Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/170/7898

From The Socialist newspaper, 18 August 2000

Leon Trotsky: An Enduring Socialist Legacy

Leon Trotsky

Leon Trotsky

SIXTY YEARS ago, on 20 August 1940, Ramon Mercader, an agent of Stalin's secret police (the GPU) struck a crushing blow with an ice-pick into Leon Trotsky's skull, ending the life of Stalin's most feared critic, the foremost Marxist theoretician and outstanding revolutionary.

Alec Thraves

Socialists can best commemorate Trotsky's life and ideas by reading or re-visiting some of his most important theoretical writings. Opponents of Trotskyism claim his ideas and methods are outdated but Trotsky's treasure chest of Marxist analysis gives 21st-century socialists the most modern of explanations against this barrage of criticism.

Today Trotsky's writings inspire the new generation of working-class fighters and give a essential grounding in Marxist theory and practice.

Recently new layers of young people and the working class have been protesting at the effects of globalisation and the increasing gap between rich and poor.

These anti-capitalist protests, such as the Seattle demonstration against the World Trade Organisation are an important step in developing a wider socialist consciousness. This can be speeded up with the impact of a serious economic recession and the intervention of socialists with a clear Marxist programme of action.

And it is action, against the injustices of capitalism, that this new generation of potential socialists are looking for. Many young activists at these protests wear Che Guevara T-shirts, mainly because he is seen as a modern-day fighter against capitalism.

But Marxism aims to reinforce the energies of the activists with a solid foundation of theory and method. We need to be able to successfully confront our class enemies, overthrow capitalism and introduce a more just society - a socialist society.

Marxist theoretician and socialist practitioner

Lenin speaking, Trotsky standing to the right

Lenin speaking, Trotsky standing to the right

LEON TROTSKY personified the Marxist theoretician and socialist practitioner. Trotsky, politically and physically, led the Russian working class into action against Tsarism and capitalism.

He was the Chairman of the first ever Soviet (Committee of workers' representatives) in the bloody battles of the first Russian revolution between 1905-1906. Alongside Lenin he was the leader of the greatest event in working-class history - the October Russian revolution of 1917.

After Tsarism was overthrown, imperialism sent in 21 counter-revolutionary armies to crush the revolution. Trotsky created and led the Red Army which successfully defeated that imperialist onslaught.

Trotsky's epic History of the Russian Revolution is a masterpiece of theory in practice. His writing style is enjoyable and the book makes you feel as if you're participating in a successful socialist revolution.

But it also shows the critical importance of a revolutionary party in such a situation and the absolute necessity of preparing such a party theoretically and training its members in readiness.

The Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky was characterised by its ideological adherence to Marxism and its organisational method of democratic centralism, which combined the utmost democratic rights within the Party with a disciplined, united force in action.

Today some ex-Trotskyists, affected by the collapse of Stalinism and the capitalist offensive, argue that looser, broader formations are a more modern replacement to such a revolutionary party. On this issue, Trotsky's ideas are indispensable today.

Marxists have always participated in wider organisations of the working class, both to advance the workers' interests and to put forward a Marxist programme to win over the best fighters to the revolutionary party. However Trotsky shows throughout the History of the Russian Revolution, without a revolutionary party based on democratic centralism the Russian revolution could not have succeeded.

Today socialists work under different circumstances and in different conditions from Russia of 1917. Nevertheless the independence, programme and organisational method of the revolutionary party remains the core ingredient necessary to successfully confront capitalism and sustain a socialist revolution.

Permanent Revolution

OF ALL Trotsky's writings, perhaps the most important today are the Permanent Revolution and his analysis of the rise of the bureaucracy and the victory of the Stalinist counter-revolution.

Many movements fighting against imperialism in Latin America, Africa and Asia have lost the 'model' of Moscow since the collapse of Stalinism - the model of a deformed workers' state. However, the working class and peasantry cannot stop their daily fight for survival just because the Moscow model is no longer available.

Big movements in the neo-colonial world are inevitable. Trotsky's theory of the permanent revolution is vital for parties leading these struggles today.

Military-Revolutionary Committee declaration in October 1917.  The Military-Revolutionary Committee was led by Trotsky,

Military-Revolutionary Committee declaration in October 1917. The Military-Revolutionary Committee was led by Trotsky,

At the beginning of the 20th century Trotsky was analysing the prospects for socialist revolution in Russia. He recognised that unlike what happened earlier in Britain and France, Russia's emerging capitalist class was too weak to carry through its own 'bourgeois democratic revolution' (the elimination of feudalism, the unification of the country and the solving of the national question).

The weak Russian capitalist class also had a stake in the land while the landlords also invested in industry. Any serious attempt at out-and-out land reform, challenging the landlords' power would be opposed not just by the landlords but also by the capitalists and their political representatives.

Under these circumstances, Trotsky argued, the small Russian working class with the support of the peasantry would be forced to carry through weak capitalism's own bourgeois democratic revolution.

But having achieved this objective the working class would not then stop and hand power back to the capitalists. With the revolutionary party's leadership, they would proceed to the socialist tasks which would also ignite revolutionary movements internationally. The 1917 Russian Revolution proved in practice Trotsky's theory of the Permanent Revolution.

Unfortunately, ex-Trotskyist parties such as the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) in Australia, who have the ear of some important working-class leaders in Indonesia and south-east Asia, have abandoned Trotsky's Permanent Revolution, adopting instead a 'two stage theory' of revolution.

The DSP argue that the main task for the struggling masses in the neo-colonial countries is the bourgeois democratic revolution, which can be achieved by working with other forces, ie capitalist opposition parties! In the classical, false 'stages theory' they relegate the socialist tasks to a later date.

Even more than in 1917, 'bourgeois democratic' tasks are today tied hand and foot with the tasks of the socialist revolution. Trotsky's ideas are still relevant.

In a university seminar room, if you make a mistake you can rub the blackboard clean and start again. A wrong theory put into practice in the neo-colonial world can cost the lives of thousands of genuine class fighters! Those are the 'practical' stakes of dropping the Permanent Revolution.

The collapse of Stalinism has had a disorientating effect on the working class over the past decade. The need to raise socialist consciousness is a major task for Marxists today.

Programme

SOCIALISTS NEED to put forward a revolutionary programme as well as a vision of a future socialist society. When an inquisitive and critical new generation asks us why 'socialism'/'communism' didn't work in the ex-Soviet Union, generalisations are inadequate.

You have to understand the history of the Russian revolution and its Stalinist disintegration to convince the working class that socialism is the only alternative to the problems they confront.

Without Trotsky's analysis of the Stalinist counter-revolution, Marxists would still have been searching for answers to such questions.

The isolation of the Russian revolution led to the formation of a bureaucratic elite. The defeat of revolutions elsewhere in the world helped reinforce the bureaucracy within the Soviet Union. It was a process that resulted in Stalin purging what remained of the October revolution.

Trotsky's brilliant book The Revolution Betrayed written in 1936, shows the tremendous advances made in the USSR because of the eradication of capitalism and the introduction of a workers' state.

But he then analyses how the bureaucratic regime under Stalin crushed all opposition, eliminated democracy and gathered power in its own hands, denying the working class and peasantry any role in running society.

Trotsky concluded that whilst capitalism had been eliminated, the regime in the Soviet Union bore no resemblance to a healthy workers' state but instead had degenerated into a 'deformed workers' state'. For Trotsky, a healthy workers' state was impossible without workers' democracy and the working class' participation in running society at all levels.

Trotsky called for a new revolution in the USSR, a political revolution to overthrow the bureaucracy and introduce genuine workers' control and democracy. His analysis allowed future generations to understand regimes in Eastern Europe, China, Cuba etc. as 'deformed workers' states'. These regimes had eliminated capitalism and landlordism but had not got the 'oxygen' of workers' democracy vitally needed for a 'healthy workers' state'.

Within the past decade, tumultuous events have dramatically redrawn the political map of the world. Those who have dropped the compass of Marxism drift, using outdated and faulty methods. The Socialist Party and Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) are proud to continue and develop Trotsky's legacy.

On this 60th anniversary of his assassination, the best testament to Leon Trotsky is the fact that thousands of Marxists in the CWI, organised in 34 sections, in every part of the world, are fighting to build the genuine forces of Marxism.

While Marxists do not hero-worship individuals, Leon Trotsky nevertheless was the most courageous of revolutionaries: a revolutionary theoretician, a practitioner of revolution and to his death a defender of the socialist revolution. That's why many of us today - and it will be the same for the new generation of Marxists - consider Leon Trotsky as a hero of the working class. We're proud when our enemies denounce us as Trotskyists!

We will ensure his ideas will never die and will complete the historic task of the international socialist revolution!

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 18 August 2000:

School leavers, students, young workers facing an uncertain future

Public health not private profit

An outpouring of anger

Standing up to the "council dictators"

Leon Trotsky: An Enduring Socialist Legacy

Fighting the fascist threat in Germany

A global warning

Aldi day of action


 

Home   |   The Socialist 18 August 2000   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Trotsky:

triangleOctober 1917 reviews: 'More bright than any heaven'

triangleRussia, October 1917: When workers took power

triangleChe Guevara 50 years on - revolutionary socialist and fighter

triangleLessons of October new edition out now!

triangleTrotsky's "insightful and frank examination" of revolution out soon

Socialist:

triangleConference on state spies: who's watching who?

triangleSocialist Students 'welcome' Hillary Clinton to Swansea

triangleHundreds turn out for rally aimed at removing west Wales Tory MP

triangle'Dazzling' Bad Art show points to socialist future

Revolution:

triangleWarrington & St Helens Socialist Party: 1917-2017; the October Russian Revolution

triangleWirral Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian Revolution

triangleCardiff Socialist Party: Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution

Russian:

triangleLiverpool Socialist Party: The October Russian Revolution 100 years ago to the day

triangleTeesside Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian Revolution

Marxism

Marxism

30/3/16

Tax

Fighting the great tax robbery: taxes and regulation or socialist nationalisation?

21/1/14

Lenin

Lenin's revolutionary legacy

20/9/13

Economic crisis

The Causes of Capitalist Crisis; Reply to Andrew Kliman

31/7/13

Marx

Book review: Karl Marx - How to change the world

5/6/13

Parliament

1983: A political voice for the working class

10/10/12

Marx

Marx was right!

29/8/12

Trotsky

Leon Trotsky: A revolutionary's life

14/6/12

Lenin

Lenin's April Theses, 1917

22/2/12

Capitalism

What's wrong with capitalism?

23/3/11

Socialism

What has socialism got to do with fighting the cuts?

14/10/10

General strike

The general strike: Important tool of the working class

18/8/10

Trotsky

The legacy of Leon Trotsky

29/7/10

Trotsky

In defence of Leon Trotsky

18/11/09

Trotsky

Service with a snarl: Robert Service refuses to answer questions

7/7/09

Trotsky

Stalin's Nemesis: The Exile and Murder of Leon Trotsky

triangleMore Marxism articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle19 Oct Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangle18 Oct Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

triangle18 Oct Tories torn - bin them now

triangle18 Oct Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangle18 Oct Balloting members on the pay cap

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

More ...

triangle23 Oct Chesterfield Socialist Party: The continuing struggle for abortion rights

triangle24 Oct Liverpool Socialist Party: The October Russian Revolution 100 years ago to the day

triangle25 Oct Salford Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian revolution

triangle25 Oct Swansea Socialist Party: Mother Jones - A US labour pioneer

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2