From Fourth International, Vol.14 No.2, March-April 1953, pp.58-59.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Comrade Stein’s criticism is compounded of terminological hair-splittng, pettifoggery and bad faith, deriving apparently from the conception that the programmatic positions of Trotskyism constitute dogma rather than a guide to action.
It is obvious from any disinterested reading of my article that I used the term “Socialist property” as a synonym for the new property forms of the Workers State, for nationalized or statized property, as Marxists have done time and again. The quotation from Trotsky that Stein employs is misdirected, and possibly misunderstood. Trotsky was polemicizing against the Stalinists. Here is the way the quotation truncated by Stein actually begins: “The new constitution – wholly founded, as we shall see, upon an identification of the bureaucracy with the state, and the state with the people – says ‘... The state property – that is, the possessions of the whole people.’ This identification is the fundamental sophism of the official doctrine.” No wonder Stein’s argument fails to hang together. Trotsky was polemicizing against the identification of the state with the Stalinist bureaucracy. Stein is polemicizing against an article the entire first section of which is devoted to proving the basic antagonism between the Stalinist bureaucracy and “Socialist property.”
As a matter of fact, Trotsky himself repeatedly employed the same expression. He clearly saw no objection to the term, “Socialist methods” or “Socialist property forms” in characterizing the basic property relations in the USSR, so long as it was made clear that the bureaucratic excrescence which had grown is in antagonism to the property forms.
In the very book quoted by Stein, The Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky wrote on page 57: “The application of socialist methods for the solution of pre-socialist problems – that is the very essence of the present economic and cultural work in the Soviet Union.” (Trotsky’s emphasis.) On page 250 he stated: “The predominance of socialist over petty-bourgeois tendencies, is guaranteed, not by the automatism of the economy – we are still far from that – but by the political measures taken by the dictatorship. The character of the economy as a whole thus depends upon the character of the state power.” On page 244 Trotsky wrote: “This contrast between forms of property and norms of distribution cannot grow indefinitely. Either the bourgeois norm in one form or another must spread to the means of production, or the norms of distribution must be brought into correspondence with the socialist property system.”
Stein’s purpose, however, is not to correct some allegedly loose phrase in my article, but to make the charge that I am discarding “the Trotskyist position on the inevitability of political revolution by the working class against the Soviet ruling caste.” This charge has no merit whatsoever. I am discarding nothing. I am trying to apply our program.
What is happening is that the concept of the political revolution held by world Trotskyism for almost two decades is now for the first time due to find application in life. It is necessary for Marxists to analyze more concretely the meaning and application of this programmatic position. Trotsky himself recommended it in the very work which Stein quoted. Those who would flee in, panic at every attempt to analyze the new events of today in their actual process of development would convert Marxism into dead scholasticism.
Last updated on: 29 March 2009