Marxist classics

Liberals and even most of those who consider themselves Marxists are guilty of using the world fascist very loosely today. They fling it around as an epithet or political swearword against right-wing figures whom they particularly despise, or against reactionaries in general. But there is a Marxist analysis of fascism. It was made by Leon Trotsky not as a postmortem, but during the rise of fascism. This was one of Trotsky's great contributions to Marxism.

Trotsky's 'ABC of Materialist Dialectics' is a brilliant short explanation of Marxist philosophy. It was written as part of a defence of Marxism against a middle class revisionist tendency in the American Trotskyist movement in the late 1930s, which attempted to challenge its basic principles. As opposed to pragmatism and empiricism, Trotsky defended dialectical materialism as a richer, fuller, more comprehensive view of society and life in general. 

We republish Leon Trotsky's 1938 pamphlet, Their Morals and Ours. Written while Trotsky was in exile in Mexico, the pamphlet answers critics of the Russian Revolution, who smeared the Bolsheviks as "amoral". Trotsky argues that morality is not fixed but reflects class interests in society. So-called common sense and "elementary moral precepts" against violence, for example, in reality serve the interests of the ruling class. Revolutionary morality – including the use of violence in class struggle – is determined by whatever advances the cause of the proletariat, and thus the liberation of humanity.

How do Marxists use programmatic demands to win the working class to the cause of revolutionary socialism? Trotsky explains the need to use transitional demands to bridge the gap between the present consciousness of the working class and the need for the socialist transformation of society.

In this article Trotsky explains the fundamental differences between Marxism and the caricatured version which was put forward by the Stalinist bureaucracy which had usurped political power in the Soviet Union.

"The death agony of Stalinism signifies the death agony of the Comintern. This international organization is now the main internal obstacle in the path of the emancipation of the working class. The selection of people without honor and without conscience has reached the same appalling proportions in the Comintern as in the state apparatus of the USSR. The “leaders” by special appointment change their 'convictions' upon instructions by telegraph." (Trotsky)

"We live in an epoch of the universal liquidation of Marxism in the ruling summits of the labour movement. The most vulgar prejudices now serve as the official doctrines for the political and trade-union leaders of the French working class. Contrariwise, the voice of revolutionary realism rings against this artificial sounding board like the voice of “sectarianism”. It is all the more insistently necessary to repeat over and over again the fundamental truths of Marxist policies before audiences of advanced workers." (Trotsky)

The Revolution Betrayed is one of the most important Marxist texts of all time. It is the only serious Marxist analysis of what happened to the Russian Revolution after the death of Lenin. In this book, Trotsky provided a brilliant and profound analysis of Stalinism, which has never been improved upon, let alone superseded. With a delay of 60 years, it was completely vindicated by history. Without a thorough knowledge of this work, it is impossible to understand the reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the events since then in Russia and on a world scale.

"The war of 1914-18 officially ushered in a new epoch. Its most important political events up to now have been: the conquest of power by the Russian proletariat in 1917 and the smashing of the German proletariat in the year 1933. The terrible calamities of the peoples in all parts of the world and even the more terrible dangers that tomorrow holds in store result from the fact that the revolution of 1917 did not find victorious development on the European and world arena."

In November 1932, Leon Trotsky delivered a speech in Copenhagen (Denmark). It was the 15th anniversary of the revolution. In defending the October revolution he set the record straight on the real processes that unfolded in Russia 1917, as opposed to the doctored version presented by the Stalinists.

The Chinese  revolutionary movement of 1925-1927 ended not with a victory, but with a horribly sanguinary defeat for the proletariat and the peasantry. How was this possible? Leon Trotsky's writings at the time, collected in this volume, provide the required analysis.

"The present pamphlet is a contribution to the theoretical and political work of the Left Opposition. Now, when these differences confront everyone in the form of a great historical problem, it is possible to estimate their origins much better and more profoundly. For the serious revolutionary, for the true Marxist, such a study is absolutely essential. Eclectics live by means of episodic thoughts and improvisations that originate under the impact of events. Marxist cadres capable of leading the proletarian revolution are trained only by the continual and successive working out of problems and disputes." (Trotsky)

During the first two months of 1917 Russia was still a Romanov monarchy. Eight months later the Bolsheviks stood at the helm. They were little know to anybody when the year began, and their leaders were still under indictment for state treason when they came to power. You will not find another such sharp turn in history – especially if you remember that it involves a nation of 150 million people. It is clear that the events of 1917, whatever you think of them, deserve study.

This document was the end product of a process of analysis and struggle in a constantly changing and living movement – the Bolshevik Party. It sums up a period which spans roughly four years, commencing some time before the death of Lenin in 1923 and concluding with attempts to publish this programme in 1927. This Platform was drawn up at a time of crisis for the bureaucracy. This bureaucracy consisted at that time of two basic tendencies – the Bukharinist right and the Stalinist centre of the Party, the latter perhaps less prominent in the public eye but with control of the entire apparatus. Neither was sure of its future at the time. 

"Britain today stands, at a point of crisis – perhaps more so than any other capitalist country. But Britain’s crisis is to a large extent also a crisis for four of the world’s continents, and at least the beginning of a shift for the fifth – and today the most powerful – America. At the same time the political development of Britain exhibits great peculiarities, flowing from the whole of her past, and in large measure blocking the path before her." (Leon Trotsky in 1925)

Originally published by Trotsky in 1924 these essays constitute a significant contribution to the then ongoing debate in the USSR over culture and art in a Workers State. It foreshadowed a later debate over the Stalinist conception of “Socialist Realism” in the later part of the decade. This book was suppressed by the bureaucracy after Trotsky was expelled from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1928.

This book was written by Leon Trotsky at the height of the Russian Civil War. While it is a polemical response to German social-democrat Karl Kautsky, it is also represents the Bolshevik defence of the extraordinary means the young workers’ republic had to take in order to defend itself from the almost two dozen armies that were on its soil trying to turn back the revolution. This version keeps true to the form of the style of English used in this edition of the book, with only some spelling corrections and the contemporary title, Terrorism or Communism.

Ever since it was born, Marxism has had to wage a continual war to free itself of ultraleftism and opportunism. Marx and Engels waged a stubborn struggle against the ultraleft Bakunin. And the whole history of Bolshevism was a history of sharp ideological battles. Lenin was obliged more than once to combat ultraleft tendencies within the ranks of Bolshevism – for example after the defeat of the 1905 Revolution, when he found himself in a minority in the leadership on the question of the need to participate in elections to a rigged tsarist parliament and work in the trade unions and other legal and semi-legal organizations.

Lenin began work on the book The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky at the beginning of October 1918, immediately after he had read Kautsky’s The Dictatorship of the Proletariat, which distorted and vulgarised the Marxist theory of the proletarian revolution and slandered the Soviet state. Lenin attached great importance to exposure of Kautsky’s opportunist views on the socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat.