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Hammer and sickle with the number 4 for the Fourth International
Hammer and sickle with the number 4 for the Fourth International

Trotskyism originated from Trotsky's opposition against Stalin in the theoretical struggle towards a scientific interpretation of Leninism for the case of world revolution. In contrast to Marxism–Leninism, it emphasizes the abolition of bureaucratic dictatorship. It also advocates for a militant workers' revolution, unlike social democracy, and rejects the alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry.

Trotsky and his followers joined the bourgeoisie and their henchmen, the Mensheviks, in a campaign to convince the workers, peasants and communists that socialism was impossible in the Soviet Union. They tried to undermine the confidence of the working people using an argument opposed to Lenin’s standpoint. The only conclusion is that Trotskyism played a counterrevolutionary role, hiding behind pseudo-left rhetoric. Promoting defeatism was the essential role of Trotskyism in regard to the Soviet Union.

Permanent revolution[edit | edit source]

Trotsky occupied a middle position between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks but in essence was closer to the Mensheviks.

He agreed with the Bolsheviks that the liberal bourgeois would have nothing to do with the coming revolution. At the same time he agreed with the Mensheviks that the peasantry could not be a dependable ally.

Tsarism, according to Trotsky could be replaced by a workers government. On no account could it be replaced by a joint dictatorship of the working class and the peasantry. And on coming to power it would be the function of the Workers government to attack private property, including the peasant holdings. By its attack on private property by the Workers government would alienate and arouse the hostility and resistance (thanks to Trotsky) of the majority of the population.

The resistance of the peasantry would endanger the workers government. But on the other hand the workers government would stimulate the working class of the industrially advanced European countries to wage ruthless struggle against their own bourgeoisie, seize state power and establish socialism.

In return, Western Europe would now come to the aid of the Russian workers government in Russia to crush by force the resistance of the peasantry. This is permanent revolution.

“In the absence of direct State support on the part of the European proletariat, the Russian working class will not be able to keep itself in power and to transform its temporary rule into a stable socialist dictatorship. No doubt as to the truth of this is possible.”

Trotsky, Our Revolution 1906, Pg. 278.

“A steady rise of socialist economy in Russia will not be possible until after the victory of the proletariat in the leading countries of Europe.”

Trotsky, (“Collected Works,” Vol. 3, Part I, Pgs.92-93.)

What this would mean in practice is Permanent Counter-Revolution. By the negation of the peasantry as a revolutionary role that the peasantry could play (and did play) it would mean depriving the Russian working class of a dependable ally and turning the peasantry into a tool of the liberal bourgeois. There would have been no revolution in Russia had this line followed and Lenin was to reject it for a second time in 1915 in the following:

To bring clarity into the alignment of classes in the impending revolution is the main task of a revolutionary party. This task is being shirked by the Organising Committee, which within Russia remains a faithful ally to Nashe Dyelo, and abroad utters meaningless “Left” phrases. This task is being wrongly tackled in Nashe Slovo by Trotsky, who is repeating his “original” 1905 theory and refuses to give some thought to the reason why, in the course of ten years, life has been bypassing this splendid theory.

From the Bolsheviks Trotsky’s original theory has borrowed their call for a decisive proletarian revolutionary struggle and for the conquest of political power by the proletariat, while from the Mensheviks it has borrowed “repudiation” of the peasantry’s role. The peasantry, he asserts, are divided into strata, have become differentiated; their potential revolutionary role has dwindled more and more; in Russia a “national” revolution is impossible; “we are living in the era of imperialism,” says Trotsky, and “imperialism does not contra pose the bourgeois nation to the old regime, but the proletariat to the bourgeois nation.”

Here we have an amusing example of playing with the word “imperialism”. If, in Russia, the proletariat already stands contra posed to the “bourgeois nation”, then Russia is facing a socialist revolution (!), and the slogan “Confiscate the landed estates” (repeated by Trotsky in 1915, following the January Conference of 1912), is incorrect; in that case we must speak, not of a “revolutionary workers’” government, but of a “workers’ socialist” government! The length Trotsky’s muddled thinking goes to is evident from his phrase that by their resoluteness the proletariat will attract the “non-proletarian [!] popular masses” as well (No. 217)! Trotsky has not realised that if the proletariat induce the non-proletarian masses to confiscate the landed estates and overthrow the monarchy, then that will be the consummation of the “national bourgeois revolution” in Russia; it will be a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry!

A whole decade—the great decade of 1905-15—has shown the existence of two and only two class lines in the Russian revolution. The differentiation of the peasantry has enhanced the class struggle within them; it has aroused very many hitherto politically dormant elements. It has drawn the rural proletariat closer to the urban proletariat (the Bolsheviks have insisted ever since 1906 that the former should be separately organised, and they included this demand in the resolution of the Menshevik congress in Stockholm). However, the antagonism between the peasantry, on the one hand, and the Markovs, Romanovs and Khvostovs, on the other, has become stronger and more acute. This is such an obvious truth that not even the thousands of phrases in scores of Trotsky’s Paris articles will “refute” it. Trotsky is in fact helping the liberal-labour politicians in Russia, who by “repudiation” of the role of the peasantry understand a refusal to raise up the peasants for the revolution!

-Lenin, Two Lines On The Revolution

Stalin, in his work to

It took only two years to prove Lenin's correctness

In conclusion, Trotskyism:

  • Rejects the peasantry as a revolutionary force
  • Rejects stages in the development of the revolution (Which amounted in practice skipping the first stage of the revolution: the majority of the Russian people, particularly the peasantry, against the Tsar. But only the working class who constituted a tiny minority at the time against the Tsar and the “bourgeois nation” including the peasantry)

It is noted that the Soviets did eventually wage a war against the nascent bourgeois elements in the peasantry which did seriously de-stabilise the Soviet government. But this was done in the early 1930s when a lot of the peasantry had been drawn into the cities and into the proletariat. Not as immediate fact against the “bourgeois nation” in 1917 which would’ve seen the peasantry side with the White guardists

Ideological differences between Marxism-Leninism and Trotskyism[edit | edit source]

Ever since Lenin died in 1924, Trotskyism has challenged Marxism-Leninism for the ideological leadership of the international communist movement. J.V. Stalin, 1879-1953, was able to meet and saw off this challenge, to the extent that Trotskyism became a marginal, exterior tendency in relation to the communist movement. However, the attacks on Stalin by the Khrushchevite leadership in the Soviet Union, and the consequent rise of revisionism in some of the most influential parties of the communist movement, served to breathe new life into the project inspired by Trotsky.

This creed, Trotskyism, gained a substantial intellectual following in all the main imperialist countries due to its attacks on what they and the bourgeoisie call ‘Stalinism’. In attacking Stalin, and in fact, every country of socialist orientation, and regarding themselves as representing authentic Marxism, the activities of these pseudo-left sectarians promoted the propaganda interest of the imperialist bourgeoisie. However, the claims of Trotskyism rest not only on attacking Stalin and the countries of socialist orientation. These claims rest also on convincing certain intellectuals that Trotskyism is the continuation of Leninism. This is why it may be considered useful for us to present a synoptic exposition of the main ideological differences between Marxism-Leninism and Trotskyism as a guide for those who seek to examine this matter more deeply.[1]

Russian Revolution[edit | edit source]

Trotskyites argue that the October revolution of 1917 was the realisation of Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution. The Marxist-Leninist position is that the revolution was made possible by the peculiar circumstances created by the 1914-1918 war and that without these conditions the transition to the socialist revolution would not have been possible.

Labour policy[edit | edit source]

Following the revolution and civil war, Trotskyites argued for the militarisation of the trade unions, that is a policy of coercion towards the unions. Marxist-Leninists around Lenin, including Stalin, opposed the Trotskyite militarisation policy, arguing instead that emphasis must be placed on persuasion rather than coercion. This led to a serious factional dispute in the communist party between the Marxist-Leninists and the Trotskyites between 1920-1921. Lenin himself regarded Trotsky’s policy on the trade unions as representing a ‘reactionary movement’.(See: Lenin: Collected Works, Vol.32)

World revolutionary process in regard to socialism[edit | edit source]

For Marxist-Leninists, socialism in one or several countries is a stage in the world revolution. Trotskyites argued that the policy of building socialism in one country was opposed to Marxism. The Marxist-Leninists argued building socialism in one country was an integral part of world revolution and, in fact would serve this process, in aiding the development of the latter. Since Trotsky did not raise the issue with Lenin, Marxist-Leninists can only assume that Trotsky’s real motives were of a factional nature. Or, with Lenin out of the way, following his death in 1924, Trotsky sought to impose his Permanent Revolution theory on the party.

Industrialisation policy[edit | edit source]

The Trotskyites sought to impose an industrialisation and collectivisation policy on the communist party at a time when the party and the dictatorship of the proletariat were in a weak position. Marxist-Leninists around Stalin wanted to wait until the party and the state had gathered enough strength to oversee such a policy. This meant defending the mixed economy of the NEP period until the party had strengthened itself in the working class and in the countryside.

Fighting bureaucracy[edit | edit source]

Trotskyites argue that after the death of Lenin a “Stalinist bureaucracy” emerged in the Soviet Union. This bureaucracy would undermine the revolution and to forestall this a political revolution would be necessary to remove the bureaucracy from power. Marxist-Leninists argue that the Soviet bureaucracy was more anti-Stalinist than ‘Stalinist’, a fact underlined by the frequent purges directed against it. In addition, Marxist-Leninists rejected the Trotskyite theory of a counterrevolutionary bureaucracy as completely one-sided, and argued that what was needed was not a political revolution to overthrow a supposedly counterrevolutionary bureaucracy, but rather there was a need to expose and purge the counterrevolutionary elements from the bureaucracy. The Trotskyite talk about a ‘political’ revolution to overthrow bureauracy represented a break from Marxism to anarchism.

Peaceful coexistence[edit | edit source]

Soon after coming to power the Bolshevik communists, led by Lenin pursued a policy of peaceful coexistence with the capitalist states. The thinking behind this was to force the capitalist States, particularly the imperialists States, to live in peace with socialism, as far as foreign relations were concerned. This was not only based on the recognition that combined the imperialists States were by far stronger than the Socialist State, it was also because socialism, unlike capitalism, is not a warlike system. It is capitalism which needs war to increase profits for the monopolists, not socialism. While it is true that, on the one hand, the Khrushchevite revisionists distorted the communist policy of peaceful coexistence, it is also true, on the other hand, that the Trotskyites, and other pseudo-leftists rejected Lenin’s policy, wanting the socialist countries to act like capitalists and embroil the world into war.

"Counterrevolution" in the Soviet Union[edit | edit source]

Trotskyites claim that the counterrevolution in the Soviet Union was the work of a supposedly “Stalinist bureaucracy”. Such a claim made no sense because not only was there no entity which could be called the “Stalinist bureaucracy”, but the Stalinists, i.e., supporters of Stalin, had been purged by the Khrushchevites in the 1950s. Marxist-Leninists maintain that the Soviet counterrevolution was led by the revisionists who had come to power after Stalin’s death. This counterrevolution was begun by Khrushchev and completed by Gorbachev. Trotsky believed that, despite the supposed bureaucratization of the USSR, an internal restoration of capitalism was impossible.

Trotskyists often claim that Stalin purged all of the Old Bolsheviks even though many of Stalin's supporters (Kaganovich, Kirov, Molotov, Zhdanov, etc.) were Old Bolsheviks. Kautsky and Martov were also very influential Marxist theorists who later became revisionists.[2]

Communist history[edit | edit source]

Trotskyites blame the defeat of revolutions in Germany, France and Spain on Stalin’s leadership of the Communist International. Marxist-Leninists have long argued that Stalin was in a minority in the Comintern. Therefore, the defeats experienced by the communist movement cannot simply be dumped at Stalin’s door. Only a concrete analysis, based on Marxism-Leninism, can throw light on how individual defeats came about.

Revisionism[edit | edit source]

One of the slanders aimed at Stalin by the open and concealed Trotskyites is that he led the international communist movement into the camp of revisionism. However, neither now or in the past, have they been able to provide any documentary evidence to support these claims based on Marxism-Leninism. The truth is, that any study of the writings of Stalin shows, without any shadow of doubt that he remained a committed Marxist-Leninist all his life.

Evaluation of Stalin[edit | edit source]

Trotskyites argue that Stalin betrayed the 1917 socialist revolution. However, in 1936, stunned by the gains that the Soviet Union had made under Stalin’s leadership, Trotsky had to pretend that the USSR's achievements had nothing to do with Stalin. Marxist-Leninists argue that Stalin was a defender of the socialist revolution in the most inauspicious of circumstances. Furthermore, in his time Stalin successfully defended the socialist orientation of the Soviet Union against revisionists and other two-faced elements posing as communists in the party and State. When these concealed enemies of socialism were found out they were unfailingly purged by Stalin.

The "Uniqueness" of Permanent Revolution[edit | edit source]

There are several points that ought to be noted in regards to Permanent Revolution. The first is that the idea or notion of Permanent Revolution is not unique to Trotskyism. Marx, in his Address to the Communist League in 1850 has stated that the following:

While the democratic petit bourgeois wish to bring the revolution to a conclusion as quickly as possible, and with the achievement, at most, of the above demands, it is our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent, until all more or less possessing classes have been forced out of their position of dominance, until the proletariat has conquered state power, and the association of proletarians, not only in one country but in all the dominant countries of the world, has advanced so far that competition among the proletarians of these countries has ceased and that at least the decisive productive forces are concentrated in the hands of the proletarians[3]

This, however does not necessarily mean that the Permanent Revolution followed by Trotskyites is justified. Stalin, in his work Foundations of Leninism has noted that Marx' message on Permanent Revolution was distorted by the Trotskyites, making it "unfit for practical uses". What he meant by this was that not only that Trotskyites underestimate the role of the peasantry, they also misunderstood Marx' message that after attaining state power, the proletariat ought to dispose one section of the bourgeoisie one after another, this would then kindle the fire of revolution in every country. It was often assumed that achieving victory in one country was impossible without the support and actions of the proletariats in advanced countries, yet the victory of the Bolsheviks over the Russian Republic in 1917, leading to the establishment of the first Socialist state in history has proven this wrong.

Influence[edit | edit source]

Trotskyism has had very little impact on the Third World except in Sri Lanka, Bolivia, and Argentina due to its opposition to anti-colonial nationalism and the Non-Aligned Movement.[4]

See also[edit | edit source]

Further reading[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. EspressoStalinist. "A Brief Guide to the Ideological Differences Between Marxism-Leninism and Trotskyism" Retrieved 29-03-2022.
  2. Ludo Martens (1996). Another View of Stalin: 'The Great Purge' (pp. 121–122). [PDF] Editions EPO. ISBN 9782872620814
  3. “While the democratic petty bourgeois want to bring the revolution to an end as quickly as possible, achieving at most the aims already mentioned, it is our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent until all the more or less propertied classes have been driven from their ruling positions, until the proletariat has conquered state power and until the association of the proletarians has progressed sufficiently far – not only in one country but in all the leading countries of the world – that competition between the proletarians of these countries ceases and at least the decisive forces of production are concentrated in the hands of the workers.”

    Karl Marx (1850). Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League.
  4. Vijay Prashad (2017). Red Star over the Third World: 'Enemy of Imperialism' (p. 81). [PDF] New Delhi: LeftWord Books.