May 16, 2020

TROTSKYISM - OLD IDEAS, NEW IMPASSES

Nikolai VASETSKY
Translated from the Russian by Vyacheslav SEMYONOV Translation edited by Selena KOTLOBAI

OLD  IDEAS,  NEW IMPASSES

The First Secretary of the Uruguayan Communist Party’s Central Committee, Rodney Arismendi, described Trotsky as one who was fond of intri­cate combinations by means of which he tried to make the multidimensional revolutionary and his­torical experience fit the Procrustean bed of the theory of “permanent revolution”.  R. Arismendi, Lenin, Revolution and Latin America, Mos­ cow, 1975, p. 55 (in Russian).  Trotsky’s modern followers are doing exactly the same. 

By extolling the anti-revolutionary and in partic­ular the anti-socialist essence of the “permanent revolution” theory, modern Trotskyites are actually opposing not only the Soviet Union, but the whole world socialist system. 

In Dostoyevsky’s novel The Demons there is a character who invents an idea and then lives ac­ cording to it. This is what the Trotskyites have been doing for several decades; they have been repealing Trotsky’s tales that it is impossible to build socialism in individual countries. They are not at all embarrassed by the fact that their ideas are at variance with reality. The greater the suc­cesses scored by the socialist countries, the more persistent the Trotskyites are in their attempts to distort and belittle what these countries have achieved.

Their rejection of real socialism is based on their old idea of “world proletarian revolution”. As in­ terpreted by Trotskyist theoreticians, this revolu­tion is an uncertain state of “permanent confronta tion” between the “world bourgeoisie” and the “world proletariat” in the “world” arena. “The world proletarian revolution is neither an aggregate of national revolutions, nor the falling away from capitalism of one country after another, nor is it a single act taking place in all countries. It is a clash between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat lasting over a lengthy historical period. Even in the USSR where the proletariat has taken power in its hands the revolution is not over. There it has only begun,” 1  say members of the Committee for the Reconstruction of the Fourth International. Proceeding from this position the Trotskyites draw two conclusions.

First, the working class of a country where a socialist revolution has triumphed may start build­ing socialism, but it is doomed to creating “a de­formed workers’ state”. The Trotskyites refuse to recognise as socialist those countries where social­ism has been built. “The Soviet workers’ state to us is a degenerated workers’ state,” 1 writes George Foster, one of the leaders of US Trotskyites. 
Verite,  juin,  1980,  No.  592,  p.  106.
2 Workers' Vanguard, January 30, 1981, No. 273, p. 5.

Second, unlike Trotsky, who believed that the Soviet Union, having emerged as “a workers’ state”, “became deformed” only when it failed to follow his injunction “to carry the revolution on bayonets” to other countries after it started to lay the foundations of socialism, his modern followers do not even consider the existence of “non-deformed workers’ states” to be possible. “The now work­ ers’ states are established as deformed workers’ states,” wrote Julio Posadas.  J. Posadas, L'eurocotnmunisme, la revolution socialiste et la construction mondiale du socialisme, Paris, 1977,

In other words, from the point of view of Trot­ skyist ideologists, socialism is not something that exists in the present epoch, but a question for some remote future which is not a proper subject for consideration today. 

Trotskyism depicts the world revolution as some kind of “boundless revolution”, which can have a beginning but no end, or an end which is only possible in an infinitely remote future. In so doing Trotskyism claims the role of ideological spokes­man for a specific section of the non-proletarian strata, or those who are against state monopoly capitalism but doubt if the working class has the ability to lead the working masses and carry out its world historical mission, which is not only to overthrow capitalism but also to create a new civilisation without exploitation. These strata are only happy with “the first part” of the socialist revolution when it puts an end to the domination by big business which is as much of an enemy to them as to the proletariat. However, they are deeply antipathetic to “the second part”—the building of socialism—for the sake of which a so­cialist revolution is made. 

By rejecting the Marxist-Leninist laws on man­kind’s transition from capitalism to socialism, Trotskyism has inevitably descended to slandering real socialism. In calling into question the significance of the collective experience in building real social­ism, the Trotskyites are trying to make the work­ing masses think that revolutionary struggle cannot succeed in individual countries and is there­fore pointless. 

Real socialism or “transitional society"? Deny­ing real socialism the right to exist, modern Trotskyism persistently tries to equate socialist society with a society that is transitional between capital­ ism and socialism. An analysis of the socio-econ­omic reality of the Soviet Union shows that it is “a society in a stage of transition between capi­ talism and socialism,” writes Trotskyist “theoreti­cian” Ernest Mandel. 1 A similar position has been taken by other Trotskyist ideologists. “The work­ ers’ state is a transitory process which combines aspects of capitalism and socialism,” declare the British followers of Julio Posadas. 2
1 New Lett Review, No. 108, March-April 1978, p. 34. 
2 Red Flag, February 12, 1982, No. 320, p. 2.

To the Trotskyites, these aspects are commodity-money relations, the use of the distribution principle whereby everyone works according to his abilities and is remunerated according to his work, and the existence of two classes and of the socialist state. These aspects, says Ernest Mandel, testify to the “transitory” nature of the “work­ers’ states” which inevitably create the prerequisites for the appearance of “deformations” in their socio-economic and political structures.  E. Mandel, La ctise 1974-1978. Les faites (leur interpre­ tation marxiste), Paris, 1978, p. 163.

From these Trotskyist arguments it follows that the communist formation emerges and develops in two stages: a transition period (socialism) and communism proper. 

The identification of these two periods in the emergence of the communist formation clearly goes contrary to Marxism-Leninism and to the process of development of the USSR and other socialist countries. 

In drafts for his book The State and Revolution Lenin summed up Marx’s and Engels’ views on how the state would wither away. Lenin wrote: 

“Thus, we have 
 (I) the pangs of childbirth 

(II) the first phase of commun­ist society 

(III) the highest phase of communist society”        Lenin, Complete Works, Vol. 33, p. 185 (in Russian).

The “pangs of childbirth”—this is the transition period from capitalism to socialism during which the former is transformed into the latter. The so­ciety of the transition period is not yet a socialist one, because it still has what Lenin called “ele­ments, particles, fragments of both capitalism and socialism.” Lenin, Coll.  Works, Vol. 27,  p.  335  Socialism, however, is a new stage in the development of the communist formation which, in Lenin’s words, “implies work without the aid of the capitalists, socialised labour with strict accounting, control and supervision by the organised vanguard, the advanced section of the working people; the measure of labour and remu­neration lor it must be fixed.”   Lenin,  Coll.  Works,  Vol.  30,  p. 284.
Lenin also made a distinction between socialism and communism. He wrote: . .the scientific distinction between socialism and communism is clear. What is usually called socialism was termed by Marx the ‘first’, or lower, phase of communist society. Insofar as the means of production become common property, the word ‘communism’ is also applicable here, providing we do not forget that this is not complete communism.Vol.  25, pp.  475-476. At the first stage in its development, Lenin stressed, commu­nism still requires law and the state to regulate the distribution of labour and of products for con­sumption. He wrote: “ ‘He who does not work shall not eat’ is already realised; the other socialist principle, ‘An equal amount of products for an equal amount of labour’ is also already realised. But this is not yet communism [Emphasis added], and it does not yet abolish ‘bourgeois law’, which gives unequal individuals, in return for unequal (really unequal) amounts of labour, equal amounts of products. ..” Ibid.,  p.  472. Lenin drew particular attention to the need for a comprehensive use of commodity­ money relations under socialism. He explained that it was impossible to “organise the state production and the state distribution of products on communist lines . . .directly as ordered by the proletarian state.”  Ibid.,  Vol.  33,  p. 58.

The Trotskyites’ attempts to equate real social­ism with the transition period clearly reveal their intention to place socialism outside the communist formation and thus “expel” it from history. 

However, historical experience shows that it is impossible to “leap” over socialism or to pass it by as a stage in the development of communism. The socialist stage is indispensable because it creates the prerequisites enabling society to go over to a new, higher phase. Socialism must go through a number of stages before it can develop on its own foundations, that is, before it reaches a level of economic, socio-political and spiritual ma­turity at which the necessary conditions are created for its gradual transition to communism. The process of creation and consolidation of the foundations of socialism is inevitably marked by different national features in different countries. However, these differences do not diminish, but, on the contrary, accentuate the significance of the general regularities that underlie the building of a real socialist society and its activities. 

Contrary to Trotskyist allegations, real socialism is not some amorphous “transitional society”. It has its own specific features which distinguish it from the other stages in the complex process in which the communist formation finally emerges. By rejecting real socialism as a specific stage in the making of this formation, the Trotskyites show a desire to artificially slow down the natural course of history. This position betrays a historical pessi­mism, for it places the prospects of struggle within a highly complex and long-drawn-out transition period. Intentionally or not, they and other simi­ lar critics of real socialism objectively distract the masses from the effort to achieve revolutionary transformation by orienting them towards “im­proved” capitalism. It is quite obvious that this distraction only plays into the hands of capitalism. Strategy of provocations. Being unable to pro­ pose a constructive programme of their own for the struggle for socialism, Trotskyites today arc actively hindering the process of revolutionary transformation of society. What is more, they are spreading cock-and-bull stories about the revolu­ tions that have already been carried out. And the more successful a country, the greater its confi­dence in laying the foundations of socialism, the more wide-ranging their attacks aqainst it. 

This is how, for instance, they reacted to the vic­tory of the revolution in Cuba. Leaders of the Fourth International insisted that nothing really “important” had happened in Cuba and that it remained a capitalist state. As the economic and political foundations of state power in Cuba be­ came stronger, they stepped up their attacks against it. They were particularly critical with re­ gard to the establishment of the Communist Party in Cuba and the promulgation of the country’s new constitution. The leaders of the Revolutionary Marxist Tendency of the Fourth International de­ scribed these two developments as a “legislative expression of the degeneration” of the Cuban rev­ olution, as its “final deformation”. According to them, Cuba could only be “saved” by a “future revolution in Latin America and the United States” which would “put Cuba on a correct path”.  See  Sous  le  drapeau   du   socialisms,   1977,   juillet,   aout,   No.  72,  p. 4.

And what is this correct path? In their view, Cuba should assume the role of an exporter of revolution to other Latin American countries. Posa­ das, for example, believes that Cuba ought “to concentrate its efforts on stimulating revolution in Latin America.” Lutte  ouvriere,  3.IX.  1982,  No.  346,  p. 5.

Such appeals vividly illustrate how something which is anti-socialist is camouflaged with “leftist” phrases. Assigning Cuba the role of “an exporter of revolutions”, the Trotskyites are trying to push it onto the road of adventures and thus create obstacles in the struggle for socialism in the Amer­ icas. This is exactly what the imperialist rulers of the United States are trying to achieve, except that they use different methods and arguments. 

No less hypocritical is the Trotskyites’ attitude towards Southeast Asian countries, especially Vietnam. While the war against US imperialism was being fought in the region, they posed as reso lute supporters of “the fight to the end”. But as soon as the Vietnamese people emerged victorious and got down to building socialism, they reversed their position. Members of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers’ Party of the United States condemned Vietnam’s desire to embark on peaceful construction after 35 years of successive wars against Jap­anese, French and US imperialists. The party’s leader, Gus Horowitz, described Vietnam’s plans for peaceful construction as “renunciation of revo­ lution”, as an attempt by Vietnam to set up ‘stable relations” with world imperialism. He ac­cused the Vietnamese government and party lead­ership of becoming “one of the privileged bureaucracies that exist in the workers’ movement, whether on a party, trade-union or government level”. He declares that whereas the Vietnamese people want a “permanent revolution”, the government in Hanoi is doing all it can to preserve the status quo.   See Daily  World, March 17,  1979,  p. 9.

It is entirely in a spirit of anti-Vietnamese prop­aganda that leaders of the Committee for the Re­ construction of the Fourth International view the fraternal assistance rendered by the people of Vietnam to the people of Kampuchea who have overthrown the Pol Pot regime. The Trotskyites regard this help as being motivated by “a desire on the part of the Vietnamese bureaucracy to es­ tablish its control in the Mekong Delta.”    Informations  ouvrieres,  1979,  No. 883.

Again, the talk about “bureaucratisation” of the countries where proletarian revolutions have won has unmistakable political implications. The Trot­ skyites have actually taken the side of those who oppose the independent course of building socialism chosen by the peoples of Southeast Asia and' who are obviously interested in thwarting the ef­forts to normalise the situation in that part of the world. Assessing the Trotskyist position on this issue, the US Communists’ newspaper Daily World notes: “The central focus of Trotskyism is, in fact, to undermine support for Vietnam in the United States.”         Daily  World,  March  17,  1979,  p.  9.

The Trotskyites do not merely deny the signifi­cance of the socialist transformations carried out in countries which have freed themselves from cap­italism, but also urge active opposition to them Trotsky had called for a “political revolution” in the Soviet Union and his modern followers would like to see such a revolution implemented in all socialist countries. Unlike Trotsky, however, who believed that this “political revolution” could only be an armed one, today’s Trotskyites speak about a diversity of ways in which it can be brought about, including “peaceful” ones. “Although Trots­ ky set forth the main principles for a political revolution,” wrote J. Posadas, “he could not have envisaged all those forms in which it may be car­ ried out. We live in a different period of history. In Trotsky’s epoch the Soviet Union stood alone. It is clear that the situation has changed today.” 1 Posadas’ conclusion is that “political revolutions” must be made to occur in all the “workers’ states”.2

A resolution of the Sixth Conference of the Rev­olutionary Marxist Tendency of the Fourth Inter­ national reads: “Rejecting the experience of the workers’ states, we oppose the transfer of power to different institutions like the state, the parties and the trade unions. ..” 3

1 J. Posadas, Les enseignements de la Pologne pour le Ptogres socialiste de 1'humanite. 1970-1981, Paris, 1982, P- 123.
2 Ibid., p. 8.
3 Sous le drapeau du socialisme, 1978, janv., fevr., mars. No- 73, p. 34.


This anarchistic Trotskyist call for “universal civil disobedience” under socialism gives encour­ agement to anti-socialist forces of every shade and description, some of them operating in the very countries that arc building socialism. 

The Fourth International supports actions car­ried out by subversive elements in these countries,urging them to resort to any means and methods including armed terrorism in order to destabilise the internal political situation and to undermine the foundations of the political and social system. In one of its resolutions the Revolutionary Marx ist Tendency says: “It is time for us to make it clear that in the Eastern regimes the opposition forces could resort to terrorism.”  Op.  cit.,  p. 1.

This stand taken by the Trotskyites is incontrovertible evidence that their criticism of real social­ism is of a counter-revolutionary character and is aimed at the restoration of capitalism. This has been confirmed by the attitude of international Trotskyism towards the events in Poland in the years 1980-1981. 

The Fourth International unreservedly sided with the anti-socialist forces, expressing its com­plete solidarity with the leaders of KSS-KOR and other counter-revolutionary groupings. On the other hand, the programmatic aims of the Trotskyist “political revolution” are in many ways echoed by KSS-KOR members demanding that the Polish United Workers’ Party give up its leading role in society, that government agencies in charge of management of the national economy be replaced by “workers’ control” and that the *Solidarity trade union become the organisational centre for the counter-revolutionaries. 

This explains the ease with which the leaders o the Fourth International have succeeded in establishing contacts with the anti-socialist elements in Poland, including groupings of an openly pro Trotskyist orientation. An international symposium held by the Fourth International in Paris in December 1980 was attended by a delegate representing the Polish branch. In his address this delegate spoke of his colleagues’ intention “to fight for the establishment of a Polish Socialist Work­ ers’ Party as a vanguard of the political revolu­tion”. The Polish Trotskyites were advised to set up “initiative groups” within Solidarity as the nucleus for a future Trotskyist party. “Trotsky­ism. .. will show the way forward for the Polish masses,” 1 declared the London-based Internation­al Committee. This “way forward” consists in creating tension in the country, stirring up senti­ments of hopelessness and defeatism, and provoking all sorts of disturbances and clashes with the authorities. To this end the Trotskyites have been inciting the Polish counter-revolutionaries to take “decisive action”. “You should have only one an­ swer: you should stage strikes and refuse to cooperate,” said the Committee for the Reconstruction of the Fourth International in an appeal to the Solidarity leaders. 

Today, as the situation in Poland is returning to normal, the Fourth International continues its line of confrontation. “More strikes, more demonstra­tions and wider distribution of leaflets are necessa­ry,” urges the Committee for the Reconstruction of the Fourth International. The International Committee in London conducts its propaganda un­ der the slogan “Victory for the political revolu­ tion in Poland!” 

Trotskyist publications are full of inventions concerning Poland’s allied relations with the other socialist community countries. They give a distort­ed picture of the help which these countries are giving fraternal Poland and misrepresent the sup­ port they have been giving the Polish authorities in their efforts to get the country out of the crisis. In the light of these facts it becomes clear why such Trotskyist actions are supported by imperialist reactionaries. Significantly, the West German Ministry of Internal Affairs published a report in 1972 entitled The Essence and Importance of the Trotskyist Fourth International, in which it stressed that this support was highly valuable be­ cause the Fourth International “devoted much at­ tention to analysing the possibilities of gaining ground in East European countries where the Communists are in power.” See W. Gerns, R. Steigerwald, G. Weiss,  Opportunismus  heute,   Verlag   Marxistische    Blatter,    Frankfurt/Main,    1974,  p. 185

That is why the Trotskyites are given broad opportunities for con­ducting open propaganda in the West. 

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