Leon Trotsky

Intellectual Ex-Radicals
and World Reaction

The Crisis of the Disillusioned Fellow-Travelers of Bolshevism
Is Not the Same as a “Crisis of Marxism”

(Early 1939)

Source: Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 8, 17 February 1939, p. 4.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2015. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

During the last decade the older generation of the radical intelligentsia has been greatly influenced by Stalinism. Today the turn away from Stalinism in the advanced countries, at any rate, has been reaching ever wider proportions. Some are sincerely disappointed in their illusions while others are simply aware that the ship is in dangerous straits and are in a hurry to leave it. It would be naive to expect that the “disillusioned” should turn to Marxism with which, in the nature of things, they were never acquainted. For most intellectuals their departure from Stalinism signifies a complete break with the revolution and a passive reconciliation with nationalistic democracy. These “disillusioned” provide a culture medium sui generis for the bacilli of scepticism and pessimism.

They say: “It is impossible to do anything at the present time. Europe will fall wholly under the sway of Fascism anyway, and the bourgeoisie in the United States is far too powerful. The revolutionary roads lead nowhere. We must adapt ourselves to the democratic regime; we must defend it against all attacks. There is no future for the Fourth International, at all events, not for the next two or three decades ...” and so forth and so on.

Fellow Travellers Join the Disillusioned

The ranks of the disillusioned include not only Stalinists but also the temporary fellow-travellers of Bolshevism. Victor Serge – to cite an instance – has recently announced that Bolshevism is passing through a crisis which presages in turn the “crisis of Marxism.” In his theoretical innocence, Serge imagines himself the first to have made this discovery. Yet, in every epoch of reaction, scores and hundreds of unstable revolutionists have risen to announce the “crisis of Marxism” – the final, the crucial, the mortal crisis.

That the old Bolshevik party has spent itself, has degenerated and perished – that much is beyond controversy. But the ruin of a given historical party, which had for a certain period based itself upon the Marxian doctrine, does not at all signify the ruination of that doctrine. The defeat of an army does not invalidate the fundamental precepts of strategy. Should an artilleryman fire wide of the mark, that would by no means invalidate ballistics, that is, the algebra of artillery. If the army of the proletariat suffers a defeat, or if its party degenerates, then this does not at all invalidate Marxism, which is the algebra of revolution. That Victor Serge himself is passing through a “crisis,” i.e., has become hopelessly confused like thousands of other intellectuals – is clear enough. But Victor Serge in crisis is not the crisis of Marxism.

The Coming War Will Shatter All Illusions

In any case, no serious revolutionist would think of using intellectuals in confusion, Stalinists in disillusion and sceptics in dejection as a yardstick with which to measure the march of history. World reaction has unquestionably assumed monstrous proportions nowadays. But thereby it has prepared the soil for the greatest revolutionary crisis. Fascism may perhaps seize upon the whole of Europe. But it will not be able to maintain itself there not only for a “thousand years,” as Hitler dreams, but not even for a, decade. The fascization of Europe means the monstrous aggravation of class and international contradictions.

It is absurd, unscientific, unhistorical to think that reaction will continue to unfold at the same gradual pace at which it has been accumulating hitherto. Reaction signifies this, that the social contradictions are mechanically suppressed. At a certain stage, an explosion is inevitable. World reaction will be overthrown by the greatest catastrophe in world history, or, more correctly, by a series of revolutionary catastrophes. The coming war, which is now being awaited by everyone within the nearest future, will signify the crash of all illusions. Not only the illusions of reformism, pacifism and democratism but also the illusions of Fascism. Only one beacon will rise above the blood-drenched chaos – the beacon of Marxism.

Marxism Is the Strongest Reality

Hegel was fond of saying: all that is rational is real. This means: every idea that corresponds to objective needs of development attains triumph and victory. No intellectually honest individual can deny that the analysis and prognosis made by the Bolshevik-Leninists (Fourth Internationalists) during the past 15 years have met and still meet with confirmation in the events of our time. It is precisely in this certainty of their correctness that the basic sections of the Fourth International are strong and immutable. The catastrophes of European and world capitalism which are hovering over mankind will clear the path before the steeled cadres of the revolutionary Marxists.

Let the disillusioned ones bury their own dead. The working class is not a corpse. As hitherto, society rests upon it. It needs a new leadership. It will find this nowhere but in the Fourth International. All that is rational is real. Social democracy and Stalinocracy even today represent stupendous fictions. But the Fourth International is an impregnable reality.

return return return return return

Last updated on: 1 December 2015