I had originally intended to write a piece explaining how Trotskyism, which came into existance with the so-called “Fourth International” under a pretext of the “failures” of “Stalinism”, with some particularly ironic justifications (that the Soviet Union was not spreading revolution around the world fast enough to please Trotsky, when Trotskyism has failed to launch a single revolution anywhere in the world at any time; and that the Soviet Union under Stalin would not fight Nazi Germany), has over time, if the reader will pardon the expression, degenerated. I wanted to discuss how Trotskyites, in becoming increasingly “unorthodox” with their theoretical positions, became even “worse” than they had been before.
But as I started to write, I found myself becoming constantly distracted by asking myself what the relevance of complaining about Trotskyites was. Trotskyism has long been exposed as a pseudo-revolutionary trend to convinced Marxist-Leninists, and it cannot be said to hold tremendous appeal to outsiders either: It may be true that Trotskyism is still a relative “force” on the left in imperialist countries (it is completely insignificant in semi-colonial countries), but even in the United States or Canada, the “official” revisionist “Marxist-Leninist” parties are not exactly concerned with the Trotskyites, and not due to some sort of alliance. Britain can be argued to be an exception (mostly on the force of England and not the other countries), but even here I would argue that Morning Star and the CPB mean as much or more than any Trot paper or party still standing.
Why do we spend so much time “exposing” the Trotskyites if there is no one to expose them to? The Trotskyites simply cannot build success atop the failure of 20th century Marxism-Leninism as they had hoped, and therefore do not present an immediate practical obstacle for us. Perhaps we believe we are going to convert young Trotskyites over to “the correct line”, but I claim that this too is a misguided instinct: The aforementioned problem of 21st century Trotskyism being so “unorthodox” means that we have less and less common ground on which to debate on a theoretical level. Many young Trotskyites sound more like Kautsky or Ebert than Trotsky. Therefore, debating Trotskyites specifically is no longer meaningfully different from debating non-Marxist-Leninists in general. “Trotskyism” is increasingly a trend which lacks a recognisable Marxist or Leninist character in the eyes even of the “orthodox” Trotskyites of yesteryear (who rightly criticise the younger generation as “fakes”), and so our fixation with them (as funny as it may be on Worker’s Spatula) marks us as relics of a bygone era.
Who then is our greatest enemy today? We must be totally modest and admit that we have lost the Soviet Union, China, and Albania, so we are in a position much like that before the October Revolution, and as Lenin taught, in such a case our struggle ought primarily to be one against trends within our movement which are holding back the goal of socialism. Therefore I will say that I understand why so many English-speaking Marxist-Leninists think they ought to be attacking Trotskyites first. But for the reasons previously mentioned, I think this is redundant.
If our ideological struggle is not to be waged primarily against the Trotskyites, then is our primary target the “modern revisionists”? I am indeed an “anti-revisionist” Marxist-Leninist, and I hold that Khrushchev was an objective traitor, both due to the Khrushchev era’s totally incorrect foreign policy, and due to his deconstruction of the dictatorship of the proletariat (which paved the way for “social imperialism”). The “modern revisionists” still control several actual sovereign states around the world. Should we then focus our energy on attacking, for example, Cuba or North Korea? For practical more than theoretical reasons, I would also answer this in the negative.
Firstly, without the revisionist Soviet Union behind them, the distinction between those of us who support socialist states that no longer exist and those who support no-longer socialist states that no longer exist is similarly losing its status as a question of the day. The CPB may not be a revolutionary party, but it’s hardly encouraging any specific counter-revolution such that we should be focusing energy on them. Of course, there is great importance to the question of “revisionism” (otherwise simply having the hammer and sickle hanging on the wall would be enough for us to believe the revolution was proceeding at pace, what with the PRC and all), but it is ultra-left to consider this the primary question, and this was the essence of the error of the “Three Worlds Theory”, whereby the desire to show one’s “purity” against the Soviet revisionists led to de facto alliances with imperialism (headed by US imperialism).
Perhaps condemnation of various revisionist states made some kind of sense when we “anti-revisionists” had China or Albania “on our side” (though I still claim that not only the Three Worlds Theory, but some of Albania’s foreign policy represented an ultra-left fixation on revisionism to the exclusion of the question of imperialism). But today, if “all we have” is North Korea or Cuba, no matter what is wrong with them, we must at least defend them against imperialism (headed by US imperialism). I cannot say that in any country where my blog is being read that North Korea or Cuba are “holding the revolution back”.
Nor is it their “tankie” supporters, as liberals, Trotskyites, and anarchists like to suppose.
But again, it is also not the Trotskyites (who attack North Korea and Brezhnev and Stalin and Enver Hoxha and Mao equally, while remaining suspiciously soft on figures like Morsi).
What is holding us back is, of course, us, just as it was in Lenin’s day. Again, we have nothing in our hands. We have no Soviet Union, we have no China, we have no Albania, we have no “red base area” that fits the standards of genuine revolutionary socialists. Our primary goal is to build a new socialist state, and it’s our practice which prevents us from accomplishing this important task.
Thanks to various errors which we made, allowing our enemies to outmanoeuvre us, we lost the Cold War, and we are back to “square one”.
So what is “square one”? Well, we know what we need. We need to rebuild an international, connecting genuine revolutionary parties. Efforts towards building internationalist soldarity and coordinated action are ongoing within ICOR (which I consider the best model for how to proceed as internationalists at present). Unfortunately, ICOR, or indeed either of the two organisations named ICMLPO, have no member organisation in Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc. The US is home to the ROL, which by its own admission is small and, although it has excellent theoretical output, is unable to insert itself into day to day politics in that country as of yet. This is indeed the case for most sympathetic Marxist-Leninists in imperialist countries: Isolated, writing good theory, with little to no practice, itself of poor quality (and you know what we say about quantity and quality…)
As for the ICOR organisations in semi-colonial countries, while many of them are relatively stronger and better at day to day politics, they are as yet unable to show the way forward on a world scale, and many of them are still as unconnected to each other as other admirable organisations in those same countries which lack ICOR or some other “international organisation”. The state of Marxism-Leninism in the world, therefore, is something like the state of Marxism-Leninism in imperialist countries: Divided and isolated, no matter how good it is in theory.
If we want new Octobers, our best bet is to return to the theory and practice of Comrade Lenin and the Third International. We have to rebuild a genuine revolutionary international communist movement, and finally build…
…the Fourth International.