Saturday, February 23, 2008
Leon Trotsky's ideas today
A series of discussions from the North London branch of Workers’ Liberty, open to all.
All meetings held on Tuesdays from 7:30pm at the Red Rose Club, 129 Seven Sisters Road, N7. Nearest tube is Finsbury Park.
Week 3 (26th February): The Soviet Union after the Revolution: The New Course.
“The struggle against the bureaucratism of the state apparatus is an exceptionally important but prolonged task, one that runs more or less parallel to our other fundamental tasks: economic reconstruction and the elevation of the cultural level of the masses. The most important historical instrument for the accomplishment of all these tasks is the party. Naturally, not even the party can tear itself away from the social and cultural conditions of the country. But as the voluntary organization of the vanguard, of the best, the most active and the most conscious elements of the working class, it is able to preserve itself much better than can the state apparatus from the tendencies of bureaucratism. For that, it must see the danger clearly and combat it without let up.”
Reading: The New Course (1923) - http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1923/newcourse/index.htm. Short Reading: Chapter 1: the question of party generations.
Week 4 (4th March): Trotsky on Art and Literature.
“Before the proletariat will have passed out of the stage of cultural apprenticeship, it will have ceased to be a proletariat. Let us also not forget that the upper layer of the bourgeoisie passed its cultural apprenticeship under the roof of feudal society; that while still within the womb of feudal society it surpassed the old ruling estates culturally and became the instigator of culture before it came into power. It is different with the proletariat in general and with the Russian proletariat in particular. The proletariat is forced to take power before it has appropriated the fundamental elements of bourgeois culture; it is forced to overthrow bourgeois society by revolutionary violence for the very reason that society does not allow it access to culture. The working-class strives to transform the state apparatus into a powerful pump for quenching the cultural thirst of the masses. This is a task of immeasurable historic importance. But, if one is not to use words lightly, it is not as yet a creation of a special proletarian culture.”
Reading: Literature and Revolution (1924) - http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1924/lit_revo/index.htm. Short reading: Chapter 6: Proletarian culture and proletarian art.
Week 5 (11th March): Stalinism and the defeat of the workers.
Trotsky argues that Stalinism was not the logical product of Bolshevism, but represented a bureaucratic counter-revolution against the Russian working class - separated from Bolshevism by "a river of blood"
Reading: The Revolution Betrayed (1936) - http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/revbet/index.htm. Short reading: chapter 11: Whither the Soviet Union?
Week 6 (18th March): The Struggle against Fascism
In the 1930s, as the Kremlin-backed German Communist Party ignored the Nazi threat, claiming that fascists were no worse than Social Democrats, Trotsky highlighted the danger fascism posed to all democratic and workers’ organisations and made the case for working-class forces to form a united front against the Nazis.
Reading: The Struggle against Fascism in Germany (or the Bookmarks collection: Racism, Stalinism and the United Front) (1930-1934). Alternatively all of Trotsky’s writings on Germany of this period are collected at http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/index.htm
Short Reading: The United Front for Defense: A Letter to a Social Democratic Worker (1933)
Week 7 (25th March): The Fourth International and the Transitional Programme.
Leon Trotsky’s “transitional programme” was a method by which to relate immediate struggles in the here and now to the ultimate goal of revolution, by posing demands which implicitly raised questions about power in society and the rule of capitalism.
Reading: The Transitional Programme (the Pathfinder edition with associated articles and transcripts of discussions is particularly useful). http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1938/tp/index.htm. Short reading: the programme itself, the first seven sections up to and including “‘Business secrets’ and workers’ control of industry”
All meetings will also include a section on organisation + political work. Ring David on 07828 844695 for further details or email firstname.lastname@example.org.