Left-wing opposition and the Fourth International (Trotskyism)

Leon Trotsky viewed the Soviet aim to build socialism in one country – a policy that had been promoted by the leadership of the CPSU since 1924 – as a fatal deviation from the internationalist policies of the Bolsheviks.

Consequently, Trotsky criticised the Bolsheviks and defended his own theory of “permanent revolution”. In Soviet domestic politics, Trotsky disparaged the dominance of the “bureaucratic caste” that ruled over Soviet workers and peasants. In his 1936 manuscript The Revolution Betrayed, he described the Soviet Union as a “transitional regime” that stood between capitalism and socialism. Trotsky argued that the path to socialism would be opened up by the victory of a workers’ revolution under the leadership of a new Bolshevik Party. If, however, the ruling bureaucracy were to remain in power, he believed it would be able to turn the nationalised means of production into its own private property and therefore reintroduce capitalism into Russia. In 1938, the Fourth International was established in Paris as a continuation of the International Left-wing Opposition, which had been initiated by Trotsky; it advocated the struggle for world revolution.

Trotskyism (see also the relevant entry in Theories and debates following Marx) is a revolutionary socialist current that has splintered into many directions of revolutionary socialism. Although it still exists today, it has only ever been able to win mass influence in a small number of countries, such as Bolivia, Sri Lanka and, to a certain extent, France.