Forwarded from Anthony (reply to Gyan)
lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Wed Oct 4 20:26:42 MDT 2000
I would like to respond to Gyan's question posted last week,
"1)Why "ism" after name of Trotsky? What contribution of Trotsky to Marxist
theory/practice like Lenin and Mao?"
I think Lou's response was inadequate. It could be paraphrased: "permanent
revolution, transitional program, Leninist party - but the followers of
Trotsky pretty much misunderstood it all, and fucked up the rest.
Trotsky's contributions to both the theory and the practice of Marxism were
Trotsky's contribution to the "practice of Marxism" - and of revolution,
should be mentioned first.
Trotsky was the President of the St. Petersburg Soviet in the 1905 Russian
revolution. Trotsky, unlike Lenin, recognized the revolutionary importance
of the Soviets from the beginning, and became their first and most
In 1917 Trotsky again became the leader of the Soviets - and Lenin's most
trusted ally. Trotsky outside of the Bolshevik Party, and Lenin within the
Bolshevik Party advocated a program of no support for Kerensky's
provisional government, and an end to the war. Stalin and Kamenev at the
time the leaders of Bolshevism within Russia "critically" supported
Kerensky's pro-imperialist government. Lenin won the fight within the
Party, and Trotsky led his organization into a merger with the Bolsheviks.
During the July Days reactionary counteroffensive against the Soviets,
Trotsky mobilized the soviets militarily against the danger of General
Kornilov - saving for the moment Kerensky's government -but bringing into
being the militias that were to become the Red Army after October.
During the preparation for the October Revolution, with Lenin in exile in
Finland, Trotsky led the struggle within the Bolshevik Party against the
conservative policy of Kamenev and Zinoviev. Trotsky's policy - of first
winning the elections to the Soviet's, and then organizing the insurrection
through the Soviets rather than in the party's name alone - won the day -
and was the strategy which actually won the insurrection.
For his role in the revolution alone, Communism might justifiably be called
Trotskyism - not Leninism, certainly not Maoism, and anything but Stalinism.
Trotsky's other contributions to the practice of Marxism were also
important. He was the Commissar of War and the founder of the Red Army
during the Civil War which followed the October Revolution. He was the
ideological leader of the Russian Communist party within the communist
international, and the strongest proponent of its formation.
Trotsky and Lenin both understood that the Russian revolution would not
survive if it were not soon joined by successful socialist revolutions in
Europe. Unlike other Bolshevik leaders, who came to see the Communist
International as something along the spectrum of an international
association of comrades to a useful appendage of Russian diplomacy in a
capitalist world - Trotsky and Lenin, saw the Internationals the world
party of socialist revolution, and as a practical necessity for the
survival of the revolution - not as a diplomatic tool, but as a party to
lead social revolution around the world, but especially in Europe, and
especially in Germany.
Trotsky led the struggle against the political degeneration of the Russian
Communist Party as it became increasingly bureaucratized and conservative
in the reactionary period of the 1920's.
Trotsky led the struggle to form a new revolutionary international party
after the Communist International and its German party allowed the Nazis to
come to power in Germany through their suicidal "third period" policy.
Trotsky's struggle to build a new revolutionary international party bore
important fruit. Parties in countries like Vietnam, China, Bolivia, Sri
Lanka, France, Great Britain, the USA, and later in many other countries
began to lead important workers, social and anti-imperialist struggles.
To take just one example, The Socialist Workers Party of the United States,
of which many writers on this list are former members of, led one of the
most important workers struggles int he history of the United States, the
Minneapolis Teamsters and General Strike. This was one of the three strikes
that led to the formation of the modern industrial unions in the USA. That
organization also played a central, maybe the central, role in the mass
movement against the war in Viet Nam in the USA - which was one of the most
important reasons the Vietnamese revolution won. Second only to the
struggle of the Vietnamese people.
Trotsky's contribution to Marxist theory, are also underrated by Lou.
Trotsky's theory of the Permanent Revolution, began as the understanding
that democratic revolutions to succeed must achieve socialist tasks -
foremost the destruction of monarchical or other state apparatus of class
rule. This implied that to succeed, the working class would have to win the
leadership the democratic revolution, and transform it into a socialist
revolution. This idea was first writing in a book called "Results and
Prospects." This understanding guided Trotsky's practical contributions
Trotsky's development of this idea after the Russian revolution is embodied
in the Resolutions of the First Five Congresses of the Communist
International. There you will find the theory of the Permanent Revolution
developing - Trotsky now clearly understood that socialist revolution could
not survive within any one national framework, and that its survival in
Russia or anywhere else such a revolution might occur - would depend on the
development of revolution in some or all of the most important imperialist
The correctness of Trotsky's understanding was, very unfortunately, proven
in the negative. Between the Russian Revolution and the usurpation of power
in the Russian Communist Party by Stalin in 1927, revolutions were defeated
in Germany, Italy and Central Europe, General strikes and mass mutinies
were defeated in France and England. Fascism came to power in Italy. The
1927 Revolution in China was defeated. Then came the deluge: Nazism came to
power in Germany, the Popular Fronts of Spain and France demobilized the
working classes of those countries paving the way for Franco's victory in
Spain, and Hitler's invasion of France. Nazism conquered Europe, Japanese
imperialism conquered China and East Asia. (Trotsky's writings on all of
these subjects are in themselves an important contribution to Marxism.)
The Soviet Union was isolated, and increasingly backward in relation to
imperialism (a backwardness which became masked by Soviet atomic and other
military technology, and by the limited revolutionary victories following
WWII in China, Vietnam, Korea, and in Eastern Europe.) France and Italy -
were kept out of the ranks of revolution by the Communist Parties of those
countries working directly with the Russian communist Party.
Trotsky's two other contributions to Marxism are related. First are his
ideas about a democratically planned economy - some of which you can find
in his works from the 1920's, the New Course and the Platform of the Left
Opposition- and his leadership in the early Soviet ideas on planning, and
work with thinkers such as Preobezhensky.
Second, and even more important is his analysis of the degeneration of the
revolutionary workers state into a bureaucratic workers states. The latter
work, presented in its most complete form in "The Revolution Betrayed"
remains the best analysis of how and why Soviet Communism was corrupted,
and how it began to corrupt the international communist movement.
It is one of keys to understanding the history of the 20th century.
Unfortunately Trotsky's ideas are not well known within the remnants of the
broad Marxist movement because Trotsky, his movement, and his ideas were
brutally repressed by the Soviet government. Trotsky wrote many of the
works alluded to above while in exile and in hiding. From 1927 until 1940
he was constantly on the move from Turkey, to France, to Norway, and
finally to Mexico. He was assassinated there in 1940 by the KGB. Tens of
thousands other Trotskyists were killed or imprisoned in the Soviet Union,
and thousands killed in other countries by Stalinist parties. This is not
to mention the repression suffered by the Trotskyists in Nazi Europe, the
generals' Greece, the generals' Argentina, etc. Or even for that matter,
the USA, where the Trotskyists were the first and most often prosecuted and
persecuted during the anti-communist witchunts.
Gorbachev, Stalin's final assistant in digging the grave of the Russian
revolution, "rehabilitated" Bukharin and Zinoviev, but not Trotsky. He did
so for good reason - he was a capitalist roader, not a revolutionary.
This sketch barely scratches the surface. I think that Trotsky, and his
followers, contributed immensely to Marxism- in practice and in theory. If
Marxism is to survive and be revived - an open question in my view - it
will be thanks to Trotsky and his followers work in the 20th century. If
Trotsky's followers were less than he, so were Lenin's followers, and
Marx's followers. For that matter, so were Mao's follwers.
I personally think every Trotskyist who dared go against the tide of 20th
century political reaction deserves respect.
This is true even recognizing that they fucked up big time.
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org/
More information about the Marxism