Frozen in dogma

Notes by Mark Fischer in consultation with PCC members

1. Leon Trotsky was a great intellect of the 20th century, one of the two towering figures of the Russian Revolution. The calumny heaped onto the head of this revolutionary should be rejected with contempt by all partisans of the working class.

2. Despite this, Trotsky’s contribution to the revolutionary workers’ movement did not constitute a qualitative development of the theoretical categories of Marxism, an extension according to its own logical laws of development. In this sense therefore, there is no ‘Trotskyism’ in the same way there is a ‘Leninism’.

3. In the struggle against the rising bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, Trotsky and the left (and later, the united) opposition defended many positions of orthodox revolutionary Marxism, centrally the need for world revolution. However, Trotsky made numerous tactical errors in the inner-party struggle, blunders that contributed to eventual defeat. Crucially, Trotsky failed to correctly estimate the potential strength of the Stalin centre, based on the Party apparatus. In this error, he evidenced a tendency to mechanically collapse political forces into social base. This combined with a certain technocratism contributed to the eventual political fragmentation of the opposition, with many capitulating to Stalin after 1928.

4. Trotsky’s analysis of the degeneration of the Bolshevik Party and the social consequences of the USSR’s isolation contained many brilliant insights. Yet it must be taken as the product of the provisional working categories of a brilliant Marxist attempting to understand the laws of motion of a totally unprecedented social formation in the very process of its emergence and consolidation.

5. Thus, to the very end of his life, Trotsky’s thought revealed development and dynamic tensions within itself. This is true despite a certain degeneration of his thought conditioned by the intense pressure of Stalinism and his personal isolation. It is entirely possible that - given the developmental logic of his ideas before his assassination - Trotsky would have been able to resolve the contradictions in his analysis positively, to critique and outgrow his conditional category of ‘degenerated workers’ state’.

6. Trotsky’s followers subsequently froze his method and these provisional categories into dogma. This was evident in the immediate aftermath of World War II and was a characteristic of both sides in the 1953 split in Trotskyism. Trotskyism thus emerged - in contrast to the method of Trotsky at his best - as sterile sectarianism.

7. We observe that today Trotskyism in Britain is embodied in general in two degenerate forms. First, there are the tiny, biblical sects engaged in squabbles over the letter of Trotsky’s work, not his method and its results in the real world. Second, where Trotskyist groups have attempted to relate to the mass, they have adapted to social democracy and become practically indistinguishable from left social democrats.

8. The place for all revolutionaries and communists is in a single revolutionary party. Trotskyists committed to the creation of a mass revolutionary workers’ party should begin immediate discussions with the Provisional Central Committee with a view to the reunification of Trotskyism with the Communist Party of Great Britain