The 1939-40 split in the Fourth International: Workers' Liberty 3/30

Workers' Liberty 3/30: The 1939-40 split in the Fourth International

Published on: Thu, 08/07/2010 - 01:50

Two documents by Max Shachtman

Introduction: many Trotskyisms

Published on: Thu, 08/07/2010 - 11:04

Sean Matgamna

More or less everywhere in the world now there are groups of avowed revolutionary socialists — usually, but not invariably, small or very small groups — who are “Trotskyist” or Trotskisant.

They trace their political genealogy back to Leon Trotsky’s politics in the 1920s and 30s, and before that to the Bolshevik party of Lenin and Trotsky which led the Russian workers to power in 1917.

The extant Trotskyist groups vary greatly in their politics and theoretical positions. In Britain, the SWP-UK, which allied for a decade with Islamic clerical fascism, and AWL, which fights clerical fascism,

1939-40: when the Fourth International split into two tendencies.

Published on: Thu, 08/07/2010 - 10:59

Max Shachtman

The “Report on the Russian question” which follows was a speech delivered by Max Shachtman to the New York membership meeting of the US Trotskyist movement, the Socialist Workers’ Party, on 15 October 1939.

Part 1: the dispute in the party

In order to have a clear understanding of the present dispute, it is necessary to start with an account of how it originated and developed. It might have been possible to dispense with this aspect of the question if Comrade Cannon had not presented a completely distorted version of it.

Our differences did not develop out of thin air nor as

1939-40: when the Fourth International split into two tendencies. Part 2

Published on: Thu, 08/07/2010 - 10:58

Max Shachtman

Part 2: Russian imperialism.

Before I can return to this question I find it necessary to deal again with the point: Is there anything new in the situation to cause us to change our policy? Yes! And in reality everybody acknowledges it, if not explicitly then tacitly.

Is it because of the pact with Hitler? If so, then you are a People’s Fronter. No, that is a slander. I have already pointed out that the questions we now raise were first raised three months ago, at the time of the Soviet alliance with the democratic imperialists. No, it is not the pact itself that changes the

1939-40: when the Fourth International split into two tendencies. Part 3

Published on: Thu, 08/07/2010 - 10:34

Max Shachtman

Part 3: the bureaucratic conservatism of the Cannon majority

I want to turn now in my concluding remarks to other questions raised in the discussion on the Russian question and related to it. We are accused of many things.

We create constant crises, we are panic-stricken at every turn of events, and so forth. These charges I have already taken up in my presentation, and upon another occasion I will take them up in even greater detail.

Our charge against the majority, however, is of a different nature and we describe it politically as bureaucratic conservatism. There have been

Trotsky and his critics

Published on: Thu, 08/07/2010 - 10:07

Max Shachtman

Writing in an academic magazine in 1963, Max Shachtman looked back on the 1939-40 split.

What distinguished Trotsky from all other opponents of the Stalinist regime was his theory that it represented a bureaucratically-degenerated workers’ state.

Why was it still a workers’ state, even after the Opposition, representing the revolutionary proletariat, had in the late twenties been driven out of the ruling party and into prison and exile, even after the consolidation of an exclusive bureaucratic monopoly in the party and state? Because, first, there was still the possibility of defeating the

Remember Leon Trotsky!

Published on: Thu, 08/07/2010 - 10:01

Max Shachtman

By Max Shachtman
It was in the fight against the Moscow Trials that so many many American radical intellectuals learned to understand the modern communist state and movement. Most of them became friendly to the Trotskyists; a few even joined their ranks.

But even though none of them remained Trotskyists for long, they took this insight with them for the rest of their lives. So did others during this stormy period. Still others gained this insight during the Hitler-Stalin pact. And still others were to acquire it only after the sanguinary suppression of the Hungarian Revolution, years later.



Published on: Thu, 08/07/2010 - 09:58

October 1917: Russian workers take power.

November 1917 to summer 1921: The Russian workers' state fights for its life in civil war against counter-revolutionaries, peasant revolts, and 14 foreign armies.

1923 to 1927: Trotsky leads the Left Opposition against the rising Stalinist bureaucracy. Trotskyists and dissidents purged from many Communist Parties outside Russia.

December 1927: Defeat of the Left Opposition in Russia. Trotsky's allies Zinoviev and Kamenev capitulate immediately; Trotskyists sent to exile in remote parts of the USSR.

January 1928 to early 1930: Stalin launches

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