Deformed or degenerated ?

Jj Plant jplant at
Sat Sep 21 14:33:00 MDT 1996

In-Reply-To: <199609210201.WAA28162 at>
Vladimir, many thanks indeed for your clarification. Although I know enough
Russian to make a simple translation, which I have to get my friends to check
over for me, I often find Trotsky's work difficult. He seems to enjoy using the
syntax of Russian to its full potential. For that reason I have not tried to
check on the translations of any of the Bulletin of the Opposition (BO) that
has been translated in the Pathfinder 'yearbooks' of Trotsky's writings. Life
is really too short. But last week I needed to translate some notes from the
Arkiv Trotskovo and ran into this problem of the precise meaning of
"pererozhdenie" ; my dictionary (the Russky Yazyk 1992 edition) gives both
'degeneration' and 'regeneration' as possibilities but not 'deformation'. I
think it is clear from the context that 'degeneration' is nearer to the meaning
than 'regeneration'.

 When Lenin wrote about "a workers' state with bureaucratic deformations" what
was the Russian word he used, do you happen to know ? (I think it is quoted in
one of Rakovsky's statements in the BO, the one where he says the state has
passed over into being a bureaucratic state with proletarian survivals. Don't
distract yourself too long from your work if you don't have this material, I
can look at it on monday for myself.)

The phrase 'degenerated workers state' occurs in the Transitional Programme.
This may be the first time he uses it. Certainly it is not in 'Revolution
Betrayed', but it may be in some of the other writings between 37 and 38. (The
reason I know this stuff is not that my head is so full of Trotsky's texts, but
that I am trying to write a piece on the development of these trends -
especially the ideas of workers state, degeneration and Thermidor - by Trotsky
for the November conference on 'Revolution Betrayed', which means I have to
look at a great many of these texts again in detail. Would you have any
objection if I were to quote your remarks in my paper ?)

You wrote :
> In BO, Trotsky often uses the formula of the "bureaucratically deformed
worker's state."

This may be a very important point. In the items translated in the Pathfinder
'yearbooks' this phrase is not much used, even for example when Trotsky writes
about Rakovsky's conclusions. If it is not too much trouble, perhaps you could
point to a couple of examples of this phrase in the Russian of BO and I can
check the translation.

On your political conclusion on what attitude Lenin and Trotsky took to the
growth of bureaucracy, of course I have no disagreement with you. And it was
not only Lenin and Trotsky against bureaucracy. EH Carr refers to decisions and
campaigns against bureaucracy on several occasions, none of which seem to have
had much impact on the growth of the bureaucracy, either politically or

jplant at

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