A derogatory name given by stalinism to the Left Opposition in Russia, a current that leads the resistance to the counter-revolutionary drift of the Bolshevik party until 1928 and which, from that date onwards, brings together the great majority of the International Communist Left. Afterwards, stalinism applies it to the whole Communist Left and its consequences, regardless of its political content and whether they are within or outside the class terrain.
For stalinism, the inventor of the term, the whole Communist Left will therefore be “trotskyist”. The internationalists accepted the term at the time, not without a hint of irony. The brutality of the persecution and mass murder under the charge of “trotskyism” of the militants and leaders of the Russian Communist Party of October made the name an emblem. However, some national tendencies of the Communist left, those that did not integrate into the International Left Opposition to stalinism, disavowed the term.
Even after the abandonment of internationalism by the structure and the more numerous sections of the Fourth International during the Second World War, the internationalists in it, who once again had to form a left-wing faction and finally break with the international organization, continued to make the name their own.
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
“Trotsko-stalinism” after 1948
In reality, what remains in the failed Fourth International after the break-up of the Second Congress can hardly claim continuity either with Trotsky or with the organization he built to rally the class vanguard in the course of the world war that was looming under the banners of revolutionary defeatism. After all, what remained were precisely the sections that had supported the recruitment in one form or another in the European national “resistances”.
The organization that kept calling itself the Fourth International and claiming to be trotskyist, soon took a drift that quickly turned it into a satellite of stalinism. After affirming that the statified economy was socialism, they would claim that Russian imperialist expansion had created “workers’ states” although with “bureaucratic degenerations” to which the principle of “unconditional defense” applied to Russian state capitalism until then could be extended. In 1953, the Third Congress declares that the proletariat-bourgeoisie contradiction has been superseded by the US-USSR contradiction and that in the event of war the Soviet armies would be forced to be revolutionary. Trotskyism splits in two. It will be temporarily reunified as a result of Castro’s triumph, to then break up again into dozens of new groups. And yet a number of common elements will remain, exacerbating the obsolete elements of the “transitional program” written by Trotsky for the Fourth International.
The result is trotskostalinism, “trotskyism” with the meaning commonly used today: a “democratic” and “leftist” crutch of stalinism, defending state capitalism as “socialism with bureaucratic excrescences” and extending the definition even in some cases to today’s Russia. A position that is completed with the principled defense of democracy in the abstract -not the “islands of workers democracy” of Trotsky’s formula- and of national liberation, the perfect excuse to betray internationalism at the slightest opportunity, from the Falklands War to the massacres in Syria.
However, the fact of them being commonly called “trotskyists” does not mean any more or less than what stalinists being called “communists” means, the 1914 social-patriots being called “socialists” or the more degenerate anarchism using the acronym IWA as if it represented the continuity of the First International. The great defeats of the proletariat made Humanity lose precious time and hundreds of millions of lives. That the common meaning of a few denominations once wielded by the revolutionary generations of the past has been lost should no longer be a source of scandal to us.