Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Daphna Whitmore, General Secretary WPNZ

Why Trotskyism abhors revolution

Issued: The Spark, September 3, 2001.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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There are liberation struggles developing in a number of exploited countries. The most outstanding of these are led by genuine communist parties which are heading armed struggles. These are peoples’ wars of liberation, for new democracy – mass democracy – to sweep away feudalism and semi-colonial servitude as a transition to socialism. In India, Nepal, the Philippines, Peru and Turkey these movements have mass support. They are also supported by the most politically advanced workers and progressives around the world who see the beginnings of the renewal of the world communist movement. For Marxist-Leninists solidarity with these revolutions is considered an internationalist duty.

Here the dividing line between Marxism-Leninism and Trotskyism is starkly drawn. On the side of revolution are those parties waging people’s war and parties supporting them, on the other side stand the ruling classes and their allies the Trotskyists and other strands of revisionism.

Take the Socialist Workers’ Organisation, a neo-Trotksyist group in New Zealand. In its fortnightly paper readers will find not a single word about these revolutionary struggles. Year after year, not a mention. No articles reporting the armed struggles of the workers and peasants against landlords, employers and their fascist regimes. No word of the heroic struggles of the revolutionaries who are laying down their lives for a socialist future. No call for solidarity with these living struggles. The leadership of the SWO is fully in step with the capitalist media which keeps up a policy of suppression of information. While the members of Trotskyist organisations may not be aware of the counter-revolutionary and diversionary role of Trotskyism, the leaders are consciously suppressing the facts.

It would not do for workers in New Zealand to know that communism is not dead, that it is inspiring armed rebellion in Asia and Latin America.

Occasionally the capitalist media breaks its silence in order to condemn the armed struggles. The Trotskyist parallel can be found in Class Struggle, the bimonthly paper of the Communist Workers Group. They too suppress the news about people’s war except when they launch unprincipled attacks against it. With undisguised glee they (called Workers Power at that time) declared the people’s war in Peru was finished when its leader, Abimael Guzman, was captured in 1992. Their words mirrored those of the fascist president, Alberto Fujimori. Eight years later it was Fujimori who was finished – fleeing the country as a swindler and crook who had robbed the country of hundreds of millions of dollars. The people’s war has been subjected to extreme repression and has lost ground but it has not been extinguished, no matter how much CWG may wish it had.

Class Struggle, apart from adopting a few ultra-revolutionary poses, puts much effort into regurgitating standard capitalist propaganda. In a feeble article attacking the WPNZ for its criticisms of Trotskyism Class Struggle reads like an article from the capitalist press: Stalin was a dictator, so was Mao Tsetung. The cringingly lame attempts at humour only sink the article further. The fact that both Stalin and Mao were leaders of the world communist movement and were considered the principle enemies of world imperialism cuts no ice with Trotskyists who make their living denouncing Stalin and Mao. Class Struggle imagined it was delivering a master blow ’challenging the Workers’ Party General Secretary to find a single revolutionary of any great importance, including Marx (and Stalin), whom Lenin has not written scathingly of’.

Not long before his death Lenin did criticise Stalin for rudeness, and questioned his suitability to be general secretary because of this. He also warned there was too much power concentrated in the general secretary’s post. Trotskyists have called this letter ’Lenin’s will’ or ’testiment’ and claim Stalin suppressed it. In fact, four months after Lenin’s death, on 18 May 1924 Lenin’s wife Krupskaya sent the letter to Kamenev, who passed it on to the General Secretary, Stalin. Stalin passed the letter the following day to the steering committee of the 13th Party Congress due to begin on 23 May 1924. The letter was discussed at the Party Congress and the Central Committee decided not to publish it because among other things Lenin had asked that it not be published. Lenin did not leave any ’will’, as such a thing would run counter to his thinking and to the practice of a Leninist party which is based on democratic centralism and is not a dynasty.

Lenin spent his life developing Marxism, not issuing scathing attacks on Marx. Let Class Struggle prove their claim and print these scathing comments against Marx. They will spend a long time looking to prove their claim because no such comments exist.

The world historic achievements of the socialist USSR and China do not impress the Trotskyists. They are full of hatred, declaring there was never socialism in these countries – or if there was it was for just a few brief years in the USSR – destroyed even before Lenin’s death. The masses in the USSR had enormous enthusiasm for the building of socialism and because of this were able to develop a modern society in an extraordinarily short time. All over the USSR masses of workers, peasants and soldiers rose and took power under the leadership of their local Soviets (councils). The capitalist and Tsarist forces mobilised armies of millions to crush the revolution. They were joined by imperialist armies from Britain, France, the USA and eleven other countries to fight the revolutionary forces of the USSR. The counter revolution was defeated and the Soviet people began the difficult task of building socialism while facing a hostile encirclement. Lenin made it clear that despite this encirclement the Soviet people could rely on the support of the workers within the imperialist countries. He was right; in Britain workers refused to load ships with armaments bound for the counter-revolutionary armies.

Lenin laid out plans for the building of socialism, including industrialisation and collectivisation of farming. While the capitalist world was slumped in a deep economic depression in the 1930s the Soviet Union was taking huge steps forward in economic and social development By and large Lenin’s plans were carried out, often at breakneck speed because it was anticipated that imperialism would invade again. That happened with the Nazi invasion June, 1941. While the rest of Europe crumbled before Hitler’s army the Eastern Front is where the Nazi army was broken. The Soviet Union almost single-handedly defeated Nazi Germany, with Britain delaying opening a second front until it was evident the USSR was on the brink of liberating all of Europe.

It was socialism the Soviet people were defending and they put up a struggle on a scale never seen before. Leningrad, a city with a population of three million, was under siege for two years but the people would not capitulate. Hundreds of thousands starved to death rather than surrender. These incredible, heroic periods in history are censored by capitalist historians. The Trotskyists are of the same school. Readers of Trotskyist publications will learn nothing about the building of socialism in the USSR and how it was defended. Trotsky had declared in 1940 ’Stalin cannot make a war with discontented workers and peasants and with a decapitated Red Army’ (German-Soviet Alliance). At the end of the war Trotskyism was thoroughly discredited, regarded as merely an anti-communist mouthpiece in the service of imperialism. People should consider what sort of world we would be living in today had the Nazis not been defeated by the Soviet Union.

In China in Mao’s time the country was transformed from the most backward and impoverished in all of Asia plagued with famine and misery into a dynamic society where backward customs were left behind and socialism was being built. It was a revolution even more complex than the Russian revolution because of China’s great population and its semi-colonial status.

Despite the astounding achievements of socialism, capitalism was restored in the USSR in the 1950s. The most profound examination of the restoration of capitalism was undertaken by Mao in the early 1960s, and he showed how a new bourgeoisie inevitably grows up in socialist society because of bourgeois right and survivals of bourgeois ideology. In China the new bourgeoisie also seized power, with a coup d’etat in 1976 one month after Mao’s death, and rapidly set about restoring capitalism, while still leaving the socialist signboard out.

It is not inevitable that the new bourgeoisie will seize power. The challenge for future socialist revolutions is to ensure the new bourgeoisie are not in a position to restore capitalism. We have dealt with these questions in a number of publications (see our literature list in the centre pages)

Today it is particularly distressing for Trotskyists – hardcore and neo-Trotskyists alike – to see the revival of Marxist-Leninist-led revolutions, inspired by the teachings of Mao Tsetung.

Mao developed the theory of ’protracted people’s war’ which recognised that in the face of a more powerful enemy a people’s war could nevertheless be won. Mao’s concept of protracted people’s war is suited to semi-feudal and semi-colonial countries and it enabled the Vietnamese to defeat the might of US imperialism. Through people’s war the masses are mobilised step-by-step for armed struggle, liberating the countryside and finally surrounding the cities which in backward countries are the strongholds of imperialism.

India, a country of extremes, crying out for revolutionary change is offering new hope to its millions of workers and peasants with a people’s war unfolding over the past three decades. Now parts of the country encompassing a population numbering 20 million people are in liberated guerrilla zones, where a new democracy is being established. The Communist Party of India (ML) [People’s War] is leading the struggle and has considerable influence over an area with a population of 100 million. Land is being distributed to the peasants, co-operative production is being promoted and the people are defending their victories with armed struggle. In the southern state of Orissa the Malkangiri district was recently surrendered to the communists – known in India as Naxalites. A recent article from the Times of India reported ’units of the Orissa Special Armed Police, deployed to tackle the Naxalites, have been withdrawn from the district’s rural belt and towns following threats from militants. The police force will now be confined to the district headquarter town of Malkangiri’ (majdur.htmlplanet.com 20 August 2001).

In Nepal a people’s war began in 1996 and has spread like a blaze across the countryside. The state forces are losing territory to the guerrillas rapidly, with an estimated one-quarter of the country supporting the people’s war.

In the Philippines there is a people’s war with 100 guerrilla fronts throughout the country, a significant expansion from 81 in 1999. The New People’s Army (NPA), under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has a total strength that amounts to several regiments. A typical guerrilla front has a total force of a company with a platoon as the centre of gravity and other units spread over a wider radius. Thousands of men and women serve full-time in the NPA. In the second half of the year 2000 alone, sixty-six tactical offensives were successfully launched in 32 providences of the Philippines. (Talk by Luis Jaladoni of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, May 2001).

In Peru from January to June this year there were 79 guerrilla actions reported in the reactionary press in Peru. These included ambushes of military and police forces, confiscation of weapons from the state, mass mobilisations and the shooting down of a military helicopter. (Red Sun).

The revolutionary movements are most advanced in the semi-colonial, semi-feudal countries, with good reason – this is where the contradictions of imperialism are most concentrated. Lenin considered capitalism had reached a new stage, its highest stage, at the turn of the twentieth century. This stage he called imperialism (although he was not the originator of the term). Imperialism is a system of world economy which has countless contradictions which propel change and development. Lenin viewed imperialism as an integrated system and that the proletarian revolution would break through at the point where imperialism was at its weakest. The key was to grab the weakest link in order to move the whole chain along. He showed that there was great unevenness inherent in imperialism and that this meant revolution was likely in one country before others. Other countries may or may not follow, but Lenin rejected the notion that socialism could not be built in one country. He first spoke of this in The United States of Europe Slogan 1915. In this he states ’Uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism’.

Trotsky denied the uneven development of capitalist countries under imperialism. Nor did he see imperialism forming an integrated whole which could be broken through at its weakest point. His position was that a country could not make a revolution alone. It would have to wait until other countries begin, or face defeat. If there is no revolution elsewhere, you are doomed. He tried to cover up this defeatist line by saying a revolution in one country supported by revolutions in other countries could survive. But with Trotskyism as a guiding theory no country would ever start a revolution on its own. Each must wait until all are ready – an impossibility with the level of unevenness which is so glaringly obvious to any objective observer.

Trotskyism is strongest in Britain and France where the Marxist-Leninist movement was greatly weakened by the communist parties’ turn to revisionism in the 1950s. The large petty bourgeoisie also makes these countries fertile ground for Trotskyism. To varying degrees this is the case in a number of advanced capitalist countries. Where Trotskyism has no influence is those countries with revolutionary movements, such as those mentioned earlier in this article, waging people’s war. As the world communist movement rebuilds – a start has already been made – Trotskyism will be more exposed as a counter-revolutionary trend. That is happening today, with its attitude of hostility to the people’s war revolutionary movements.