Stanley Plastrik Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page


Books You Should Know ...

Marxism in the United States

(10 February 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 6, 10 February 1947, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Marxism in the United States
by Leon Trotsky
Introduction by Albert Gates
44 pages; Workers Party Publications, New York

Workers Party Publications – through the kind permission of Comrade Natalia Trotsky – has just published Trotsky’s valuable and long-out-of-print essay on Marxism in the United States. The essay is now available for the first time in unabridged form. All the deletions made when the work was originally published as an introduction to The Living Thoughts of Karl Marx (published by Longmans, Green & Co. in 1939) have now been reinserted, together with a brief introduction that summarizes its significance for America today.

The essay falls into two sections. Part One is a lucid statement of the general social, economic and political tenets of Marx, and their applicability to the modern world. Written in the clear and unambiguous style that Trotsky so successfully employed in the exposition of popular Marxist conceptions, it is a summation of the Marxist methodology, the basic economic laws of Marxism as applied to capitalist economy, and a polemical retort to those who question the validity and the practical “working out” of these laws. In this respect, it is reminiscent of Trotsky’s famous essay on the 90th anniversary of the writing of the Communist Manifesto. Throughout the work, the correctness of Marxist doctrine is reinforced by wide references to the facts and statistics of American social and economic life, revealing the close attention Trotsky paid to America and his broad knowledge of this country’s development.

The second half of Marxism in the United States is a historic analysis of the Roosevelt New Deal, viewed as a stage in the development of American monopolist capitalism. Familiar figures (Wallace, Roosevelt, Ickes, etc.) appear before the reader, advancing their arguments in favor of New Dealism and capitalism, and then – with analytical precision and facts – are replied to by Trotsky.

Nature Of U.S. Capitalism

The essential characteristics of American capitalism, its sources of power and mobility, its contradictions and its contrasts with other capitalist nations, are probed by the author. Altogether, this section makes fascinating reading as an analysis in retrospect of a significant period of American life. If the first part of this work may be described as a classic restatement of Marxist social thought, this part may be described as the concrete application of that thought to the life-stream of American capitalism. The reader is, again, amazed by Trotsky’s close knowledge of American history and development.

An interesting section of the pamphlet, and one no doubt that will be subject to discussion and controversial issue, is that part dealing with “the inevitability of socialism,” an issue long in dispute among Marxist theoreticians. Without entering into this matter during a brief review, it is worth quoting Trotsky’s clear position:

“The lucubrations of certain intellectuals on the theme that, regardless of Marx’s teaching, socialism is not INEVITABLE but merely POSSIBLE, are devoid of any content whatsoever. Obviously, Marx did not imply that socialism would come about without man’s volition and action: any such idea is simply an absurdity. Marx foretold that out of the economic collapse in which the development of capitalism must inevitably culminate – there can be no other way out except socialization of the means of production. The productive forces need a new organizer and a new master, and, since existence determines consciousness, Marx had no doubt that the working class, at the cost of errors and defeats, will come to understand the actual situation and, sooner or later, will draw the imperative practical conclusions.” (page 34 – Trotsky’s emphasis)

Not only does Trotsky draw the conclusion, based upon his study of American economy internally and its external projection upon the world scene, that the laws of Marxism apply to the United States but that, in effect, they apply with almost classic clarity in any analysis of this country. To him, “it is clear that if the miracle of capitalism’s rejuvenation could happen anywhere at all, it would be nowhere else but in the United States. Yet this rejuvenation was not achieved.” (pages 39–40) From this, Trotsky draws the related conclusion that the future growth and radicalization of the American proletariat, as it draws the “imperative practical conclusions,” is guaranteed. It is this thought that Albert Gates develops in his introduction to the pamphlet. There is little question that Trotsky looked upon the American proletariat as one of the mainsprings for the, future development of revolutionary socialism. The entire pamphlet abounds with his solid confidence and grounded belief that the American working class will arise to the problems confronting it.

As a source work for provocative discussions and studies on many problems facing American workers, as well as American capitalism’s relation to the world, Trotsky’s, essay has its greatest value. It deserves to be widely circulated and discussed.

Plastrik (Judd/Stanley) Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 27 November 2017