois-democratic revolution had not triumphed already (in other words, in places that had not yet implemented a capitalist democracy, such as Russia before 1917), it was necessary that the proletariat make it permanent by carrying out the tasks of the social revolution (the "socialist" or "communist" revolution) at the same time, in an uninterrupted process. Trotsky believed that a new socialist state would not be able to hold out against the pressures of a hostile capitalist world unless socialist revolutions quickly took hold in other countries as well.

On the political spectrum of Marxism, Trotskyists are considered to be on the left. They supported democratic rights in the USSR, opposed political deals with the imperialist powers, and advocated a spreading of the revolution throughout Europe and the East. The Left Opposition, led by Trotsky, grew in influence throughout the 20s, until Stalin used force against them in 1928, sending Trotsky into internal exile and jailing his supporters. The Left Opposition, however, continued to work in secret within the Soviet Union. Trotsky was eventually exiled to Turkey, then Norway, and finally to Mexico.

After 1928, Stalin used his power in the USSR to gain bureaucratic control over the various Communist Parties throughout the world, and expelled Trotskyists from their ranks. At this point, inner party democracy, which was at the foundation of Bolshevism, was destroyed within the various Communist Parties. Anyone who disagreed with the party line was labeled a Trotskyist and a fascist. The Communist Parties, such as the CPUSA, then began to support capitalist governments. Stalin did this to show that he was not a threat to capitalist rule and so hoped to avoid an invasion by the imperialist powers, as happened after the 1917 revolution. In 1937, Stalin unleashed a political terror against many of the remaining 'Old Bolsheviks' (those who had played key roles in the October Revolution in 1917).

Trotsky developed the theory that the Russian workers' state had become a "bureaucratically degenerated workers' state". Capitalist rule had not been restored, and nationalized industry and economic planning, instituted under Lenin, were still in effect. However, the state was controlled by a bureaucratic caste with interests hostile to those of the working class. Trotsky defended the Soviet Union against attack from imperialist powers and against internal counter-revolution, but called for a political revolution within the USSR to restore socialist democracy. He argued that if the working class did not take power away from the Stalinist bureaucracy, the bureaucracy would restore capitalism in order to enrich itself. In the view of many Trotskyists, this is exactly what has happened since the beginning of Glasnost and Perestroika in the USSR. Some argue that the adoption of market socialism by the People's Republic of China has also led to capitalist counter-revolution. Many of Trotsky's criticisms of Stalinism were described in his book, The Revolution Betrayed.

"Trotskyist" has been used by Stalinists to mean a traitor; in the Spanish Civil War, being called a "Trot", "Trotskyist" or "Trotskyite" by the USSR-supported elements implied that the person was some sort of fascist spy or agent provocateur. George Orwell, a prominent left-wing writer, wrote about this practice in his book Homage to Catalonia and in his essay Spilling the Spanish Beans. In his book Animal Farm, an allegory for the Russian Revolution, he represented Trotsky with the character "Snowball" and Stalin with the character "Napoleon." Emmanuel Goldstein in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four has also been linked to Trotsky.

Stalin put out a general call for the assassination of Trotsky. He was finally killed in Mexico in 1940, by Ramon Mercader, a Spanish Stalinist.

[edit] Founding of the Fourth International

Main article: Fourth International

In 1938, Trotsky and the organisations that supported his outlook established the Fourth International. He 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. At the time of the founding 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 USSR 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 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 FI's 1951 World Congress adopted theses by Michel Pablo which anticipated an international civil war. Pablo's followers considered that the Communist Parties, in so far 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 an 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 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. From 1960, a number of ICFI sections started to reunify with the IS. After the 1963 reunification congress which established the reunified Fourth International, the French and British sections maintained the ICFI.

[edit] Trotskyists Win Mass Support

However, the Sri Lankan Trotskyist party and the Bolivian Trotskyist party became the mass workers parties in those countries, prior to experiencing defeats and setbacks at a later stage. In both countries, however, there remains a large scale presence of competing Trotskyist groups. In recent years Trotskyism has also developed large scale support in a number of lesser developed countries in Latin America where it can count on some tens of thousands of supporters in both Argentina and Brazil. Elsewhere in the Third World support for Trotskyist ideas is more diffuse and generally confined to intellectuals but can be found in a diluted form among some sections of various progressive movements, as in South Africa.

In France, millions of people, 10% of the electorate, voted in 2002 for parties calling themselves Trotskyist, and during the 1980s in Argentina, the Trotskyist party founded by Nahuel Moreno used to obtain also around 10% of the electorate, representing 3.5 million voters.

An important fact to make note of is that no governing Communist party or successful Communist revolution has to this date professed Trotskyism, although Trotskyism's influence in some recent major social upheavals is very evident.

[edit] Trotskyism Today

There are a wide range of Trotskyist organisations around the world. These include but are not limited to:

[edit] The reunified Fourth International

This International derives from the 1963 reunification of the majorities of the two public factions into which the FI split in 1953: the ISFI and the ICFI. It is often referred to as the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, the name of its leading committee before 2003. It is widely described as the largest contemporary Trotskyist organisation. [1], [2], [3]. Its best known section is the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire of France.

In many countries its sections work within working class parties, and alliances, in which Trotskyists are a minority.

[edit] Committee for a Workers' International

The 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. Since the early 1990s it has argued that most social democratic parties have moved so far to the right that there is little point trying to work within them. Instead the CWI has adopted a range of tactics, mostly seeking to build independent parties, but in some cases working within other broad working-class parties.

[edit] International Socialist Tendency

An international grouping, led by the Socialist Workers Party, the largest Trotskyist group in Britain.

[edit] Internationalist Communist Union

In France, the LCR is rivalled by Lutte Ouvrière. That group is the French section of UCI. UCI has small sections in a handful of other countries. It focuses its activities, whether propaganda or intervention, within the industrial proletariat.

[edit] International Marxist Tendency

The Committee for a Marxist International (CMI) split from CWI, when CWI abandoned entryism. 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. In Pakistan, the group has an MP elected as a candidate of the Pakistan People's Party. Leading figures in CMI/IMT are Ted Grant (who died in 2006) and Alan Woods.

[edit] International Committee of the Fourth International

There used to be several groups claiming the name of ICFI, but now two remain. Only one of these ICFIs has national groups in more than one country.[citation needed] Its sections are called Socialist Equality Parties and publish the World Socialist Web Site.

[edit] Others

The list of Trotskyist internationals shows that there are a large number of other multinational tendencies that stand in the tradition of Leon Trotsky. Some Trotskyist organisations are only organised in one country.

[edit] Former Trotskyists within Neoconservativism

The neoconservative or "neocon" movement has been associated with Trotskyism by independent Australian Internet author Peter Myers, paleoconservative Justin Raimondo, and others because of the Trotskyist background of some key neoconservatives, such as Irving Kristol. [4], [5], [6]

The supposed desire of the neocons to spread democracy abroad has been likened to the Trotskyist theory of permanent revolution. Author Michael Lind argues that the neoconservatives are influenced by the thought of former Trotskyists such as James Burnham and Max Shachtman, who argued that "the United States and similar societies are dominated by a decadent, postbourgeois 'new class'". He sees the neoconservative concept of "global democratic revolution" as deriving from the Trotskyist Fourth International's "vision of permanent revolution". He also points to what he sees as the Marxist origin of "the economic determinist idea that liberal democracy is an epiphenomenon of capitalism", which he describes as "Marxism with entrepreneurs substituted for proletarians as the heroic subjects of history." However, few leading neoconservatives cite James Burnham as a major influence, as he differed with them on many issues. [7]

The association of former Trotskyists like Christopher Hitchens - once a member of the International Socialists (UK) - with neocons since 2001 has contributed to neconservativism's association with Trotskyism.[8] Other former Trotskyists associated with neoconservativism include Willmoore Kendall (William F. Buckley, Jr.'s mentor) and Stephen Schwartz (a former member of the Fomento Obrero Revolucionario). Schwartz has stated, "To a great extent, I still consider myself to be [one of the] disciples of L.D (the initials from Trotsky's birth name, Lev Davidovich Bronstein)." [9]

However, Stephen Schwartz has claimed there is an anti-semitic motive behind this association: "The U.S. neofascists who have thrown this accusation around use the term 'Trotskyist' the same way they use the term 'neoconservative:' as a euphemism for 'Jew.'" [10]

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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