Max Shachtman


Genesis of Trotskyism



Since this pamphlet was first written, a number of events have taken place which should be borne in mind in reading what follows. Outstanding among these events is the cruel defeat suffered by the German working class at the hands of triumphant Fascism. The victory of the barbaric capitalist reaction in Germany was made possible essentially by the impotence of the proletariat. In turn, that was induced by the craven treachery of the party of the Second International, and the bankruptcy into which the official Communist party was thrown by Stalinism.

The collapse of the German Communist party removes from the dwindling ranks of the Communist International the last of its sections possessing any mass following or influence. What is left of this organization lies prostrate, bleeding from a thousand wounds, rendered incapable of rising again as a revolutionary or progressive force by the stranglehold of the Russian Soviet bureaucracy.

The defeat of the German proletariat and its Communist party is the terrifying payment they were forced to make for the demoralization, disorientation and bureaucratic Centrism to which they were subjected for ten years by the Stalinist machine. The German working class must now suffer all the diabolical torture of the Hitlerite savages, and as a consequence, the working class of the entire world is also set back. Not because the triumph of Fascism was inevitable. Quite the contrary. Had the German proletariat been mobilized in the united front movement for which we agitated unremittingly, and for which we were condemned as counter-revolutionists and “social-Fascists,” the Brown Shirts would have been crushed and never have reached the seat of power. The social democrats on the one hand, and the Stalinists on the other, stood like boulders in the path of the working class. Instead of the accelerator of the revolution, the Stalinists acted as a brake upon it.

This foreword can pretend only to the briefest reference to the new problems, for a more extensive elucidation of which the voluminous literature of our movement must be consulted. Suffice it to say that the German events, and the bureaucratic self-contentment and unconcern, deepening of the errors and disintegration of Stalinism and its parties which followed them, have brought us to the ineluctable conclusion: That the Communist International has been strangled by Stalinism, is bankrupt, is beyond recovery or restoration on Marxian foundations; That the internally devoured Stalinist parties which proved so impotent at the decisive moment of struggle against the class enemy in China, then in swift succession in Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, now in Czechoslovakia, tomorrow elsewhere – will never be able to deal with the burning problems of the struggle in any of the other countries; That this holds true especially, and above all, of the situation in the Soviet Union, where the dangers to the workers’ state multiply without a corresponding growth of strength of the proletarian organizations; That the wealth of past experience and the whole of the present world situation dictate to the earnest revolutionist the course of breaking relentlessly and completely with the decadent Stalinist apparatus and embarking upon the course of building up a new Communist International and new Communist parties in every country of the world. The Left Opposition, breaking with its past policy of acting as a faction of the official party, has solemnly dedicated itself to this tremendous historical task. To the new movement it offers that rich and comprehensive experience, that tested and verified body of revolutionary ideas and criticism which it developed in the ten years of its existence as a distinct current in the revolutionary movement. It came into being as the direct heir and executor of fundamentally the same tendency which originated with Marx and Engels, was first victorious in the Russian revolution, and will find its full fruition in the world revolution for the liberation of human kind.


November 1933


Last updated on 9.4.2005