The Algebra of Trotskyism

Tue Aug 29 18:41:20 MDT 1995

To Gerry Levy:

What are algebraically formulated demands? Those which can be given both
a revolutionary and a reformist interpretation. Take for example the "labor
party," a slogan which now is very much in the air in the U.S., since a
leftish wing of the labor bureaucracy understands that the Democratic Party
has lost its ability to appease mass discontent. Today it has only the
reformist meaning, but in the late 1930's when Trotsky and the SWP adopted it
their expectation was that a mass movement, shifting over to the political
arena with the momentum of the CIO victories, could explode out of
bureaucratic control and potentially adopt a revolutionary program. The
"algebraic" nature (a "variable" expression like working-class party that can
be filled with different contents) is not a device from keeping the socialist
implications from the working class. On the contrary, it is the job of
revolutionaries to make that clear to the advanced workers; and, in a period
of mass action, the motion of the class struggle will enable wider masses of
workers to see the power of their class and be won to the revolutionary

When I first came around the socialist movement, I was told by some that the
"transitional method" was a way of presenting socialist ideas painlessly,
without having to use incendiary words like socialism, communism or revolution.
I suspect that's what many of today's far left "labor party advocates" think
they're doing. And that they're following Trotsky's precedent.

Unfortunately, a labor party in the U.S. today, built by the bureaucrats as
an alternative to a mass workers' struggle, would have the same politics as
the AFL-CIO tops: racism, imperialism, class collaboration. It would be of the
same species as what the British and Australian Labo(u)r Parties have become.
My Australian comrades used to say, "You want a Labor Party? Take ours!"

As to the "declarative" prose, I guess that's what happens when you take a
condensed document and publish it externally.


On Tue, 29 Aug 1995 10:26:50 -0400 (EDT) <glevy at> said:

>In your most recent post, you excerpted a section from the "political
>resolution" of the League for a Revolutionary Party which said that the
>"transitional program" (originally developed by Trotsky) contained
>"algebraically formulated demands."
>Could you please tell us what this expression means? Don't you believe
>that sentence (and the prose, in general, of the "political
>resolution") could have been written in a less declarative way and a way
>that could be understood more by workers?
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