Leon Trotsky

Marxists and “left governments”

“We are not a government party; we are the party of irreconcilable opposition… Our tasks... we realise not through the medium of bourgeois governments... but exclusively through the education of the masses through agitation, through explaining to the workers what they should defend and what they should overthrow. Such a “defence” cannot give immediate miraculous results. But we do not even pretend to be miracle workers. As things stand, we are a revolutionary minority. Our work must be directed so that the workers on whom we have influence should correctly appraise events, not permit...

Leon Trotsky on fascism

“The magnates of finance capital are unable by their force alone to cope with the proletariat. They need the support of the petty bourgeoisie. ‘For this purpose it must be whipped up, put on its feet, mobilised, armed. But this method has its dangers. While it makes use of fascism, the bourgeoisie nevertheless fears it. “Under the conditions of capitalist disintegration and of the impasse in the economic situation, the petty bourgeoisie strives, seeks, attempts to tear itself loose from the fetters of the old masters and rulers of society. It is quite capable of linking up its fate with that...

The New Deal: starting socialism or saving capitalism?

The above is a cartoon from the US Trotskyist paper Socialist Appeal, 11 July 1939, portrays Roosevelt (“FDR”) making a show of attacking conservative plutocrats (“Tories”). In parts of his speech not reprinted here, Bernie Sanders expands on the idea that his socialism is a continuation and expansion from where the New Deal of Roosevelt, president from 1933 to 1945, left off. Roosevelt himself saw it differently. In 1935 he explained: “I am fighting Communism… I want to save our system, the capitalist system… “To combat crackpot ideas, it may be necessary to throw to the wolves the forty-six...

ISO: stirrings in the ashes

People from the leadership of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) which was in place before the ISO’s convention in February 2019, have launched a new website, the International Socialism Project (ISP), internationalsocialism.net, and some forums in Chicago. The project also involves one or two former members of the “Orthodox Trotskyist” (in fact, semi-Assadist) Socialist Action group. Background: the ISO was long the most active group on the US far left, with up to 1500 members. Apparently overwhelmed by criticism from the ranks, the old leadership (many of them leaders since the...

Letter: The “strategist-dilettantes”

Bernie Sanders’s poll ratings will be important in convincing those who argue that we should support the candidate most likely to beat Trump (see Eric Lee’s article Can Sanders win? ). But Sanders’s success will also require winning over the “anyone but Trump” tendency to more principled socialist politics. The “anyone but X” tendency is a longstanding feature of left politics the world over. The argument that we should pick policies and personnel solely because they appear most likely to defeat the right is a corrosive force in working-class politics, and in recent years has been electorally...

Poland and Trotsky's theory of bureaucracy

August Grabski's obituary of Karol Modzelewski (Solidarity 511, bit.ly/ag-km) was interesting, but I want to take issue with what he says about Trotsky's theory of the Stalinist bureaucracy. "Without the analysis of the bureaucracy by Trotsky expressed in his Revolution Betrayed from 1936", write August, we can't understand what happened in Poland. Trotsky's Revolution Betrayed was about the bureaucracy in the USSR. Essential to his idea of the bureaucracy as a fragile stratum, without the solidity and historical clout of a class, was that part of the bureaucracy was linked back to the...

Reading about Rosa Luxemburg

As we go to press on 15 January 2019, it is exactly the 100th anniversary of the murder of the Polish¬German revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg. She was killed by a right-wing militia operating under the Social¬Democratic government which was heading off the German workers’ revolution. We have a pamphlet in production on Luxemburg and the German revolution. Readers can also find a good summary of Luxemburg’s political work in two articles, from 1935 and 1938, by Max Shachtman. The 1938 article is in print as an item in our book In Defence of Bolshevism. Much more on Rosa Luxemburg on our...

In defence of Ernest Erber

Russia was ruled by 130,000 landowners. They ruled by means of constant force over 150 million people … And yet we are told that Russia will not be able to be governed by 240,000 members of the Bolshevik Party – governing in the interests of the poor and against the rich. – V.I. Lenin, Will the Bolsheviks Retain State Power?, 1917 In 1948, after he spent a year thinking it over, Ernest Erber submitted an 18,000 word resignation letter to the US Workers Party, a small group of mostly young, mostly Jewish (one early internal bulletin carried the subhead “Out To The Gentiles!”), and mostly...

Georgi Plekhanov

Before the year 2018 reaches its end, the 100th anniversary of the death of Georgi Plekhanov should be noted and remembered. He is sometimes referred to as the “father” of Russian Marxism, and for good reason. Plekhanov was the most important figure in the early Russian Marxist movement, a major theorist and voice in the Second International; and, as a member of the editorial board of Iskra, a collaborator with Lenin in the first years of the twentieth century. Plekhanov and Lenin were to go their separate ways. By the time of the October Revolution in 1917 Plekhanov had moved considerably to...

The professor and the helicopter

People tried to construct flying machines for thousands of years before the first planes were built in the early 20th century, and the first regularly-produced helicopters from the 1930s. Suppose a historian were to study all the documents she or he could find about that effort, prior to say 1900, but without registering that the purpose was to find a flying machine. Maybe the historian would imagine that the purpose was just to find some way of getting from place to place, and would comment: why didn’t they just walk? John Kelly, an academic at Birkbeck University, structures his account of...

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