- A school of thought within Marxism inspired by the writings and politics of Leon Trotsky, Trotskyism claims to be the true heir of Karl Marx and Vladimir Ilich Lenin. It is particularly distinguished by the notion of permanent revolution. According to this theory, which Trotsky first developed in 1906 and modified and refined in 1928, the movement toward socialism is characterized by “combined and uneven development.” That is to say, different countries are at different stages of economic, social and political development, but the more backward countries can speed through stages of development producing societies that combine the most advanced aspects of development with features of more backward stages. Russia, for example, could move from its semi-feudal state through a bourgeois stage and directly to socialism via a permanent revolution that telescoped together different stages of development. This theory also incorporated the key element of internationalism, meaning in this context the view that socialist revolution must be international or else not be socialist. Trotskyism is thus particularly opposed to the Stalinist notion of “socialism in one country” which proclaims the possibility (even the necessity) of Russia developing socialism within its own borders first. According to Trotskyist doctrine this is a contradiction in terms.The other notable ideological feature of Trotskyism lies in its analysis of the Soviet Union and Stalinism. Trotsky characterized it as a “degenerate workers’state,” in other words, a state that had undergone a proletarian revolution but which had subsequently degenerated, betrayed by the rule of the Stalinist bureaucracy.As a movement Trotskyism has been particularly spread through the Fourth International, which Trotsky established in 1938. Numerous parties and organizations (for example, the American Socialist Workers Party, the International Socialists of Canada, the British Socialist Workers Party and Workers Revolutionary Party, the Portuguese Liga Communista Internacionale to name but a few) have been established claiming the label Trotskyist, but they have frequently diverged from each other ideologically and politically, at times becoming fierce opponents. In part this is due to the fact that Trotsky himself, as with any thinker, developed and changed his views over his lifetime, and different Trotskyist groups have seized on different views that Trotsky expressed. For example, on the party Trotsky’s views ranged from rigidly centralist to favoring a broad, loose party organization and the different views of different Trotskyist groups have reflected this. Overall, Trotskyism has been a significant Marxist movement offering a critical viewpoint on communist regimes, but it is yet to achieve the size and significance to contend for political power anywhere.
Historical dictionary of Marxism. David Walker and Daniel Gray . 2014.