Left in Form, Right in Essence -A Critique of Contemporary Trotskyism (1973)
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Trotskyism: A new debate over old issues
"Nixon had one additional ally to set against this dramatic example of the
international united front against U.S. imperialism – almost the entire
The Trotskyists, too, were opposed to demanding that Nixon sign the treaty,
urged that the agreement be scrapped and claimed that it would violate the
“right of self-determination” of South Vietnam. They organized opposition to the
demand within the U.S. antiwar movement, carried article after article in their
press indicating that the treaty was a “sellout” and “betrayal” of Vietnam’s
national rights and threatened to organize separate protests if the demand was
made the principal slogan of the planned mass mobilizations in January."
Two lines on “permanent revolution”
""This view was reactionary on two counts. First, it proposed a subordinate
alliance with a class bound to betray even its own democratic aims. Second, it
favored this alliance with the liberals as opposed to an alliance with the
peasantry, which the Mensheviks tended to view as a conservative force and the
base of reaction.
Trotsky’s view, which Lenin designated “absurdly left,” was summed up by its
formulator in his essay, The Three Conceptions of the Russian Revolution,"
Socialism in one country
"By ignoring the changed objective conditions, Trotsky arrived at the opposite
conclusion: “The organic interdependence of the several countries, developing
toward an international division of labor, excludes the possibility of building
socialism in one country. This means that the Marxist doctrine, which posits
that the socialist revolution can begin only on a national basis, while the
building of socialism in one country is impossible, has been rendered doubly and
trebly true, all the more so now, in the modern epoch ...”
The two-stage revolution
""Trotsky considered the “bloc of four classes” counter-revolutionary and a
manifestation of “Menshevism” imposed in China by Stalin. In his view the
struggle had to be spearheaded against the bourgeoisie as a whole. At the same
time, he played down or dismissed entirely the feudal and imperialist targets of
The national liberation struggle
“The strength of Marxism,” writes Leon Trotsky in The Third International After
Lenin, “lies in its ability to foretell.”Trotsky made the remark in a 1928
commentary on the Chinese revolution. In the same work he also made a number of
predictions which, if he is measured by his own standard, place him considerably
outside and opposed to the camp of those who deserve to be called Marxists.
Trotskyism and China today
In China’s socialist construction the theoretical link between Trotsky and Liu
Shao-chi can be seen in the “theory of productive forces” put forth by both
United front against fascism
"Just as in their views on the national united front in the colonial countries,
the Trotskyist line on the world scale makes no distinctions in the enemy camp,
between enemies in general and particular or principal enemies at various times
and stages. As a result, the revolutionary forces are left more isolated from
both strategic and tactical allies, however temporary and wavering they may be.
Finally, the Trotskyists blur the distinction between the revisionist countries
and the socialist countries and on most questions side with the former. For
instance, in 1963 the SWP denounced Albania as one of the most despicable
Stalinized regimes in Europe and added that “the internal regime of communist
Yugoslavia is much freer.”
Origins of U.S. Trotskyism
The Trotskyists have been known – both historically and in the present period –
as “wreckers and splitters” of the people’s organizations and movements.
While they vociferously deny the charge, an examination of their history
demonstrates that they have earned it. The Trotskyists themselves even celebrate
their wrecking and splitting tactics as high points in their theoretical
National and class struggle
""the CP saw the struggle for full democratic rights for black people throughout
the country as part and parcel of the class struggle and a key component of the
struggle against opportunism. As a result the CP made great gains in this area
of work, as well as many worthy contributions to the struggle against national
oppression in the U.S.
The Trotskyists have attacked this line as “imposed by orders from Moscow” and
distorted it by claiming that the CP demanded a separate Black state (rather
than the right of self- determination) without regard to the aspirations of the
The Trotskyist stand on the woman question, like their approach to politics in
general, is “left” in form and right in essence.
The views on the women’s struggle of the two major Trotskyist groupings in the
U.S. – the Socialist Workers party (SWP) and the Workers League – also express
the vacillating character of their movement in tailing after the spontaneity of
The Trotskyists in this country are relatively well known for their ultra-left
opposition to the strategy of revolution by stages in the colonial countries.
To the anti-imperialist united front, aimed at forming a transitional new
democratic state and led by the proletariat, they counterpose the line of
immediate transition to the proletarian dictatorship.
The vanguard party
Trotsky began his career as a disrupter of the revolutionary
movement during a struggle with Lenin over the character of the
proletarian vanguard party.
Today his followers have – in one form or another – continued this
role of attacking Leninist parties wherever they actually exist by
attempting to substitute petty bourgeois ideas on organization in