The essence of Trotskyism is petty-bourgeois opportunism putting on a ’left’ pose. Theoretically, it is a wing of social democracy and revisionism, not Marxism-Leninism, and its practice conforms to this, once the fog of left-sounding phrases is penetrated.
Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution”, for example was identical with Menshevism, social democracy, in holding that socialist revolution was impossible in conditions where ’the capitalist system was not well-developed and the working class not a numerical majority’. Trotsky could not accept Lenin’s line on the firm alliance of workers, and peasants in the conditions of imperialism, nor could he grasp Lenin’s analysis that the uneven development of imperialism made the building of socialism in one or several countries possible and correct. Consequently he opposed the building of socialism in the USSR, a country where the peasantry was in the majority, and had no faith that the Russian workers could succeed unless the revolution succeeded in the advanced capitalist countries of Western Europe. This opportunist, defeatist view of the concrete struggle was thinly masked by a line of leftist adventure calling for the new and weak socialist state to destroy itself in attempting to physically export, by military force, its revolution to the West.
This line was demolished by Lenin. But after his death Trotsky resurrected these theories in the name of ’Leninism’. When his line was rejected by the vast majority of the Soviet party and proletariat led by Stalin, Trotsky and his followers turned to secret acts of violence and sabotage to ’prove’ themselves correct.
Trotsky’s line on the party, on the dictatorship of the proletariat and on all basic questions was the opposite of revolutionary Leninism. Trotsky’s line has been made ridiculous by history. The continuing development of socialism in the Soviet Union and the growing importance of the national liberation struggles of colonial, peasant peoples to world revolution were the reverse of all he preached. The Trotskyists were exposed as collaborators with all bourgeois, even fascist, forces who opposed the Soviet Union, and Trotskyism was thoroughly discredited.
The saviours of Trotskyism were the revisionists. Khrushchev’s attacks on Stalin and the abandonment of socialism in the USSR gave a slight plausibility to Trotsky for those who did not know its history. In the countries where revisionism triumphed in the communist parties a political vacuum was created which gave an opportunity to Trotskyists with their ’left’ phrases.
Britain is cursed with one of the ’strongest’ Trotskyist movements in the world. This is a reflection of the weakness of the revolutionary movement in Britain and of the thorough revisionism of the Communist Party of Great Britain. In Britain there has been, historically, a marked failure of conscious revolutionary theory to take roots among, the workers. This leaves the way open for petty bourgeois intellectuals to whom Trotskyism has great appeal, to push forward their movements.
Trotskyism appeals to students and intellectuals by telling them that they can be revolutionary without abandoning their bourgeois ideology and anti-communism. Somehow there can be a revolution which will be liberal to all their ’individualism’, bourgeois culture and romantic nations. There is no such natural appeal of Trotskyism to workers. Such growth of influence that the Workers’ Revolutionary Party or the International Socialists have had among workers has been the result of the complete revisionism of the CPGB and the failure of any strong Marxist-Leninist force to emerge.
The ’leftism’ of British Trotskyists is pretty well-reserved for commenting on international struggles. For example, they criticise the Vietnamese for fighting their correct national liberation struggle, calling for an ultra-’left’ immediate, all-out struggle for socialism which would bring about the isolation and defeat of the communist, working class forces. But at home, in Britain, the general feature of Trotskyist policies is right opportunism.
The Workers’ Revolutionary Party, formerly the Socialist Labour League, vies with the Communist Party of Great Britain in fervently attempting to restore worker’s illusions about the Labour Party. Their paper, ’Workers’ Press’, which they boast is the only Trotskyist daily paper in the world, calls constantly for a ’left’ Labour government. For them, capitalism is represented by the Tories alone, and if the Tories, the ’right wing’ of the Labour Party and the ’Stalinists’ can be defeated, socialism will be at hand.
The International Socialists also continually put forward this line of supporting Labour, ’without illusions’. But if they do not have illusions, why support Labour? In fact their line, along with that of the revisionists and the other Trotskyists, can only help to promote illusions.
The International Marxist Group, which tries to be the most ’left’ Trotskyist organisation, vacillates wildly on the question of what to say about the Labour Party. It is incapable of consistent opposition to social democracy, and puts forward vague nonsense about ’workers’ control’ from time to time.
These are the three largest Trotskyist groups, and their policies are generally representative of the other smaller groups. The line of these organisations in the February, 1974 election campaign was a typical example of their opportunism towards the Labour Party. All three advocated that workers should vote Labour if they could not vote for a ’revolutionary’ candidate. Disagreements between the groups were about the subtle differences in the way they justified this opportunism.
In general, as a political force in Britain Trotskyism must be understood as a variant of revisionism. The same points can be made about the various Trotskyist groups as about the CPGB on their lack of understanding of the basic features of imperialism and the opportunism of their approach.
The service of Trotskyism to the bourgeoisie is in providing a pseudo-left opposition to communism, and in disrupting, and divert in from a united revolutionary movement. Therefore the struggle to build a revolutionary party is in part a struggle to defeat and thoroughly expose Trotskyism as well as revisionism.
Strategically in the long term and as a world force, Trotskyism is weak. Tragically, for revolutionaries in Britain, demolishing Trotskyism is an important task. This task, as well as the task of defeating social, democracy and revisionism, can be approached with confidence. As a revolutionary line and practice is developed, based on concrete conditions in Britain, exposure of such opportunist lines in theory and practice will become easier.