Trotsky’s Political Legacy

RUSSIAN TROTSKY archivist Mark Golizinin spoke at the recent Socialism 2000 weekend school organised by the Socialist Party. Earlier he spoke to The Socialist about his research.

ALL MY knowledge in this field is due to my close collaboration with the late Russian historian Vadim Rogovin who wrote seven volumes devoted to the history of inner Communist Party struggle in the former Soviet Union. One volume of which appeared in English translation three years ago.

Before Gorbachev’s ‘Perestroika’ [period of pro-market reforms in late 1980s] Trotsky’s works and ideas were completely unknown in Russia. All his works before his exile were banned or were in special libraries that nobody could read. But after Gorbachev’s Glasnost [‘openness’] it became possible.

But first of all Gorbachev began to make a popularisation of Bukharin’s works [a member of the Bolshevik ‘Right Opposition’ executed by Stalin in 1938] because it was part of his conception of ‘market-orientated socialism’.

Trotsky’s works appeared only in 1989-1990. Firstly, there was My Life and Literature and revolution and Stalin. Also Revolution Betrayed published by the Militant group in 1991. There were about 200,000 copies of these books.

During 1989-90 there was a huge campaign to discredit Leninism and the October 1917 revolution with the aim to restore capitalist market relations in the former Soviet Union. Nevertheless, Trotsky and his ideas are not forgotten in Russia now.

Revolution betrayed

IN HIS well-known 1936 book Revolution Betrayed Trotsky answered the question: What is the nature of the USSR? He pointed to two possibilities of historical development. Either the Soviet working class and peasantry could develop a new revolution in the political structure to get rid of the ruling bureaucracy, or the bureaucracy can increase its power, resulting in the restoration of private property [capitalism].

But this new capitalism would not be similar to Russian capitalism at the beginning of the 20th century. It will be retarded, with a huge dependency on the developed capitalist countries and the great collapse of culture and all social programmes and so on. Unfortunately, this part of Trotsky’s prognosis is now evident in Russia.

The new Russian bureaucracy has not been able to create a mass capitalist party during the last ten years, even though they possess great wealth. Paradoxically, the only mass party in Russia today is the Russian Communist Party (CP) but Russia is the most anti-Communist country in the world.

The Russian Communist Party is a party of representatives of a wing of the former ruling bureaucracy of Soviet Union and Russia. They have declared adherence to the ideals of Lenin and the October revolution but in Gennady Zyuganov’s [CP leader] writings there are only one or two pages devoted to the October revolution and Lenin but several chapters are devoted to Stalin. Zyuganov, like Stalin, believes in creating a Russian superpower.

It’s therefore not surprising you can see members of the Communist Party and right-wing nationalist organisations together in meetings. Zyuganov conceives of a ‘patriotic front’, which has a platform that includes the restoration of a strong, centralised military power, which can preserve some social guarantees for people.

If you see the CP’s deputies in the Duma (Russian Parliament) today, they have preserved all their privileges, e.g. high salary, big flats, cars, etc.

Bureaucracy to bourgeoisie

ROGOVIN’S WORK is very important because he also developed a sociological analysis of Stalinism. He showed that firstly the bureaucracy restored the system of privileges for the upper echelons of the Party. Improving the system of privileges was the social and economic basis for Stalin’s ‘great terror’.

The bureaucracy killed not only members of members of the Trotskyite Left Opposition or the Right Opposition but many people who remembered the revolution and the early egalitarian programme of the Bolsheviks. The majority of those people killed were not oppositionists but were representatives of the bureaucracy. Stalin killed them and created a new, younger generation of bureaucracy who had no connection with October revolution.

It was the generation of Brezhnev and Suslov who took power after World War Two. They also brought up the third generation of Soviet bureaucracy – the generation of Gorbachev and Yeltsin who restored private property in Russia and became part of a new Russian bourgeoisie.