Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 30 November 2006

Leon Trotsky's

Transitional Programme

Showing the need for socialist change

IN THE second of our occasional series on Marxist classics, Michael Garrett looks at The Transitional Programme by Leon Trotsky.

I WORK in a Civil Service office. Like many civil servants, I'm grossly underpaid for the work I do. Our department faces major job cuts; it's getting rid of 5% of the work force over the next 12 months.

As people leave, their work mounts up for the rest of us, with the same targets and statistics to hit each month, but with fewer people to do the work. I come home more knackered every day, but the problems don't just stop out of work.

My local council, North Tyneside, has the highest council tax rate in Tyne and Wear, but they are still cutting their budget by 18 million and plan to privatise as many council services as they can get away with.

I'm not the only one who's angry about all this. I'm in a majority in my office who think that for the increasingly stressful work we do, we should be better paid. I'm in a majority who are angry with North Tyneside's New Labour council. I'm in a majority who are worried about the job cuts and privatisation bonanza in the NHS.

I'm in a majority who don't have access to a dentist, who have to use overdraft and credit to top up our pay at the end of each month and who get angry when they see rich idiots with more money than sense who've never done a day's work in their lives while we slog our guts out for a relative pittance.

I'm in a minority, however, because I think the only way to redress this situation is to change the whole way that society is run, to fight for a socialist world.

The truth is that until the majority of my office feels the same way as me, and until this is repeated in offices, factories, shops and workplaces over and over, we aren't going to achieve socialism. And I won't get all my workmates onside just by ranting on about revolution all day.

The Transitional Programme by Leon Trotsky is, essentially, a handbook on how to build socialist consciousness, how to go about getting support not just for individual campaigns against issues that make us all angry, but how to link that with the bigger fight.

It's not gospel, and, being written in 1938, a lot of what Trotsky writes about is dated. But what Trotsky offers us in The Transitional Programme is an indispensable tool kit. This is why today, after the second world war, after the fall of Stalinism, in a world that seems very different to the one that Trotsky was writing in, The Transitional Programme is still vital reading.

Transitional demands

THE ROOT cause of many problems we face are the result of capitalism, of a society run to create obscene profits for a minority at the top, not in the interests of the billions of ordinary people across the planet.

Low pay, attacks on public services, undermining of our pension rights, war and racism all stem, fundamentally, from the economic base of capitalist society. That's why, as socialists, it's not enough to just campaign on these individual issues.

As well as fighting against the bosses' attacks and for as many reforms as we can claw from them, we need to link this to the need to change society as a whole.

Trotsky shows the use of 'transitional demands', staging posts in consciousness firmly grounded in the day-to-day struggles of the working class, but pointing a way forward and demonstrating the need for socialist change.

By their very nature, these demands are inextricably linked to the period they come from. Some demands that Trotsky puts forward are not practical now, either because workers have won what is demanded or because of a change in the general political consciousness.

But it's not the specific demands that are important about this text; it's the method. Trotsky lays out clearly the method that Marxists have used from the time of Marx himself right through to the Socialist Party and CWI today.

We are currently involved, for example, in campaigns across the country to defend the NHS, one of the greatest victories won by the British working class through major struggle in the period after World war Two.

But Blair, Brown and their cronies are hell-bent on stripping away these reforms through privatisation and major job cuts. The Socialist Party doesn't just campaign to end job cuts and privatisation.

We demand a reversal of the privatisation already brought in through the back door, but also we demand the nationalisation of the major pharmaceutical industries that make gross profits from people's sickness. These demands lead on to the idea of removing capitalism from society all together.

The Transitional Programme shows how with the correct approach, workers can be won over to socialist ideas by starting with today's solutions and pointing to a future where society is run by working-class people to meet the needs of all.

The direct relevance and practicality of Trotsky's theory makes The Transitional Programme important today. I would urge all socialists and trade unionists, to read this relatively short work, just don't look at it as a set of commandments, but as a method and approach.

The Transitional Programme by Leon Trotsky

Single copy 1.85 including post and packing.
Bulk orders offer:
Five copies 7, including post and packing. Order from Socialist Books, PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD. 020 8988 8789.

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

In The Socialist 30 November 2006:

Ripping the heart out of the NHS

Socialism 2006

Socialism 2006: "A brilliant and inspiring experience"

A world in struggle

Youth rally: Socialist ideas are the future

Closing rally: How to defend the NHS

Socialism 2006 - an unmissable event!

Finance appeal - 30,873.44!

Workplace news and analysis

Vote 'yes' for national strike action

Fighting and striking, on all fronts

Glasgow council workers prepare to strike

Socialist Party news and analysis

Socialists fight Labour's attacks

Costs soar while communities ignored

Bosses' tax moans threaten cuts

Top cops say: "Protest but don't offend anyone"

International socialist news and analysis

Gemayel killing fuels political tensions

Gaza: How long will the ceasefire last?

Hundreds of thousands gather to inaugurate Lopez Obrador

Sri Lanka protest

Australia - Big increase in votes for Socialist Party in Richmond

Dutch Socialist Party makes sensational election gains

Socialist Party review

Leon Trotsky's Transitional Programme


Home   |   The Socialist 30 November 2006   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:

Transitional Programme:

triangleSalford Socialist Party: Introducing Trotskyism - the Transitional Programme

triangleWaltham Forest Socialist Party: Trotsky's Transitional Programme and what it means today

triangleYork Socialist Party: The 'transitional programme'

triangleDerby Socialist Party: The Transitional Programme - How can we win socialism?


triangleWhat we saw

triangleSheffield South Socialist Party: Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution

triangleOctober 1917 reviews: 'More bright than any heaven'

triangleRussia, October 1917: When workers took power


triangleThe Blairites are NHS privatisers - to save it means sacking them

triangleMay's EU speech kicks the can down the road

triangleNorthants council crisis - protesters demand an end to cuts and privatisation


triangleLambeth Socialist Party: Role of a Marxist in the workplace

triangleCardiff West Socialist Party: How do Marxists analyse the world?





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



Lenin's revolutionary legacy


Economic crisis

The Causes of Capitalist Crisis; Reply to Andrew Kliman



Book review: Karl Marx - How to change the world



1983: A political voice for the working class



Marx was right!



Leon Trotsky: A revolutionary's life



Lenin's April Theses, 1917



What's wrong with capitalism?



What has socialism got to do with fighting the cuts?


General strike

The general strike: Important tool of the working class



The legacy of Leon Trotsky



In defence of Leon Trotsky



Service with a snarl: Robert Service refuses to answer questions



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



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0191 421 6230

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018