anarchist joining the ula misunderstands an essential part of Trotskyism


I’m not myself anti-Trotskyist or anti-Trotsky, I think Trotsky does have some useful political analysis, but I certainly wouldn’t consider Trotskyism to be a useful political analysis for the present political context. Further, Trotskyism has, on the question of producing democratic mass movements an objectively worse record than either Anarchism or Stalinism in the west. Trotskyism takes an insurrectionary view, i.e. that the ballot box is only useful as a tool to popularise the insurrection. Any reform is only considered useful by consistent Trotskyists if it can never actually be realised and can be used to push workers further towards supporting insurrection. Trotskyist organisations therefore very often come up with sets of what they believe to be unrealisable demands, sometimes sprinkled with other popular demands and generally resulting in a hodge-podge. At the same time they feel justified in denouncing other reformists who they believe are simply presenting reforms rather than transitional demands. This is most entertaining when it involves two Trotskyist groups denouncing each other as reformists. I think the entire view towards transitional demands is of very dubious value in the West, and it has never proved effective. I think that we can gain traction from slower reforms and create a mass movement by building trust in the working class. However, this entire line of thought requires its own exposition.

This misses the essence of the method of the Transitional Programme. It is not the case that “consistent Trotskyists” only consider reforms to be useful if they can never actually be realised. All workers struggles to defend and extend their living conditions (reforms of the existing capitalist system) are useful, especially if they are won, and “consistent Trotskyists” participate in such struggles with the aim of maximising the chances of their success – but with a revolutionary programme that is not just limited to the struggle for those immediate reforms.

The art of being a “consistent  Trotskyist” is not to present a hodge podge of demands but rather to present an overall programme that links more immediately achievable demands with those that are more structural, and therefore apparently less immediately achievable, in a coherent totality that points explicitly to the necessity for working class power.

And that question of power is the key. To be a “consistent Trotskyist” is to be a revolutionary – someone who presents a programme for revolution.

The problem with most of what passes for Trotskyism today is that they do not present a coherent programme for power and so do end up with a hodge podge of a programme that leaves out the less immediately achievable demands. Instead it is a mixture of immediate demands with socialism tacked on as an aspiration at the end and do not coherently link the immediate struggles to the question of workers power. Indeed quite often on more strategic issues they have a programme that actually points away from taking power – like with the CWI and the question of the state with their “community control of the police” and refusal, or at least extreme hesitancy, to advocate the creation of organs based on proletarian democracy in opposition to the structures of bourgeois democracy.

Curiously what seems missing from Gavin’s perspective in this article is exactly the question of power.

“If we can incorporate the above propositions I think we can take real steps towards a broad European movement which might actually pose the question of transition to a sustainable economy structured to benefit people rather than maximise profit for a few.”

Yes we should be posing that question – but we should also be presenting what we understand to be the answer to that question. In broad strategic terms – is it a programme of reform or a programme of revolution that will allow the working class to make that transition?

Reform and revolution are not just less and more radical versions on the same road but rather distinct and competing strategic paths forward for the working class. There is of course the basis for non-sectarian principled unity around specific campaigns about defending the immediate interests of our class but that is a very different thing from the fake unity over strategic issues that would have to exist in the kind of broad pluralist party Gavin seems to be advocating.



1 Response to “anarchist joining the ula misunderstands an essential part of Trotskyism”

  1. October 26, 2012 at 19:58

    A discussion between myself and another of the Spirit of Contradiction bloggers has started in the comments on the original post – https://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/anarchist-joining-the-ula-misunderstands-an-essential-part-of-trotskyism/

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