very fact that Monty Johnstone is here debating with me this
evening on the problem of Trotskyism today should in itself be
considered evidence of what Trotskyism is not.
I am not going to insult the intelligence of anyone
present by saying that it is not counterrevolutionary or an
agency of fascism, or an agency of imperialism, or any of that
nonsense. For if
that were the case, not only would this debate not take place
but many other things which have been happening in the world in
the last few years would be incomprehensible.
thing Trotskyism is not is a defeated tendency in the
international workers movement. It is not Menshevik-type revision of Marxism that has been
crushed definitively, as was said in the Soviet Union in its
fifteenth party congress in 1927; as was repeated by the
unfortunate Nikita Sergeivitch Khrushchev at the twentieth party
congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956; as
has been repeated over and over again in innumerable
publications under the control of the Stalinist bureaucracy.
Because, if it were really a crushed, defeated,
nonexistent, eliminated, Menshevik tendency, why would anybody
want to discuss with it? Why
is the Soviet bureaucracy after having crushed, destroyed,
eliminated and vanquished this tendency, forty, thirty, twenty,
and ten years ago, why are the spokesmen for these bureaucrats
today forced to write books, pamphlets, and articles and keep
coming back to this problem?
Why have there been three or four new books on Trotskyism
published in the Soviet Union in the last twelve months, if ours
is a definitively defeated tendency?
I think the first point we ought to make this evening is to
render historical justice to the founder of the Red Army and to
the leader of the insurrection of the October revolution which
initiated the first victorious working-class revolution in a
whole country. On
this ninetieth anniversary of the birth of Leon Trotsky, which
coincides with the anniversary of the October revolution, the
political movement he founded, the ideas he stood for, the
program he defended, live stronger than ever in the world.
is today a vibrant youth movement.
Thousands of young people are coming to Trotskyism all
over the world. And
that is the only reason Monty Johnstone of the Communist Party
feels obliged to debate with us about Trotskyism, that is the
only reason why the Soviet bureaucracy has to put out a steady
stream of speeches, pamphlets, magazine articles and books on
the subject of Trotsky.
today is mainly a youth movement, a movement of youth that is
being built and expanded on the five continents.
For that very same reason I am not going to dwell in the
least on the question that Monty Johnstone is going to talk
about quite a lot: What
Trotsky wrote or did not write in 1905, in 1912, in 1917, or in
1918. For I want to say from the beginning that this is pretty
irrelevant to the actualities of the contemporary revolutionary
anyone really think that 250,000 people vote for a Trotskyist
presidential candidate in France, does anyone really think that
in Ceylon today a Trotskyist trade union leader leads tens of
thousands of workers in big strikes, does anyone really think
that tens of thousands of people demonstrate behind banners
which the whole of public opinion in Japan today calls
Trotskyist, because of what Trotsky wrote in 1907 or 1912?
overwhelming majority of these people have not read what he
wrote and are not interested in reading all that -- this is a
mistake on their part, because everybody should be interested in
the history of the revolutionary movement -- but they rightly
regard that as irrelevant to the main problem which we have to
understand and explain: What is the origin, what is the root of
the strength of world Trotskyism today, why do thousands and
thousands of people flock to its banner on a world scale, and
why do the Soviet bureaucrats and Monty Johnstone, their British
spokesman, have to reopen a debate which they hoped had been
finished with machine-gun bullets thirty or thirty-five years
ago, in the period of the infamous Moscow Trials?
will give four basic reasons why the Trotskyist movement is
stronger now than ever before; why thousands of people are
adhering to it throughout the world; why it has a bigger
numerical, geographical and political extension than ever
before, even during the 1920s, while it was still a tendency
inside the Communist parties and the Communist International.
first reason has to do with a basic problem of the colonial
revolution and the way forward for the underdeveloped,
semicolonial countries. Stalinism
and Stalinist parties, parties which call themselves Communist,
still follow a Menshevik or semi-Menshevik policy.
That is, they believe as the Russian Mensheviks believed,
that because these countries are backward, because the
industrial bourgeoisie has not yet come to political power, that
the immediate strategic task for the working class and poor
peasantry is somehow to establish an alliance with this national
bourgeoisie against imperialism and against feudal and
semi-feudal forces. The
aim of such an alliance would be to arrive at a coalition form
of government -- a “government of the four classes” as it
was called in China from 1925 to 1927 -- government of the
“National Front,” or a regime of “National Democracy,”
as it was called in the new official program of the Soviet
has confirmed what Trotsky’s theory of the permanent
revolution proclaimed as early as 1906, that there is no way out
for any underdeveloped colonial or semicolonial country along
such a road; that any struggle that limits itself to fighting
against rural feudal or semifeudal landlords, or foreign
imperialism, while keeping the national bourgeoisie in power,
while maintaining capitalist property relations intact, while
refraining from establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat
allied to the poor peasantry, will inevitably leave these
underdeveloped countries backward, stagnating, exploited and
super exploited by international and national capital.
a policy will not be able to tear the millions populating these
countries out of their age-old miseries.
Experience has also taught a much more terrible lesson.
Thousands and thousands of Communists in Brazil in 1964,
in Iraq in 1958, and five hundred thousand Communists in
Indonesia in 1965 had to pay with their lives for the illusion
that it was possible, desirable, or necessary to establish
durable relationships of coalition and collaboration with
bourgeois or semi bourgeois political forces.
Such a subordination and sacrifice of independent mass
struggle can only lead to a crushing defeat for the working
class and the poor peasantry.
lives and grows with new members, attracts new tendencies and
builds new parties in the underdeveloped countries because it
stands for this basic rule of revolution. There is no way out for these colonial and semicolonial
countries but the way of the permanent revolution.
There is no possibility of acquiring real national
liberation, real independence from imperialism, without
overthrowing the bourgeois class together with the agents of
foreign imperialism and the feudal and semifeudal landlords.
There is no possibility of liberating the people,
peasants and workers, without establishing the dictatorship of
the proletariat allied with the poor peasantry, without creating
a workers state. Only
in those countries where this happened -- China, Cuba, North
Vietnam, and it’s happening now in South Vietnam -- is there a
way to social and economic progress.
Wherever, through the responsibility of the Communist
parties following the Moscow line, which is Stalinist
Menshevism, that has been prevented from happening, there have
been defeats, misery, tears and bloodshed for the working people
of these countries.
is this contemporary reality, rather than quotations from 1907,
1917, or 1921, that has to be faced by anyone who wants to
understand what is going on in this sector of the world
revolution. For the
Trotskyist movement, for the revolutionary Marxists throughout
the world, it was a moment of great vindication when the leading
idea of the permanent revolution -- that the only road to
victory in a backward country is through a socialist revolution
-- was taken over by the Cuban revolutionaries and proclaimed in
the Second Declaration of Havana, after the first victorious
revolution in the Western Hemisphere.
This gave proof that Leon Trotsky and the Fourth
International had been one hundred per cent correct in their
strategic line for the underdeveloped countries.
second reason for the growth of Trotskyism on a world scale is
that we stand completely and unconditionally for the
revolutionary road to socialism in the industrialized
imperialist countries as against the reformist electoral road
defended by the Communist parties in Western Europe, Japan,
North America, Australia and New Zealand.
When we say that we follow the revolutionary road, this
does not mean that we are partisans of putschism or adventurism,
that we think a few hundred people here and a few hundred there
can snatch power unexpectedly without anybody taking notice of
it, in the advanced capitalist countries.
There the bourgeoisie represents tremendous power.
It has political experience, it has the benefits of
political tradition and political continuity.
Its rule over these countries does not depend simply and
solely upon its weapons of repression -- its army and police --
but rather upon the ideological and political influence it still
wields over a large part of the petty bourgeoisie and even among
a part of the working class itself.
clear and uncompromising stand in favor of the revolutionary
road to socialism essentially pivots around three points:
Firstly, objective situations independent of the will and
control of any group or party periodically create
prerevolutionary situations in industrially advanced countries.
At these moments of revolutionary mass upsurge these
objective situations unavoidably lead to large-scale actions of
the working class such as general strikes and factory
occupations which obviously go beyond the limits of struggle for
immediate wage demands and working conditions.
The duty of revolutionary parties and groups representing
the revolutionary vanguard is to prepare themselves and the best
working-class militants to intervene during these hours, days
and weeks, for it is only through these periodic upsurges of the
mass movement that the chance is presented to overthrow
cannot overthrow capitalism gradually, you cannot abolish a
bourgeois army battalion by battalion, you cannot destroy the
power of the bourgeoisie piece by piece.
You can only accomplish these aims through the
revolutionary mobilization of the masses, and revolutionary
actions of this sort are not possible every day when “business
as usual” prevails. Revolutionary action is possible only during those
prerevolutionary situations when
the tension of class relations is at its maximum and the class
conflict is sharpest. A
party, a vanguard and a class must be prepared to intervene at
that juncture in a decisive manner in order to make a
breakthrough toward the conquest of power and a victorious
Secondly, if you want to develop a situation in which the
working class wants to know what to do next, in which conditions
for revolution are favorable, you must engage in prior
propaganda, agitation, and action for transitional demands,
especially for the key demand for workers control of production,
which crowns all the other demands of the working class in its
struggle for power in the industrialized countries.
To think that a working class which has been educated,
day after day, month after month, year after year, in nothing
but immediate trade union demands and electoral politics will in
some mysterious way suddenly become capable of revolutionary
consciousness and action in a revolutionary situation is to
believe in magic or miracles.
said that the ABC of revolutionary policy and the duty of
a revolutionary party is to conduct revolutionary propaganda
also in periods that are not yet revolutionary.
Lenin said that this is precisely what makes the
difference between a revolutionary party and a reformist or a
centrist party. When
revolution does break out, many people suddenly discover their
revolutionary soul. But
a revolutionary party has the constant duty to propagandize for
revolution even if the situation has not yet reached the point
of showdown between the classes.
Its work in this respect can be an influential factor in
accelerating revolutionary consciousness.
Thirdly, we believe that the struggle for transitional demands,
for those demands which cannot be incorporated or assimilated
into the normal functioning of bourgeois society should not be
conducted solely by propagandistic means.
Every opportunity should be taken to impel the working
class into motion around such demands.
They should be introduced into the ongoing daily struggle
of the class by all avenues.
Unless the workers acquire experience by fighting for
these demands in partial struggles they will be unable to
generalize their outlook at the height of revolutionary
these demands will appear to them as something that falls from
the sky, that is imposed from without or advocated only by small
would like to ask Monty Johnstone how he squares the following
quotation from Lenin regarding the obligations of a vanguard
party with the course followed by the French Communist Party in
May 1968. Lenin
Will this situation last
long; how much more acute will it become?
Will it lead to revolution?
This is something we do not know, and nobody can know.
The answer can be provided only by the experience
gained during the development of revolutionary sentiment and
the transition to revolutionary action by the advanced class,
the proletariat. There
can be no talk in this connection about “illusions” or
their repudiation, since no socialist has ever guaranteed that
this war (and not the next one), that today’s revolutionary
situation (and not tomorrow’s) will produce a revolution. What we are discussing is the indisputable and fundamental
duty of all socialists – that of revealing to the masses the
existence of a revolutionary situation,
explaining its scope and depth, arousing the proletariat’s
revolutionary consciousness and revolutionary determination,
helping it to go over to revolutionary action, and forming,
for that purpose, organizations suited to the revolutionary
compare that quotation, which breathes the spirit of genuine
Bolshevism, with the conduct of the Communist parties of France,
Italy, Greece, Belgium, and other capitalist countries over the
past twenty-five years (not to go still further back to the
prewar period), especially with the conduct of the French CP in
May 1968, and you will understand both the fundamentally
reformist character of these parties and why thousands of young
rebels are adhering to Trotskyism in these countries.
third reason for the growth of Trotskyism today has to do with
the crucial question of workers democracy.
The main historical goal to be attained in those
countries that have already abolished capitalism is the
institution of democratically centralized workers
self-management in opposition to the material privileges and the
monopoly of political and economic power wielded by the
bureaucratic rulers are the object of hatred by thousands of
youth, critically minded intellectuals, and advanced workers in
these postcapitalist states.
That was graphically evidenced during those few months in
the Czechoslovakia of 1968 when these elements of the population
had the chance to speak out, at least in part, their real
thoughts and feelings.
bureaucratic regimes in these countries are one of the main
reasons for the discrediting of the cause of socialism in the
industrialized West which deters much larger numbers of
students, intellectuals, and workers from coming out
wholeheartedly in favor of a socialist revolution and communism.
I am referring to is not a full-fledged socialist society, that
is to say, a society without any social differentiation, where
commodity production and money relations have withered away.
Such conditions cannot exist in any of the East European
countries today and that is not what is involved in our
discussion of their political situation and problems.
is both possible and urgently called for in the existing
situation is what I call a political revolution, a set of
changes in the superstructure of the system which would initiate
or fulfill the elementary demands of the Marxist and Leninist
program on the nature of a dictatorship of the proletariat,
leading to the building of a socialist society.
In none of the works by Marx or Engels will you find a
single sentence, for example, which asserts that the
dictatorship of the proletariat means the monopoly of power by a
will you find the slightest support for the abominable notion
that the dictatorship of the proletariat means the application
of a repressive censorship, not against nonexistent
representatives of capitalism and landlordism, but against the
working class. These
practices have been introduced and implemented by Stalinism.
invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Kremlin bureaucracy not only
violated the sovereignty and independence of a small nation and
a fraternal and allied workers state. It was equally criminal in other respects.
It identified the suppression of democratic rights such
as freedom of expression for workers, students and
intellectuals, with the name of communism by taking away from
the Czechoslovakian workers the rights they had regained between
January and August 1968 to vote independently on resolutions, to
have them published in their trade union journals, to criticize
the government if they disagreed with its policies and to
criticize the managers of their factories.
were not very extensive rights and they were a far cry from the
full-fledged socialist democracy they were entitled to and
striving for. Lenin
in State and Revolution says that under the dictatorship
of the proletariat the workers should have a thousand-fold more
freedom of self-expression and self-organization than they
enjoyed under bourgeois democracy.
even this elementary right was taken away and hundreds of
thousands of soldiers were sent into the Czechoslovak Socialist
Republic for that purpose. That was a shameful disgrace.
That is why we Trotskyists first have to reestablish what
Marxism and Leninism really stand for, because the crimes of
Stalinism have so distorted their true content in the minds of
democracy involves far more than the self-evident right of the
workers to free expression without state censorship or
democracy means the self-management of the working class on a
democratically centralized basis.
It means that the workers should run the factories not
only as individual and separate units, but the economy as a
requires the subordination of the national planning authorities
to the congress of workers councils.
It means that the mass of the working class actually
exercises the power and determines through its discussions and
decisions how the annual national income shall be divided
between the consumption and the accumulation funds, that is,
between what is used up and enjoyed for immediate needs, and
what is set aside and invested for future growth.
the possession and exercise of such rights the working class
does not really rule, whatever compliments the official
propagandists may offer to console it for its lack or loss of
power. It is
because the Trotskyist program most consistently advocates such
democratic rule of the workers that it is bound to win more
forces in the Soviet Union and East Europe, where the underlying
trends of development are more and more directed toward a
political revolution by the masses against the arbitrariness of
the bureaucratic autocracy.
Trotskyism is most noteworthy today for its uncompromising
August 1914 and still more after October 1917, Lenin and the
Bolsheviks set about to revive the principles and the instrument
of internationalism which had been trampled upon by the prewar
and pro-imperialist social democratic leaders.
One of the most bitter fruits of the anti-Marxist theory
of socialism in one country, which Stalin originated and imposed
upon world Communism from 1924 on, was the violation and the
betrayal of the international solidarity of the working-class
flouting of internationalism culminated in the scuttling of the
Communist International by Stalin in 1943 as a favor to
Churchill and Roosevelt.
the leaders and followers of international Stalinism are
beginning to taste some more of these bitter fruits, which
result from subordinating the welfare of the workers movement to
the narrow and selfish dictates of the Kremlin bureaucracy.
They see the appalling spectacle of the two largest
workers states in the world at each other’s throats, and even
hinting at the possibilities of hostilities between each other.
This situation has come about not because either the
Soviet or the Chinese masses willed it, but because it is a
logical consequence of the despicable petty bourgeois
nationalist tendencies and outlooks that guide the bureaucratic
strata at the head of these countries today.
Soviet leaders have gone so far as to encourage and allow
so-called communist journalists to talk about “the yellow
peril” and to depict the Chinese people as misled by “new
Genghis Khans” and as a “menace to civilization.”
The fact that such utterly reactionary and racist
utterances can come from a government and a party that still
call themselves communist shows the degree of degeneration to
which these organizations have succumbed.
the height of its power, Stalinism boasted of the monolithic
character of the world Communist movement which was bound
together by ideological terror and enforced conformity.
Now all that is passed.
The last Moscow conference of the “World Communist
Parties” demonstrated how far disintegration has proceeded.
There are hardly two Communist parties which have any
measure of autonomy today that think alike and pursue the same
cannot contend against one another and harbor all sorts of
divergent tendencies and factions.
One can count up to fifteen different “Communist”
tendencies on a world scale.
The Stalinists used to deride the Trotskyist movement in
the past for being ridden by incessant factionalism and splits. They are silent on this score nowadays -- and for good
reason! None of the
splits among the Trotskyists has been comparable to the gigantic
fissures that have opened up in the international Communist
movement and keep widening from year to year.
with the tremendous centralized power of the imperialist
counterrevolution in the world arena, the youth and the
revolutionaries on all continents keenly feel the need for an
equivalent centralization of their own forces.
They cannot believe that the polycentrism and
decentralization that characterize world Stalinism -- where the
revolutionary movement and the working class in each country is
left to its own devices and no one is concerned with the
international interests and aims of the struggle for socialism
-- is ideal. They
cannot believe this because it runs counter to the most urgent
needs of the struggle of the working masses and to the
traditions of Marxism and Leninism.
were moved to respond so powerfully to Che Guevara’s famous
appeal for “two, three, many Vietnams” because it
corresponded to their innermost urge for an international
coordination of their anticolonialist, anti-imperialist,
anticapitalist efforts. Che’s
final message was essentially a call for some central leadership
for the world revolution.
explains why the idea of the Fourth International as a new
revolutionary working-class organization carrying on the best
traditions of Marxism, which so many dismissed as unreal and
utopian, is capturing the minds and stirring the imagination of
thousands of young people all over the globe.
The socialist revolution cannot advance and certainly
cannot triumph on a world scale without the resurgence of the
need for a new revolutionary international impressing itself on
the consciousness of serious fighters for a new world.
The international we want to build and are building will
be centralized, but it will not be bureaucratically centralized.
It was the bureaucratic centralism of the Stalinist type,
that fake centralism which had nothing in common with Lenin’s
conceptions or organizing the working-class vanguard, which
spawned the disintegrated and reactionary tendencies at work in
the world Communist movement today.
History will prove that democratic centralism, with its
freedom of discussion, is not an obstacle but the indispensable
vehicle for elaborating a program and implementing united action
against the class enemy.
then are the four pillars of Trotskyism today: the theory and
practice of the permanent revolution, the revolutionary road to
socialism through working-class mass action in the advanced
capitalist countries, political revolution for socialist
democracy in the Soviet bloc and China, and proletarian
Fourth International is a growing force on all of the continents
because its fundamental ideas express the objective requirements
of the world revolutionary process and carry on the ideas of
Leninism, of socialism and communism in our epoch.