Trotsky, Trotskyism and beyond

Walter Lippmann walterlx at
Wed Feb 5 11:19:09 MST 2003

This questions Trotskyism and Marxism,
doesn't it? Going from what Trotsky had
to say in the twenties to what Hansen
wrote about Malthusianism thirty years
later is quiet a leap.

Some things are less certain to me now,
all years many years later after leaving
the Trotskyist movement, I'll admit that.

The Militant's advocacy of coal as an
alternative to nuclear power was, as I'm
trying to recall those days, Fred Halstead's
way of trying to draw the trade unions, and
in particular the coal miner's union, into the
anti-nuclear struggle. The nasty smoke of
coal, when burnt without cleaning would be
rather less dangerout to humanity than the
nuclear waste which most of us agree is
impossible to dispose of or safely store.

Louis's dismissal of Joe Hansen's critique
of Malthusianism, ("belied any understanding
of the contradictions in industrial agriculture")
is sweeping but unspecific. I admit I've not in
recent years pulled the old pamphlet out, but
think a more specific, detailed comment would
contribute to a more fruitful discussion.

In the years since I've left the Trotskyist world
(SWP 1983, FIT 1988) I've had occasion to
reconsider various things I'd learned in the
SWP. But it seems, Louis, that you're throwing
out the entire baby with the bathwater. We did
learn some things of value in the SWP and it
wasn't ALL a waste, was it?


Louis wrote:
If it were only Trotsky, it would be one thing. But it is
really Trotskyism that I am questioning, since there are
many indications of a failure to grasp some of the
underlying issues that somebody like Bukharin--for
example--seemed to have a better grasp of.

For example, Joe Hansen's "Too Many Babies?" was a very
good refutation of Malthusianism, but it placed credibility
the Green Revolution that  belied any understanding of the
contradictions in industrial agriculture.

In the mid to late 1970s, when the environmental movement
was targeting nuclear power, the Militant developed a very
odd response, namely that the movement should get behind
coal. Obviously, this reflected the "workerist" approach
that would soon swamp the party, but it also reflected a
very poor understanding of more basic issues of energy
utilization and conservation.

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