On August 20, 1940, Ramon Mercader inflicted the blow that ended Trotsky’s life on Stalin’s command. It was the last of a series of attacks that began in the second half of the XX century. Defamation, political persecution, followed by being expelled from the party and the country, the imprisonment and murder of family, friends and political followers, and murder attempts, would end with Ramon Mercader’s murdering ice pick.
By Alicia Sagra
Trotsky represented the thread of continuity with the October Revolution, the Leninist program and tradition, and meant great danger for the bureaucracy that had taken over the ex-Soviet Union.
Stalin was set on cutting this historical thread and achieved it. His triumph was relative. He achieved ending the life of a great revolutionary, but not his legacy.
Trotsky’s Great Programmatic Contribution
Trotsky presided the Petrograd Soviet in the 1905 Russian Revolution. He led the Military Revolutionary Committee of the soviet that orchestrated the seizing of power on October 1917. He created the Red Army that triumphed in the civil war. From 1917, he was part of the main leadership team with Lenin to lead the party and the Soviet state. He founded the Fourth International in continuity with the Third. However, today we wish to remember him for his great theoretical-programmatic contribution: the theory of the Permanent Revolution, the theory of the world socialist revolution.
What does this theory say? According to this theory, in the imperialist epoch, it is impossible to solve completely any democratic task within the capitalist system. The only way to complete these tasks (national independence, the land issue, male chauvinism, racism, xenophobia, LGBTphobia, etc.) is for the class to take over the political power, to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat and begin the path towards socialism.
Two main aspects of this theory are: 1- That these tasks cannot be completed in the national level, they are only possible by defeating imperialism with the triumph of the world revolution; 2- The only guarantee of triumph is if this process is led by the industrial working class and the revolutionary Marxist party.
Why can these issues only be solved by breaking with the bourgeoisie?
Regarding national independence, in the imperialist epoch, national bourgeoisies are the minor associates of imperialism. They may have confrontations with an imperialist potency, but they may never go all the way, because this would mean expropriating themselves. Something similar happens with the land issues. The same bourgeois who own factories and banks, own the great land properties.
Regarding other oppressions (male chauvinism, racism, xenophobia, LGBTphobia), the break with the bourgeoisie is needed because the bourgeoisie uses then to divide the class and increase exploitation, and therefore increase their profits.
The Permanent Revolution and the Fight against Oppressions
The Theory of the Permanent Revolution allows us to understand and explain both the Russian Revolution, where it was developed, as well as the post WWII revolutions and the closest revolutionary processes, like the Nicaraguan revolution and the last revolutions in North Africa. This tool allows to analyze and to interpret reality, and to answer programmatically and politically, therefore we define it as a theory-program.
According to this theory, we may only identify as Trotskyists if we are in the vanguard of the fight against male chauvinism, racism and all oppressions. We would not be loyal to Trotsky’s legacy if when participating in these processes, like the great ascent for women’s demands in process today, we do not have a class profile, calling working women to organize along their class and distrust the bourgeois outings.
At the same time, we call the entire working class and its organizations to incorporate the women’s demands and carry out a relentless fight against male chauvinism.
We may say something similar about how to face the anti-imperialist struggle, the fight against racism, xenophobia and all sexual discrimination.
Therefore, the sorority callings (for the sisterhood of women) by organizations said to be Trotskyists have nothing to do with Leon Trotsky’s legacy. Just as the argument that to face imperialism or fascism one must support the bourgeois governments or leaderships, has nothing to do with the Permanent Revolution.
History has verified the theory of the Permanent Revolution. The best proof are the great women’s achievements thanks to the Russian Revolution of October 1917, which were greater than anything that has been achieved until now in the most advanced capitalist countries. On the negative, the theory is also verified with the setback in these achievements with the triumph of the Stalinist counterrevolution. We may say the same regarding the oppressed nationalities.
Therefore, if the only way to solve definitively the democratic demands is with the triumph of the international workers’ revolution, there should be no doubt on the attitude Trotskyists must have before the democratic struggles (anti-imperialist, for land and against all oppressions). We must intervene strongly in them, to push the working class to lead them with a class independence program that leads them towards workers power and the building of socialism. At the same time, we must build the national and international party that may lead them to triumph.
For us, this is the way to honor Trotsky’s memory.