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Trotskyism is the theory of Marxism as advocated by Leon Trotsky. The term is sometimes used more loosely to denote various political currents claiming a tradition of Marxist opposition to both Stalinism and capitalism.
Trotsky advocated proletarian revolution as set out in his theory of "permanent revolution", and he argued that in countries where the bourgeois-democratic revolution had not triumphed already (in other words, in places that had not yet implemented a capitalist democracy, such as Russia before 1917), it was necessary that the proletariat carry out the tasks of that revolution and make it permanent by carrying out the tasks of the social revolution (the "socialist" or "communist" revolution) at the same time, in an uninterrupted process. Trotsky believed that a new socialist state would not be able to hold out against the pressures of a hostile capitalist world unless socialist revolutions quickly took hold in other countries as well. This theory was advanced in opposition to the position held by the Stalinist faction within the Bolshevik Party that "socialism in one country" could be built in the Soviet Union.
On the political spectrum of Marxism, Trotskyism is considered to be on the left. Expressed in derogatory language, they are described by their ideological opponents as "left deviationists " ("levye uklonisty", in Russian). Some Marxists who oppose Trotskyism regard it as being in the service of the right because, in their view, it is not an effective route to socialism.
Trotsky later developed the theory that the Russian workers' state had become a "bureaucratically degenerated workers' state". (The similar Eastern European communist governments which came into being after World War II without a revolution were later referred to as "deformed workers' states" by some Trotskyists.) Many of Trotsky's criticisms of Stalinism were described in his book, The Revolution Betrayed .
"Trotskyist" has become a by-word used by Stalinists to mean a traitor; in the Spanish Civil War, being called a "Trot", "Trotskyist" or "Trotskyite" by the USSR-supported elements implied that the person was some sort of fascist spy or agent provocateur. George Orwell wrote about this practice in his book Homage to Catalonia and in his essay Spilling the Spanish Beans . Note: while both "Trotskyist" and "Trotskyite" are words that were probably originally coined by Stalinists to mark those who sided with Trotsky in factional disputes, "Trotskyist" is a term that is claimed by many, though not all, adherents of Trotsky's views. In fact the term Trotskyist was originally used by the Stalinists to describe that faction of the Communist Party, led by Leon Trotsky, that described itself as Bolshevik Leninist (although not used with any great frequency today, this original term is still used by some). However, "Trotskyite" retains its pejorative connotation, and in some circles it (or "Trot") is used indiscriminately to refer to any far-left adherents derisively.
In 1938 Trotsky established the Fourth International. Since his death, this organisation has split many times. Trotskyist parties and groups are notorious for their tendency to split into smaller groups, quarrelling over theoretical differences that seem insignificant or indecipherable to an outsider, but which sometimes have major practical consequences for those who hold those positions.
Many developed countries have several different organisations which claim allegiance to Trotskyism and most are linked to one or another of the various international Trotskyist tendencies. Perhaps the largest such tendency is the United Secretariat of the Fourth international led by the Ligue communiste revolutionnaire of France in which country it is rivalled by Lutte Ouvrière and the Courant Communiste Internationaliste of Pierre Lambert. Each of the latter groups also maintain their own international tendencies as does the Socialist Workers Party the largest Trotskyist group in Britain which leads the International Socialist tendency from which the International Socialist Organization in the United States, the largest such group in that country, split from some years ago. Also of importance is the Committee for a Workers International led by the Socialist Party (formerly Militant) and the Committee to Refound the Fourth International led by Partido Obrero in Argentina. Another large, primarily Latin American based, tendency is the International Workers League led by the Unified Socialist Workers Party of Brazil.
In addition to the larger international Trotskyist tendencies there are many other smaller groupings as well as an even larger number of groups confined to one only. Among the historically significant, albeit now very small, tendencies should be mentioned the International Committee of the Fourth International led by the Socialist Equality Parties associated with David North. Another such grouping is the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), formerly known as International Spartacist Tendency), led by James Robertson. Also noteworthy, if only because it calls for a Fifth rather than a Fourth International, is the League for the Fifth International led by the British Workers Power) group.
It is argued by some that Trotskyism is a phenomena that is principally a First World phenomenon and rare among Third World revolutionaries. Historically, this is far from true, and at the time of the founding the Fourth International in 1938 Trotskyism was a mass political current in Vietnam, Ceylon and slightly later Bolivia. There was also a substantial Trotskyist movement in China which included the founding father of the Chinese Communist movement, Chen Duxiu, amongst its number.
After 1945 Trotskyism was smashed as a mass movement in Vietnam and marginalised in a number of other countries. However, in Ceylon and Bolivia Trotskyist parties became the mass workers parties prior to experiencing defeats and setbacks at a later stage. In both countries, however, there remains a large scale presence of competing Trotskyist groups. In recent years Trotskyism has also developed large scale support in a number of lesser developed countries in Latin America where it can count on some tens of thousands of supporters in both Argentina and Brazil. Elsewhere in the Third World support for Trotskyist ideas is more diffuse and generally confined to intellectuals but can be found in a diluted form among some sections of various progressive movements as in South Africa.
No governing Communist party or successful Communist revolution has to this date professed Trotskyism, although Trotskyism's influence in some recent major social upheavals is very evident.
- Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line
- The Leon Trotsky Internet archive, containing a huge number of Trotsky's written works
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