Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History


East Europe

Dear Comrades,

I am writing on behalf of Socialist Organiser to outline our disagreement with the editorial in Revolutionary History, Volume 3 no.1, on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

To argue that the collapse of Stalinism vindicates the traditional Trotskyist analysis of these states as degenerate and deformed workers’ states is bizarre. This supposed ‘crisis phenomenon’ not only survived for over 60 years, but also extended its rule, not just throughout Eastern Europe, but also to China, Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba and a collection of other countries. When Trotsky described Stalinism in this way, he did not expect that it would last beyond the end of the Second World War, and stated that if it did, a reassessment of his analysis would be necessary. Surely some reassessment is also required from present-day Trotskyists in view of Stalinism’s survival and extension for over 40 years since 1945 – or can we just repeat forever the same formulae regardless of their grasp on reality?

The traditional Trotskyist theory has become increasingly incoherent and inconsistent in attempting to explain the events in Eastern Europe. Nationalised property – for Trotsky the proletarian foundation of the degenerated workers’ state – is being abolished without a violent counter-revolution. The working class, whom he predicted would come to its defence against a restorationist bureaucracy, is unfortunately mostly among the forces demanding a return to the market.

In the face of this some of the theory’s supporters merely pretend that what is going on is the political revolution which Trotsky predicted; others see the way Stalinism has ended as a massive defeat for the working class, and implicitly – or in some cases explicitly – line up with sections of the bureaucracy against the workers; still others welcome the end of Stalinism, but cannot reconcile what has happened with the supposed superiority of the property relations and centralised planning in the Stalinist states.

Rather than just dismissing other theories with talk of a “new totalitarian order”, Revolutionary History should be providing historical material to enable readers to examine and judge these theories for themselves in the light of recent events. One thing is sure: repeating the old orthodoxy is no longer adequate.

Bruce Robinson

Updated by ETOL: 21.7.2003