By Steve Dobbs

Many supporters of Marxist World are sympathetic to the politics of the Bolshevik and former Red Army leader Leon Trotsky. He opposed the Stalinist degeneration of “communism” that began in the fledgling workers’ state of Russia in the 1920’s and attempted to defend the Marxist and Leninist banner of workers’ internationalism against the nationalist interests of the Soviet bureaucracy.

However, many “Trotskyists” today would no doubt make Trotsky spin in his grave. What did Trotsky actually say, and do so-called “Trotskyists” follow his advice? Let’s find out!

Complete and unconditional political and organizational independence of a revolutionary party is the first prerequisite far its success. -Trotsky (

Many “Trotskyists” hide behind front organisations and unprincipled blocs. For example, the Socialist Party bloc with the left Trade Union bureaucrats in the National Shop Stewards Network, which allows for no criticism of said bureaucrats. The Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP), which founded Stop the War Coalition, failed to put forward any socialist speaker at the protests against the Iraq War in 2003, allowing Charles Kennedy and the Liberal Democrats to pose as the left anti-war party. Presumbly this was done to not upset the sensibilities of the middle class and anti-socialist forces they had amassed. Many “Trotskyists” actively hide their supposed revolutionary politics and attempt to gain positions of influence by posing as social democrats.

The slogan of soviets [workers’ councils], therefore, crowns the program of transitional demands. -Trotsky (

Some “Trotskyists” sow illusions in the bourgeois state and bourgeois parliamentary democracy. For example, the 24-page Socialist Party 2015 election manifesto talks about a ‘socialist government’ but makes no mention of the class nature of that state and how it would operate ( By doing this, they provide left cover for reformism and social democracy.

Sectarians are capable of differentiating between but two colors: red and black. So as not to tempt themselves, they simplify reality. They refuse to draw a distinction between the fighting camps in Spain for the reason that both camps have a bourgeois character. For the same reason they consider it necessary to preserve “neutrality” in the war between Japan and China. They deny the principled difference between the USSR and the imperialist countries, and because of the reactionary policies of the Soviet bureaucracy they reject defense of the new forms of property, created by the October Revolution, against the onslaughts of imperialism. -Trotsky (

The “Trotskyist” Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL) characterised the Soviet Union as ‘bureaucratic collectivist’, whilst the Socialist Workers Party claimed the USSR was ‘state capitalist’. Both parties were thus able to wash their hands of the ‘reactionary policies of the Soviet bureaucracy’ and made no defence of socialised economic planning, no matter how bureaucratically degenerated. Thus they joined euphoric celebrations alongside Wall Street and the City of London when the Soviet Union collapsed, despite the fact that the majority of Russian and people in the ex-USSR countries preferred life under ‘Communism’ (

Trotsky valiantly defended the ideas of Marx and Lenin during the explosive period of the rise of Stalinism, fascism and social democracy. His writings still carry much weight today. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of many “Trotskyists”.


1 Comment

    • Andy

      It’s a shame that you have treated this important issue with such a brief article. Trotsky was not perfect and some of his contributions to Marxism – the transitional method, for example – have not been positive.

      The transitional method has produced a cynical, manipulative approach to the working class. The major problem of post-Trotsky Trotskyism has the category of degenerated workers’ state. Various Trotskyite sects has fought over this as a static concept. (Frankly, I suspect Trotsky would weep. He understood that this was something in movement; an evolving social organism.) Socialism is not an economic system – it is a period of transition from capitalism to communism which entails the progressive withering away of the state and the massive extension of democracy. So how far does the degeneration have to go before we have a qualitative break and we pass over to something else? And what is the ‘something else’?

      Clearly the events of 1989-91 marked a qualitative change is economic organisation. But what about the first five year plan and the widespread destruction of the peasantry? Was this simply a quantitative change? Or did in mark something greater?


Leave a Comment

Subscribe to Marxist World

Enter your email address to receive regular updates via email.

Like Marxist World

Donate to Marxist World