By Klaus Riis, Workers Communist Party (APK), Denmark.
Translated from Danish.
In the current situation, with the national and international class struggle sharpening, the political and ideological class struggle sharpens as well. In our country we see not only the revisionist currents trying to reinvent themselves, but we also see Trotskyism again being promoted after lying dormant for a period. Even though they are organized in different groups, parties, and political factions within the left-reformist parties, they all have the same political program.
We have been re-studying this document “The Trotskyist World Movement” in our party and bring in excerpts:
Trotskyism is an international political and ideological current that has a history of almost a hundred years. It presents its own policies and program of socialism and “world revolution,” and claims to be the true proponent of Marxism and revolution, especially against “Stalinist” (by which they mean Marxist-Leninist) distortion and manipulation.
International Trotskyism is not a mass movement and has never managed to gain any solid foundation in the working class. Nevertheless, there are Trotskyist groups that spread their ideas and theories in most countries and in all parts of the world. Trotskyism has undergone many changes and modifications in its historical development to the present day, but it has nevertheless retained its basic features and its own special identity through all the different phases.
A main component of Trotskyism is the theory of the permanent revolution, which appears as the very key to the solution of the problems of world revolution. In reality, it should be called the theory of permanent hopelessness, because it concretely denies the possibility of the victory of the revolution and the construction of socialism in a particular country.
In short, the starting point of the theory of the permanent revolution is the particular Trotskyist analysis of imperialism. This analysis argues that with the outbreak of the First World War, the death knell rang for all national programs: the time for the world revolution has come and it must be understood as a worldwide process, a global explosion, or rather chain of explosions, in which capitalism is replaced by socialism on a world scale.
According to this theory, imperialism has transcended all national borders and has become a whole that cannot be broken down step by step. This is justified by capitalism’s objective tendency towards the globalization of the world economy and the domination of monopolies over all key capitalist positions.
A simultaneous global showdown with capitalism is therefore the necessary form that the transition from capitalism to socialism must take. The task of the revolutionaries is to await and prepare for this situation, having created in advance a revolutionary organization on a world basis to lead the revolution, a “General Staff of the World Revolution.” It is this role that the Fourth International has awarded itself.
Consequently, no concrete revolution can prevail, and socialism cannot be built in a single country or group of countries. A revolution in a single country, such as the October Revolution in Russia, can at most be the spark that ignites the world revolution.
The construction of a socialist society over a long period of time in a country or group of countries is therefore, by definition, impossible.
Trotsky described the world revolution as this all-encompassing global explosion, and the Trotskyists have repeatedly proclaimed that the world revolution is “just around the corner,” “only a few years” away. Of course, it has not appeared, but Trotskyism acts the same way as the religious prophets of doom who set a date for the end of the world. Every time it turns out that it does not succeed, there will always be a new opportunity sometime in the future.
On the basis of this deeply unscientific and anti-Marxist theory of revolution, Trotskyism must necessarily reject and criticize concrete revolutions and attempts to build socialism that are actually taking place and that the working class and its allies have carried out in a number of countries in this [20th] century. None of them has been the spark that could trigger the chain of explosion of the world revolution.
Revolution and the class struggle
The crucial problem for the Trotskyists is that reality, the revolution, and the actual experiences of the international working class do not match their theorizing and formulas.
The working class has carried out the proletarian revolution in a large number of countries and, furthermore, a large number of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist revolutions have been carried out in this [20th] century.
Socialism has been built successfully in one country and later in a number of countries. First of all, in the USSR, which, according to Trotsky’s predictions, had no chance of survival, not even for a few years. Before Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union, he proclaimed that the country would be crushed by the Nazi war machine.
But socialism proved capable of resisting the fascist war of aggression, the most brutal war the world has ever seen.
Lenin’s theoretical justification for the possibility of the revolution triumphing and socialism being built in one country or group of countries was the uneven development of imperialism. The victory of the revolution in Russia and later elsewhere in the world and the construction of these countries as socialist societies have, of course, in practice disproved the Trotskyists’ theory of the impossibility of socialism. This is true even if these are former socialist societies where capitalism has been resurrected. This is not because of the “impossibility of socialism,” but because the class struggle continues in the socialist countries in conjunction with the pressure and subversion of imperialism and reaction to destroy socialism.
The fact that socialism was concretely frustrated and defeated at a certain point says nothing about the possibility or reality of revolution and socialism in this country or these countries. On the other hand, it tells us something about the sharp class struggle between socialism and capitalism on a world scale. It tells us that the class struggle continues even after the victory of the revolution and that there is still the possibility of counterrevolution in one form or another, and not only through imperialist war or invasion. It was something, for example, that Lenin and Stalin constantly emphasized with great severity, and they carried out the necessary countermeasures against the counterrevolutionary forces.
A revolutionary alternative?
The Trotskyist theory of permanent revolution encompasses a wide range of aspects beyond the erroneous conception of the world revolutionary process and the rejection of the possibility of the victory of socialism in a single country or group of countries. These other aspects of Trotskyist ideology are also fundamentally opposed to Marxism and the Leninist theory of revolution.
The ideology is based on the lack of faith in the victory of the revolution in a single country or group of countries and in the distrust of the ability of the working class to rally allies around it in the revolution, both in individual countries and on a world scale.
It denies the gradual development of concrete revolutions and of the various elements of the revolutionary world process. It denies the need for a revolutionary strategy and tactics always based on the level of development of each country and on the objective revolutionary tasks facing it.
It therefore underestimates the importance of the general democratic tasks, the importance of the national, anti-imperialist, and democratic aspect of the revolutionary development on a world scale. It replaces a complicated formulation of strategy and tactics based on the national and international balance of forces, including the creation of the broadest possible class and popular alliances and a broad, concrete political program for the revolutionary movement in a particular country, with schematic revolutionary formulas which, according to the Trotskyists, are applicable everywhere.
The basic programmatic document expressing Trotskyism’s conception of the strategy and tactics of the revolutionary movement is still Trotsky’s “Transitional Program” of 1938.
The essence of right-wing opportunism is to separate the day-to-day struggle from the strategy for socialism, from the revolution and the socialist goal. The social democratic parties of all shapes and sizes make the day-to-day struggle everything and socialism nothing. “Left opportunism,” on the other hand, places the main emphasis on the perspective, the goal, and denies the importance of the day-to-day struggle and the demands of the day (in the broadest and most comprehensive sense) as the only thing that can prepare the people and develop the mass struggle to the level necessary to overthrow capitalism in a revolutionary situation and replace the state of the bourgeoisie with the new state of the working class.
Trotskyism believes it has found an easy way around these questions: instead of setting a series of day-to-day demands, each of which can be met under capitalism, and which can therefore mobilize and organize broad fighting movements, the Trotskyist “Transitional Program” sets out a number of demands. Of these demands it is stated that “none of the transitional demands can be fully realized as long as the bourgeois regime continues to exist.” Thus, the “break with capitalism” can exist as a concrete political possibility in any strike under capitalism, any strike can develop into a “general strike” that leads to “a struggle for power,” to the creation of a so-called “dual power” – in the Trotskyist, not the Leninist, sense – with workers’ councils and strike committees. The Trotskyist organizations raise this whole group of formulas in virtually every labor struggle of even moderate importance.
These “radical” demands and methods, which, among many other errors, include the fact that they constantly overestimate the radicalization of the working class, in practice work contrary to their intention: the pseudo-revolutionary ideas are a line of defeat that ultimately give the social democratic reformists free rein. At the same time, the importance of the indispensable leading role of the revolutionary (communist) party is disregarded, both in the day-to-day struggles under capitalism and in a revolutionary situation.
This fundamentally subjective assessment of the class movements and class forces has the consequence that the patient organization of the mass struggles and mass movement is rejected and means that the Trotskyists are constantly tailing the spontaneous struggle. The Trotskyists are always either in the doldrums or in a high state of “revolutionary” exhilaration, helplessly carried away by the alternating ebb and flow of the class struggle.
The most serious flaw in the Trotskyist “Transitional Program” is the bourgeois and reformist view of state power. In reality, it does not at all raise the question of the class character of the bourgeois state and the necessity for the bourgeois state to be overthrown through revolution. The Trotskyists’ conception of the state is parallel to the social democratic one: the bourgeois state can be used to promote socialism, so that more and more socialist elements can be gradually and frictionlessly incorporated into it, for example through nationalization. When Trotskyism adds certain ideas that a “dual power,” factory councils and soviets can be created, even under normal capitalist conditions and not in a concrete exceptional situation with a strong revolutionary wave, it is just a “left-radical” icing of the old social democratic pie.
Between social democracy and communism
Trotskyism emerged as a centrist, conciliatory current between social democracy and Lenin’s Bolshevism, as a special “left wing” rooted in social-democratic opportunism. This historical origin makes Trotskyism particularly suitable for maneuvering between the two basic lines of the workers’ movement: social democratic reformism and the line of revolutionary class struggle, the communist line, which brings together class-conscious workers at the head of the entire working class and broad popular forces in all the struggles of this great revolutionary century.
Within this field, Trotskyism as an international current has shifted in the various historical periods – from before the October Revolution, in the period as opposition in the CPSU, in the 1930s and during the Second World War in the form of a current in exile that sought an international foothold, and in the different post-war periods.
In the different periods, the Trotskyists have used different tactics to establish a kind of “third way” between the reformist, social democratic line, which advocates preserving capitalism forever, and the communist line of revolution, destroying the capitalist state and building a new socialist society.
The fact that in the post-war period, and especially since the 1960s, Trotskyism has been given greater political scope is due to a number of factors:
The betrayal of the working class and socialism by social democratic reformism has become increasingly apparent and has led social democracy into a strategic crisis. Its obvious role as the main support of capitalist society, which is often preferred by the ruling bourgeois party, naturally leads to disillusionment in the social base of the party, among the members and voters from the working class. This is the main reason for the strategic crisis in, among others, the Western European social democratic parties, a crisis that for many decades has undermined their positions and led to widespread defections of their members and supporters.
It is not least to the ever-renewed current against the left, the break with social democracy and reformism, that Trotskyism is addressed. The so-called “revolutionary alternative” is intended to prevent the flow from shifting to clearly revolutionary, communist positions.
In reality, there are only two basic directions that are possible for the labor movement: the bourgeois direction, reformism and opportunism, or proletarian Marxism-Leninism. Either the path of class collaboration to maintain capitalism, or the path of scientific socialism to create the new socialist society.
The parasitic nature of Trotskyism
The ideology and political sphere of action of Trotskyism, its historical role and development, are the basis of one of the conspicuous features of the movement and all its organizations: the role of parasites on the main political currents of the labor movement and the mass struggle.
Trotskyism looks right and left at the same time. Trotskyist organizations rarely refer to themselves as Trotskyist, preferring other terms: “revolutionary Marxists,” “revolutionary socialists,” or even “democratic socialists” when they look to the Social Democrats, while they present themselves as “Leninists” and “Bolsheviks” when they look in the direction of the communists.
The Trotskyists regard the concrete struggles and movements of the working class both as an opportunity to spread the Trotskyist schemes and formulas, and as a field of activity for recruitment to the Trotskyist organizations. It is the Trotskyist ideology and organizational thinking that allows them not only to support such struggles in order to develop them to the maximum, but always to introduce extraneous purposes and intentions into the struggle, and it always ends with a call to organize with the Trotskyists.
In the service of counterrevolution
It would take us far too far to review the entire revolutionary history of the [last] century and the role of the Trotskyists in it. On all crucial points, international Trotskyism has chosen a line that would have led to defeat if it had been translated into mass politics. It would not only have been, as it has been, a more or less limited obstacle to the revolution, a source of confusion and division of the revolutionary forces.
Let us take the attitude of Trotskyism to the fight against fascism as an example:
Trotskyism was opposed to support for the democratic countries attacked by fascism. When the Soviet Union was later attacked by Hitler’s Germany, and the character of World War II thus changed, the Trotskyists declared that the war was still a war between the imperialist powers, and opposed the alliance between the Soviet Union, the United States, and Great Britain, which had a significant impact on the defeat of Hitler and fascism.
In the post-war period, Trotskyism’s denial of the possibility of revolution and socialism in one or several countries, the rejection of the anti-fascist popular fronts and of the national and democratic elements of the anti-imperialist struggle, have led the Trotskyists into direct confrontation with national liberation movements led by communist parties. In the Chinese Revolution, in Vietnam, Korea, and many other places, the Trotskyist groups and the Fourth International itself stood against the strategies and lines that led to the victory of these revolutions.
The genuine communist parties are systematically slandered as undemocratic, “Stalinist” command centers, as the dictatorship of the leadership over the members, built on the discipline of the dead. It is the Leninist principle of organization, democratic centralism, which is particularly attacked. It is this principle that allows the parties to act uniformly and as a unified force in the class struggle and revolution, which is the prerequisite for their vigor and makes them parties of revolutionary action.
The role of Trotskyism in Eastern Europe
Trotskyist organizations played a particularly active role in the end game surrounding the fall of socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Counterrevolutionary movements such as Solidarity in Poland and Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia were hailed by the Trotskyists as “genuine revolutionary movements.” The Trotskyists combined their energies with those of imperialism and the entire Western reaction in supporting the victory of these “popular movements” – that is, securing imperialism and the key positions of the international monopolies in the economies of these countries as Western-style capitalist systems.
In the past, Tito’s break with international communism in 1948, the counterrevolutionary events in Poland and Hungary in 1956, and Dubcek’s so-called Prague Spring in 1968, his “socialism with a human face,” were hailed by the Trotskyists as genuine revolutionary movements directed against the Stalinist bureaucracy.
Trotskyism is an international political current that acts as the foremost spearhead of opportunism, social democracy in the labor and revolutionary movement, with the special historical task of attacking the communist parties and Marxism-Leninism.
As an international political current, it offers its “program of world revolution” to the working class, youth, and intellectuals. It has been shown that Trotskyism can, to a certain extent and for a certain period of time, deceive young people without solid revolutionary experience, and petty-bourgeois intellectuals who are attracted by phrase-mongering, the rejection of the fighting discipline of the working class and a petty-bourgeois mixture of radical “visions” and reformist practices – as reflected in the theory and program of Trotskyism.
All the facts show that Trotskyism is not “revolutionary Marxism,” not “Bolshevism,” but petty-bourgeois anti-communism.
Categories: Denmark, History, International, Revolutionary History, Theory