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What did Trotsky mean for communism?

2020-08-23 | History

Yesterday was the 80th anniversary of the assassination of Lev Davidovich Bronstein, Trotsky, by a Stalinist hitman.


Who was Trotsky?

Trotski's arrival at Finland Station in 1917.

historical materialism|the historical perspective



Trotsky was expelled from the party in 1927 and then from Russia. Most of the members of the left-wing opposition were forced to submit and "repent" after being excluded from the party. They will be sent to prison and "socialist" deportation camps, where they will all be killed or executed by traitors and foreign agents. The Russian opposition was physically liquidated. Then it was the turn of the stalinists themselves who had known the October Revolution. The Bolshevik party was also physically liquidated.

For the Revolution and the International Opposition it was an immense loss. Nowhere else had there been a revolutionary party comparable to the Bolshevik party, tempered in the harsh hardships of the underground, of the revolution, of the civil war, of power. With its extermination all the communist revolutionary traditions perish. The disappearance of the Russian leftist opponents was, in particular, an irremediable loss, for they were the bearers until the end of the revolutionary, theoretical and organizational capital amassed over many years. The ‎Bolshevik‎ communist continuity was practically taken over by Trotsky alone.

Jacques Roussel. "Les enfants du prophète"

Everything that can be expected from a militant

Marguerite and Alfred Rosmer with Nataia Sedova and Trotski in Taxco, 1939, when the Rosmers manage to bring them his grandson, Esteban Volkov, Siova, the only survivor of all their descendants, safe and sound


As it happened so many times in history, the term was adopted by its victims in the face of the enormous number of defamations and crimes with which the counter-revolution accused them. But it never ceased to be a tricky and deceptive terrain. Despite its weight,](http://marxismo.school/cuadernos/5) Trotsky's role in the International Communist Left, which he helped to organize and later in the Fourth International, was far from that of someone who dictated doctrine, on the contrary, his initiatives and perspectives were boycotted if not continuously confronted. One need only follow the debates between 1929 and 1940 to be certain that Trotsky was, to the very end, the militant of a worldwide movement whose framework, developments, strengths and weaknesses, shaped his theoretical work and his contribution.

Another form derived from this depoliticization of militant work through the individualization of movements into their most visible leaders, which is quite common among groups that claim to be critical Trotskyists,, is to analyze his positions one by one over the years in search of genius moments and more or less serious errors. It would be absurd to approach the figures of the great revolutionaries in this way. Of course they made mistakes and some serious ones at the time. Marx, Engels, Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, Trotsky... were not saints born with a saving doctrine engraved in stone. Contrasting the work of a militant with that of an infallible leader is only the other side of the most reactionary historical method: it eliminates the real movement from the perspective, the social reality and the struggles of the moment, in order to reduce great tendencies to the capacities and limitations of a leader.


The second strategy making it possible to reduce a movement or tendency to its leader is to exonerate the leader from the political criticism of the movement, which becomes blurred, reduced to a background or a formless set of followers, replacing it with ad hominem attacks and defamation. This was, needless to say, stalinism's strategy against the Communist Left first, and against the first Fourth International later. The persecuted one, in fact, was never Trotsky individually, as the most sympathetic press keeps telling us, including the so-called trotskyist press, the persecuted one was the movement, the one Trotsky's efforts and contributions were trying to strengthen. It is a mistake to interpret his murder only as the conclusion of a long and violent stage of harassment, defamation and ad hominem attacks. It is true that it was preceded by the largest campaign of slander and disinformation in history so far. But in reality, that was just ideological disguise. His assassination was part of the continuous slaughter of revolutionary militants initiated by stalinism in Russia, physically liquidating the Bolshevik party, and which it later projected all over the world, especially after the Spanish Revolution, where it played for the first time the role of open organizer of the counterrevolution outside Russia, leaving a trail of corpses of communist militants in its wake.

Natalia Sedova and Lev Davidovich

communist morality

I was a revolutionary during my forty-three years of conscious life and for forty-two years I fought under the banners of Marxism. If I had to start all over again I would, of course, try to avoid this or that mistake, but fundamentally my life would be the same. I will die a revolutionary proletarian, a Marxist, a dialectical materialist and, consequently, an irreconcilable atheist. My faith in the communist future of humanity is no less ardent today, though more firm, than it was in my youth.

Natasha approaches the window and opens it from the courtyard to let more air into my room. I can see the bright strip of green grass behind the wall, the clear blue sky above and the sun shining everywhere. Life is beautiful. May future generations free it from all evil, oppression and violence and enjoy it fully. ‎...‎ I reserve the right to decide for myself the time of my death. Suicide" (if that term is applicable in this case) will in no way be an expression of an outburst of despair or discouragement. Natasha and I have said more than once that it is possible to reach such a physical condition that one would be better off to interrupt one's life or, rather, the too slow process of death...

But whatever the circumstances of my death, I will die with an unshakeable faith in the Communist future. This faith in Man and his future gives me even now a capacity for resistance that no religion can bestow.

Leon Trotsky. Testament, 1940.

The legacy

Second Congress of the Fourth International in which the break of the left occurs, Paris, 1948. From left to right: Pierre Favre (PCI France), S. Santen (RCP Holland), Pierre Frank (PCI France), Jock Haston (RCP GB), Colin de Silva (LSSP, Ceylon) and G. Munis (Spain) .

An old saying in Spanish says that of friends, God keep me safe, from enemies I will keep myself safe. The meaning applies fully to all those who claim that Trotsky's communist morality, political work and militant drive outlived him in the Fourth International. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

revolutionary defeatism



It is ludicrous to think that Trotsky's legacy, with its untamed integrity and his militant work full of theoretical contributions, can even resemble that trotskostalinism that kept the apparatus only to later burst into a thousand groups, each of them less internationalist than the others. A Trotskyism that today embraces one national flag or another in order to recruit workers to go to war in Syria, Libya or Ukraine, which unconditionally defends -against the workers- repressive and failed state capitalisms in Cuba or Venezuela, and which shamelessly presents itself as the left wing of Argentine Peronism, of Anglo-Saxon identitarianism, or of the most pathetic podemism and petty-bourgeois nationalisms in Spain.

Marx, frightened by the terms in which the polemics of the supposed French marxists of his old age, like Guesde, took place, affirmed that the only thing I can say with certainty about myself is that I am not a marxist. Trotsky today could only look with horror at his so-called epigones. The last thing he would be is a Trotskyist. And precisely because of this, in the face of the enemies and slanderers of the great militant, eighty years after his assassination we can only adhere to the words of G. Munis:

I formally broke with the Fourth International in 1948 -as Natalia Sedova Trotsky did later- but that will not prevent me from raising my hand as a Trotskyist against the police slanderers of Moscow or Beijing.

G. Munis, 1972