MIA: History: ETOL: Document: Workers Party/Independent Socialist League: Neither Capitalism nor Socialism

Workers Party/Independent Socialist League

E. Haberkern & Arthur Lipow (eds.)

Neither Capitalism nor Socialism


Chapter I

The Revolution Betrayed – 1936


Neither Capitalism nor Socialism, pp. 1–2.


In 1936, Leon Trotsky wrote a book whose English title was The Revolution Betrayed. [1] His thesis was that the counter-revolution organized – by Stalin had succeeded in destroying the last remnants of the socialist – movement in Russia. All means of organization and self-expression on the – part of the working class, and the population as a whole, had been destroyed – by the new totalitarian state bureaucracy. The state which was now the – exclusive property of this new bureaucracy was, through its program of – collectivization, on the way to becoming the sole proprietor of the national – economy. This state and this bureaucracy were not the successors to the – workers state created by the revolution but its grave-diggers. It was the enemy – of the socialist movement, of the working class and of progress.

As we pointed out in the introduction this was a “new Trotskyism.” Previously, Trotsky, like most other observers, had believed that the – bureaucracy was feeling its way to an accommodation with capitalism. He – had held a “three factions” theory. According to this theory, one faction, – whose spokesman was Bukharin, was pandering to the acquisitive instincts – of the small property holding peasant and directly preparing the way for – capitalist restoration; a second faction, led by Trotsky’s supporters in Russia, – was defending the egalitarian and socialist traditions of the revolution; and – the third faction, epitomized by Stalin was defending the bureaucracy’s new – privileged position in an opportunistic and pragmatic fashion. Since its – privileges depended on collectivized property, the bureaucracy had to defend – that property against attempts at restoration. On the other hand, as a – privileged grouping, it also had to fight the egalitarian tendencies of its – opponents on the left. Trotsky had initially believed that this bureaucratic – faction would be ground between its two opponents and collapse. But he was – proved wrong.

Already by 1930, Trotsky was forced to admit that events were not proceeding according to his script. The bureaucracy was destroying what – organized opposition existed on the left and simultaneously expropriating the – peasantry and rapidly moving to centralize all economic power in the hands – of the state.

This picture left Trotsky without a theoretical explanation of what was happening. Logically he should have concluded that the bureaucracy was a – new class in the making. But this was not a conclusion he could accept. The – contradiction between his ever more bitter political hostility towards the – regime and his belief that in defending a collectivist form of property it was – somehow advancing the cause of socialism created confusion and dissension – in his movement.

Particularly unsettling was Trotsky’s obvious confusion over the new 1936 constitution of the USSR. In it, Stalin announced sweeping reforms, – guaranteeing freedom of speech, religion and assembly and rejecting class – warfare and “the dictatorship of the proletariat.” But behind this facade aimed – at Western public opinion, a mass campaign of terror and purges destroyed – all opposition. In Trotsky’s theory this dismantling of the “workers’ state” – ideologically and physically should have signaled a turn towards capitalism. – Despite the illusions of moderate socialists, liberals and businessmen anxious – to open up this new market, inside Russia what little remained of a free – market or private property was wiped out.

Eventually, the Trotskyist movement was destroyed by its inability to devise a theoretical basis for its increasingly bitter anti-Stalinism.

In 1937, Trotsky began to prepare his followers for the founding of a new international organization that would be capable of leading the working-class – in the revolutionary crisis he believed imminent. In the discussions of the – platform to be adopted by this new organization the theoretical confusion of – the movement became apparent.

In both the American and French movements, opposition voices demanded a clear break with the old “three factions” theory. Two of the most cogent of – these first polemics against Trotsky’s position are reprinted here.

The second of the two, by Yvan Craipeau, is reprinted from the report in the French Trotskyist journal. The editorial comments in this article are those – of the editors of the journal.

From Formula to Reality – James Burnham

The Fourth International and the Russian Counter-revolution – Yvan Craipeau



1. Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed, tr. Max Eastman, Pathfinder Press (New York 1972).

Last updated on 8 November 2020