Trotsky and Lasalle on The Movement

June 17, 2013 at 11:25 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

I was a Trotskyist of one sort or another from approximately 1985 to 1995. In my final phase (and also the longest) I was a member of the (now International) Bolshevik Tendency.

We took our Trotsky seriously. We read and studied all of Lev’s important works, but not just Results and Prospects, but his analysis of fascism, the united front, Stalinism and the Spanish Revolution. After I left the group, I sold some of my Trotsky back to them, but kept the main books.  My mate who bought them remarked that it was the 12 volume Writings dating from 1929 to 1940 that were the most valuable. It was the bickering, there really is no other word, among the Trotskyist groups that was the most serious study. As such, it was the PARTY-ist Trotsky rather than the heretic who is best known.

The other day I absent-mindedly picked up Trotsky’s book 1905 and thumbed through it. I came across this very interesting quotation:

“You are perfectly right in saying,” Lassalle wrote to Marx in 1854, at a time of extreme world reaction, “that the present apathy cannot be overcome by theoretical means. I would go so far in extrapolating this thought as to say that apathy has never been overcome by purely theoretical means, that is, the theoretical overcoming of political apathy produced disciples, sects or unsuccessful practical movements, but has never yet produced either a real world movement or a universal mass movement of minds. The masses are drawn into the current of a movement, not only practically but also intellectually, by the dynamic force of real events alone.”

1905 “Our Differences” (Chapter 25)

Trotsky approvingly quotes Lassalle criticising Menshevik opportunism. In my councilist days, I would have adored this quotation. I still like it although my focus has changed a little. But it’s very interesting given that Trotsky’s’ later evolution (and Lassalle’s for that matter) was the notion that the movement could be created by the party. In his book What Next? about the rise of fascism in Germany,

The interests of the class cannot be formulated otherwise than in the shape of a program; the program cannot be defended otherwise than by creating the party. The class, taken by itself, is only material for exploitation. The proletariat assumes an independent role only at that moment when from a social class in itself it becomes a political class for itself This cannot take place otherwise than through the medium of a party. The party is that historical organ by means of which the class becomes class conscious.

The Struggle against Fascism in Germany

I was once a great admirer of Trotsky. Even now, while that appreciation of his politics has all but disappeared, his History of the Russian REvolution is a marvellous book (even if a great part of that his Trotsky’s skill as a writer). I wonder what would have happened if Trotsky had not accepted Bolshevism. Who knows what might have happened.


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