Ted Grant

In Defence of Trotskyism

Delivered: June 19, 1988
Source: Militant (July 1, 1988)
Transcription: Maarten 2007
Markup/Proofread:: Maarten 2007

Speech delivered at a Militant rally, June 19, 1988.

This rally of Militant marks a new stage in the development of Marxism in Britain and the world. We meet at a time when there is an unparalleled crisis in every sector of the world in the developed and underdeveloped countries and now also in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe.

Marxism finds in the development of the productive forces, building and producing machinery, factories, universities, schools, roads, railways and the development of science, technique and skills the key to the development of society and to the class struggle for the surplus produced by the labour of the working class. We live in a period when capitalism has shown that it can no longer develop society.

That it is in an impasse is proved by the fact that the capitalists can only use 80 per cent of productive capacity in booms and 70 per cent in slumps. They have become the Luddites of the 20th century, destroying steel, chemical and textile plants and other industries because of 'over-capacity', when tens of millions need the goods these could provide.

Doomed system

20 per cent more world production could solve the problems of mankind. Capitalism is a doomed system. Its crisis will reveal itself as a long drawn out death agony. This will show itself in the course of the struggles of the working class in the next years and decades, a period of turmoil and upheaval unexampled in history.

From the point of view of the progress of society, the Russian revolution led by Lenin and Trotsky has justified itself a thousand times over. But why is there crisis in the Soviet Union? After all they have got rid of landlordism and capitalism.

You see the malicious glee with which the capitalists feature the crisis in the Soviet Union today, how they feature glasnost and the 'reforms' that have been carried out. And they are exerting pressure on the Soviet Union to follow the example of Hungary, Poland and Yugoslavia in introducing some capitalist elements into society.

And what is the result of introducing these capitalist measures? - massive unemployment in Yugoslavia, a crisis in Hungary and Poland even worse than that now affecting the Soviet Union.

This is a crisis of Stalinism. The media in the Soviet Union, the press, radio and TV, every day, almost every hour, feature denunciations of the crimes of Stalin, his reign of terror, his murder of the old Bolsheviks and the massacre of millions of people.

At the height of Stalin's power, Trotsky pointed put that all the hundreds of thousand of statues and pictures of Stalin—you could not walk past any street corner without seeing a picture or statue of Stalin—would inevitably be broken and smashed, as the crisis in the Soviet Union developed.

And this has been shown to be the case. Now they are beginning to rehabilitate many of the old Bolsheviks, with the conspicuous exception of Trotsky and the Trotskyists like Rakovsky, Muralov, Yevdokimov and others who also featured in the Moscow trials.

In the frame-up trials of Kamenev, Zinoviev, Bukharin and others, the principal, but absent, defendant was Leon Trotsky. The absurdity of rehabilitaing the other defendants who confessed to acting under Trotsky's instructions, while omitting the chief defendant, will become more and more obvious.

The trials were built around the lie that Trotsky was in league with the Nazis, fascists, imperialists and other reactionaries against the Soviet Union. All the other old Bolsheviks who were executed were supposed to be his agents and tools. If they were not guilty, then Trotsky was not guilty. It is absurd that they are clearing Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin and the rest without clearing Trotsky. It is inevitable that the rulers of Russia will be compelled to clear him of the crimes which were attributed to him by Stalin.

And if Stalin was guilty of framing and murdering the old Bolsheviks, he was also guilty of framing and preparing the murder of Trotsky in Mexico.Why does it stick in the throats of Gorbachev and the rulers of Russia to admit this? They are now piling on to Stalin all the guilt for the crimes of that epoch. He, like Hitler, was a monster. But one man, however evil, could not be solely responsible for all these crimes.

In every tragedy there is also a farce. The Morning Star and other papers of the 'Communist' Parties in the different countries of the world, report now, without comment, the rehabilitation of Bukharin, Zinoviev and Kamenev. Yet the forerunner of the Morning Star and the leaders of the 'Communist' Parties in this and other countries at the time foamed at the mouth, doing all the dirty work of Stalin and the bureaucracy he represented, by denouncing Trotsky and the Trotskyists as Nazis and agents of capitalism.

They participated in all the lies and falsifications of Stalin and his cronies. But now they blithely report without any comment the rehabilitation of the leaders of the Russian Revolution. They want to shrug their shoulders and pretend they did not support the witch trials and the murder of the old Bolsheviks, that they did not support all the crimes Stalin committed, which they pretended were not taking place. The liars and falsifiers can never lead the working class to socialism. Socialists base themselves on the truth.

Hitler represented big business and the capitalist class. Stalin represented the counterrevolution of the privileged elite, the bureaucratic caste of millions of officials of the state, the party, the management of industry, the generals and so forth. That was where his power derived. He could not have carried out these crimes without the support of this bureaucracy.

The trials and the purges of millions were intended to consolidate their power. In this process, they overthrew nearly all the principles on which the revolution was founded. The revolution was based on four fundamental conditons. One was the existence of soviets, or workers' committees, with the right of recall by the workers. The second was that no official receive more than a skilled worker's wage. The third was no permanent bureaucracy; in Lenin's aphorism, every cook should be able to be prime minister. And the fourth was no standing army but an armed people.

Privileged caste

Yet, in the interests of the bureaucracy, and this remains true to the present day, not a single one of these conditions remains in existence. The privileged caste that Stalin represented is still in power. In the past, in spite of their political counter-revolution against the working class, the bureaucracy was relatively progressive, in contrast with reactionary capitalism.

Their privileges stemmed from the state ownership of the means of production and a plan of production and they 'owned' the state. Despite the impediment of bureaucracy, the productive forces were developed at a much greater pace than under capitalism. Pre-war this reached 20 per cent a year, never reached by any capitalist coutry before or since.

Reflecting the interests of the bureaucratic caste, Stalin adopted the reactionary and utopian theory of 'Socialism in one country'. Trotsky made a brilliant prediction that if this was adopted, it would end in the nationalist and reformist degeneration of every Communist Party, which we see now in every part of the world.

But why then, is the bureaucracy so afraid to rehabilitate Trotsky? (although they will be compelled to do it). It is because they are terrified of the ideas that he represents. Gorbachev and the bureaucracy still support this false theory of Stalin's. It reflects their vested interests. But socialism by its very nature has to be international, because the world economy is integrated.

Stalin represented the officialdom who usurped power, taking it out of the hands of the working class. They abolished the movement towards equality and installed enormous privileges for themselves. These were increased over the decades. The top strata in Russian society live like millionaires. Gorbachev's wife has diamonds and imports dresses from the top fashion houses of Paris. What sort of socialism is that?

Nevertheless, for a few decades, the bureaucracy developed Russian society. They, like Hitler, believed they would rule for a thousand years, despite their incompetence and inefficiency.


The top bureaucrats decide everything. It partially worked in the past, at the cost of great sacrifices by the masses, at a time when the Soviet Union was under-developed. But now, due to the advantages given by the revolution and the abolition of landlordism and capitalism, Russia has a powerful developed economy, the second super-power. One million different commodities are now produced in Russia. With an advanced economy, bureaucratic command will not work.

The whole economy has seized up. From being a relative fetter, they have now become an absolute fetter on the development of society. And therefore the rule of the bureaucracy will be doomed.

Capitalism has, or at least used to have before monopoly, the check of the market. But a developed workers' state can only function properly if the working class controls industry and the state. This can only be done through workers' control and management. That is a genuine workers' democracy. Otherwise it leads to unheard of corruption and repression by the bureaucracy.

They themselves, in the pages of the press, have now lifted the lid a little bit. They show how top officials turn themselves into millionaires, with gold, roubles, yachts, cars and houses, in addition to those they have in their role as officials. Gorbachev wants some check on these illegitimate and stolen privileges which are undermining the economy. Waste, chaos and mismanagement are the consequences of bureaucratic control.

Despite the advantage of state ownership and planning, with the most educated working class in the world, one quarter of the world's scientists and the resources of a vast and rich country, the bureaucracy cannot get the results any more. They are developing the economy more slowly than capitalism in a boom.

The crisis of society always begins at the top. The bureaucracy is split. Gorbachev represents the most intelligent section, who realise that the present situation cannot continue. A small section wants to go back to capitalism. Another bigger section wants to go back to Stalinist terror.


But the majority represented by Gorbachev recognise that this is impossible. The massive working class, now an overwhelming majority, would never stand for it. Moreover, it would wreck the Soviet economy. So Gorbachev wants to end the worst abuses of power, reform from the top to prevent revolution from the bottom.

And the first glimpse of what is coming in every part of the Soviet Union is shown by what has happened in Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. One million demonstrated out of a population of three and a half million in Armenia. There—have been a number of general strikes for national rights.

70 years after the revolution, Gorbachev wants to increase inequality and differentials. Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky stood for a movement towards equality as a workers' society. He wants to go further away and substitute legal differentials and legal privileges for those illegally seized by the bureaucrats.

He has been forced to debunk and expose Brezhnev and Stalin, because the Soviet economy cannot go forward on that road. But he hates Trotsky, because he was against all privileges and stood for workers' democracy. Gorbachev will fail, after initial succeses on the economy, because there is no way out in a half state/half market economy.

Six-hour day

But the concealed Stalinist wing of the bureaucracy has even less of a solution. Only Marxist policies and the initiative, skill and creativity of the working class can solve the problems of Russian society. If Gorbachev really represented the working class and Leninism, he would appeal to the workers and decree immediately a six-hour day, and a four-day week. The necessary technique, science, skill and resources have been built up by the labour of the working class.

As a reform to demonstrate the superiority of socialist methods, it would have immense consequences worldwide. But what is even more important, as Lenin explained, it would give the necessary time for the entire working class, to run industry and the state. Then a socialist plan of production, controlled from top to bottom by the working class, would lead to immense increases in production, despite lowering the hours. Science and technique would be liberated and enormously developed.

That is the programme the Russian workers will forge in the white heat of events and with the ideas of Trotsky over the next few years. The crisis in Russia marks the beginning of the political revolution, in which the working class will take back the state that belongs to them. The workers will find their way back to the ideas of Lenin and Trotsky, the ideas of Marxism.

Socialist world

This would begin the movement towards socialism in Russia. It would mean the collapse of European and world capitalism and the move forward to a socialist united states of Europe and the world. Long live the political revolution in Russia! Long live Trotsky and the martyred Bolsheviks! Long live Militant!