L. Trotsky

Dialectics Catches Up
with Burnham and Shachtman

(5 June 1940)

First Published: Socialist Appeal, Vol. IV No. 24, 15 June 1940, p. 4.
A fuller version can be found in the Trotsky collection, In Defense of Marxism.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2019. Creative Commons (Attribute & Share-alike).

(The announcement that James Burnham, leader of the petty-bourgeois opposition that split from the Socialist Workers Party in April, had retired from the movement because he had come to the conclusion that socialism was not the next stage of society, provoked the following comment from Leon Trotsky, which we excerpt from a letter.)


Burnham doesn’t recognize dialectics but dialectics does not permit him to escape from its net. He is caught as a fly in a web. The blow he gave to Shachtman is irreparable. What a lesson on principled and unprincipled blocs! And poor Abern. Four years ago he found the protector for his family clique in the person of Holy Father Muste and his altar boy Spector; now he repeated the same experiment with the secularized Catholic, Burnham and his attorney, Shachtman ... In the good old times we waited, often for years and decades for a verification of a prognosis. Now the tempo of events is so feverish that the verification comes unexpectedly the next day. Poor Shachtman!

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Last updated on: 1 February 2019