Main FI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Fourth International, March-April 1953


Letter From M. Stein


From Fourth International, Vol.14 No.2, March-April 1953, pp.57-58.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


August 1, 1953


In an article by Comrade George Clarke entitled Stalin’s Role – Stalinism’s Future (Fourth International, Jan.-Feb. 1953) repeated reference is made to the “socialist” character of Soviet economy. Thus, at one time, the author refers to “the socialist-type economic system of the Soviet Union;” at another, “the Soviet regime rests upon new socialist property forms;” and again, “a system of property relations, nationalized in form, socialist in essence.” In addition, the Kremlin’s planning is characterized as “the methods of socialist planning.”

To Trotskyists this is a new definition of the Soviet economic system and of the Kremlin’s method of planning. As a matter of fact, Leon Trotsky polemicized precisely against such formulations put forward by the Stalinist theoreticians.

Here is what he said: “It is perfectly true that Marxists, beginning with Marx himself, have employed in relation to the workers’ state the terms state, national and socialist property as simply synonyms. On a large historic scale, such a mode of speech involves no special inconveniences. But it becomes the source of crude mistakes, and of downright deceit, when applied to the first and still unassured stages of the development of a new society, and one moreover isolated and economically lagging behind the capitalist countries.

“In order to become social, private property must as inevitably pass through the state stage as the caterpillar, in order to become a butterfly, must pass through the pupal stage. But the pupa is not a butterfly. Myriads of pupae perish without ever becoming butterflies. State property becomes the property of ‘the whole people’ only to the degree that social privileges and differentiation disappear, and therewith the necessity of the state. In other words: state property is converted into socialist property in proportion as it ceases to be state property. And the contrary is true: the higher the Soviet state rises above the people, and the more fiercely it opposes itself as the guardian of property to the people as its squanderer, the more obviously does it testify against the socialist character of this state property.” (The Revolution Betrayed, pages 236-7.)

This is not a question of mere terminology. From Trotsky’s analysis of social relations in the USSR flowed his political conclusions concerning the USSR. Trotsky was fully aware and repeatedly stated that the extension of the world revolution would undermine the rule of the Kremlin bureaucracy. But he excluded the possibility of this bureaucracy’s peacefully “growing over” into socialism, or reforming itself out of existence.

Precisely because of the specific character of this parasitic caste, Trotsky said it must be smashed by the masses in order to regenerate the Soviet state, and therewith open up the possibility for the withering away of the state.

On page 87 of The Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky wrote:

“All indications agree that the further course of development must inevitably lead to a clash between the culturally developed forces of the people and the bureaucratic oligarchy. There is no peaceful outcome for this crisis. No devil ever yet voluntarily cut off his own claws. The Soviet bureaucracy will not give up its positions without a fight. The development leads obviously to the road of revolution.”

This same line is incorporated in the foundation program of the Fourth International, which calls for a political revolution against the Kremlin bureaucracy. It states categorically: “Only the victorious revolutionary uprising of the oppressed masses can revive the Soviet regime and guarantee its further development toward socialism.”

Clarke, in his article, not only sees the Soviet economy as already “socialist in essence,” but he also puts a question mark over this Trotskyist political position. He writes “Will the process take the form of a violent upheaval against bureaucratic rule in the USSR? Or will concessions to the masses and sharing of power – as was the long course in the English bourgeois revolution in the political relationship between the rising bourgeoisie and the declining nobility – gradually undermine the base of the bureaucracy? Or will the evolution be a combination of both forms? That we cannot now foresee.”

Comrade Clarke’s designation of Soviet economy as “socialist in essence” is introduced without any explanation. He discards the Trotskyist position on the inevitability of political revolution by the working class against the Soviet ruling caste without any substantial motivation.

If Comrade Clarke believes that the accepted programmatic positions of Trotskyism on these fundamental issues are no longer valid and require revision, he should not have introduced such serious changes in so offhand a manner.


M. Stein

Top of page

Main FI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on: 29 March 2009