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Fourth International, July-August 1951


In Memory of Leon Trotsky

November 7, 1879 – August 21, 1940


From Fourth International, Vol.12 No.4 July-August 1951, pp.113-114.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Eleven years ago, Stalin’s hired assassin murdered Leon Trotsky in his home at Coyoacan, Mexico. The fatal attack of August 20, 1940 brought to a close the fruitful work of one of the greatest of the revolutionists of all history, one of the ablest Marxist interpreters of the problems of ouf time.

Out of the great heritage of scientific work which Trotsky has bequeathed to us, we have selected for publication on this anniversary, two articles in which he defended the Marxist analysis of the class nature of the Soviet Union. Together with these two articles, we are also publishing a survey and appraisal of the Marxist work on the role of United States capitalism done by Trotsky in the course of many years of attention to this problem.

Thus our memorial tribute to Trotsky this anniversary takes the form of a presentation of Trotsky’s ideas on the two countries that stand at the center of the current maelstrom of conflict: the USA and the USSR.

Main Problems of Our Time

The gathering forces of the social storm have, for the present at least, been polarized around these two powerful antagonists. This has been apparent for the past six years, or since the closing days of World War II. It must not be imagined, however, that the role being played at present by the two leading centers of two antagonistic social systems was suddenly invented or discovered. The parts played by American imperialism and by the Soviet Union have been prepared by a long process of social development.

This process, which has set the stage for the present battles, was analysed in detail as it developed by Leon Trotsky. On the one hand, he was one of the great revolutionary founders of the Soviet Union. Following this, he was a witness to, and the leader of the fight against the subsequent degeneration of the new state power. And finally, he was the greatest single defender of the progressive conquests of October, conquests which remain to the present day.

On the other hand, Trotsky was, among the Russian Marxists, the closest observer of the imperialist development of the United States. Not only did he devote much time and attention to the problems of American capitalism, but, as the article we print here shows, he sketched out an accurate forecast of the coming role of America.

Importance of Russian Question

The problem of the class nature of the Soviet Union, analysed here in polemical form by Trotsky, has never ceased to claim the attention of the radical movement. The Soviet Union, because of the extreme degeneration it has undergone during the past quarter of a century, has become the crucial issue for revolutionists everywhere. Revolutionary socialists have found that they must clarify their conception of the goal of the socialist movement to the very utmost when discussing the Soviet Union, precisely for the reason that so many of the original conquests of October have been destroyed there. On the other hand, renegades have used Stalin’s crimes as a convenient portal through which to make their graceless exits from the revolutionary camp.

In our opinion, Trotsky’s analysis of the Soviet Union, its class nature and degeneration, is the only one which is in accord with reality. Nothing else can explain the extraordinary determination of the whole capitalist world to destroy the Soviet Union. Nothing else can explain why the Soviet bureaucracy clings tenaciously to nationalized property within the territories under its control, while doing so much to prop up capitalism in the rest of the world. Nothing else can explain the self-contradictory nature of Stalinism, caught in a trap between the warring world bourgeoisie and the aroused working class and colonial peoples.

The fact that the workers of one of the most backward of all countries made a revolution in 1917, the fact that, because of the backwardness of this country this revolution degenerated; the fact that even this degenerated revolution made possible the most enormous economic progress in the history of any country at any time; and finally, the fact that the remaining conquests of the degenerated revolution have become the target for the attack of the whole capitalist world – all of these facts must be grasped together to give us the real picture of the USSR today. Without comprehending them, there is no possible comprehension of the present world crisis.

For these reasons, Trotsky’s articles, both about the US and the USSR, have far more than an historical interest. They delineate the framework upon which all of contemporary history is draped. And, like all of science, the science of contemporary society requires first of all a scientifically discovered background, without which it becomes a formless mass of petty journalistic observations.

A word about the circumstance under which these articles on the USSR were written. Craipeaux, Burnham, Carter, were representative types of the many minority groupings in the Fourth International who, for years, challenged the Marxist analysis of the Soviet Union and tried to substitute analyses that they said were “better,” “more revolutionary,” etc. Since, contrary to charges made by ignorant and malicious people, the Fourth International, is democratic in its structure and methods, these minority groupings were given facilities whereby they could discuss their views both in writing and in speech. The articles by Trotsky printed here are replies made by him to arguments of the minority groupings aimed at his analysis of the so-called “Russian Question.”

Very little remains of these groupings in the radical movement today. Some of them have abandoned their efforts to teach Marxists to be more “revolutionary” only to take up the task of teaching the bourgeoisie to be more reactionary: witness James Burnham. And despite all efforts before or since, the scientific work of Trotsky in the analysis of the social structure of the degenerated USSR remains the only solid foundation for revolutionary socialism today.

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