Conference on American Trotskyism: some reflections

David Altman altman_d at
Tue Oct 3 20:00:39 MDT 2000

This is an interesting report, and I'm sorry I wasn't able to attend the
conference. I assume the various presntations will appear in printed form, and I
hope you will let us know how we can obtain them.

I've been following the recent List contributions on the SWP, Trotskyism, etc.
with some interest and have been meaning to make a contribution myself, but
haven't had the time. 

I'm no longer a "Trotskyist" in the Talmudic sense I was in the '70s (but then
I'm not a Marxist in that sense either). I would like to say, though, that this
conference, and the continuing interest in Trotsky's legacy, rather puts the lie
to the contention that "Trotskyism" was irrelevant, a sectarian dead end, etc.
Just take a look a the various movements and schools of thought that have
emerged over the years with the aim of providing an "alternative" to Stalinism,
Troskyism and the Social Democracy.  Does anyone organize learned conferences on
the political legacy of Eurocommunism or the "new communist movement" of the
1970's?  Nobody gives a shit!

As regards your assertion that the founding of the Fourth International was one
of the "Greatest Failures in Marxist History": Greater than the failure of the
Second International to oppose World War One?  Greater than the defeat of the
Chinese Revolution of 1927?  Greater than the Communist & Social Democratic
Parties' paving the way for Hitler's rise to power?  Not to mention the defeat
of the Spanish revolution and the Stalinists' disarming of the French and
Italian Resistance movements after World war Two! Come off it!

The present-day "Fourth International" (take your pick which one) is for all
purposes defunct, so it's easy to say it was all a mistake.  But tell me: In
1938 what revolutionary alternative WAS there to the Stalinists and Social
Democrats?  There were no Sandinistas, Fidelistas or even Titoists then.  The
Trotskyists were IT! I think that "Trotskyism" will cease to exist, not because
it has become discredited, but precisely because of its success!  As Social
Democracy and the various strands of Stalinism have collapsed, Trotskyist ideas
(that it, authentic Leninism, updated and advanced) have become part of the
mainstream of Marxist thought.  Think about it:  How can you understand the
colonial revolution, fascism or the rise and fall of Stalinism in the twentieth
century without taking Trotsky's contributions into account?  Who cares if  he
misjudged this or that point or got something wrong!  That's a problem only if
you think of him as some kind of prophet and as not the second-greatest
revolutionary of the twentieth century!  He was Trotsky, not Nostradamus!  
David Altman

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