Workers Vanguard No. 1057

28 November 2014


Defense of the Workers States

(Quote of the Week)

In the 1937 article excerpted below, Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky explained that despite Stalinist misrule the USSR remained a workers state based on collectivized property. At the same time, he warned that the bureaucratic caste headed by Stalin—which had renounced the struggle for workers revolution internationally in the name of “building socialism in one country” and seeking “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism—threatened to undo the gains won by the October Revolution. Capitalist counterrevolution in 1991-92, a catastrophic defeat for the working class worldwide, proved Trotsky right. Today, the Trotskyist program of unconditional military defense against counterrevolutionary forces and for proletarian political revolution to oust the bureaucracy applies with equal force to China and the other remaining deformed workers states.

The pressure of imperialism on the Soviet Union has as its aim the alteration of the very nature of Soviet society. The struggle—today peaceful, tomorrow military—concerns the forms of property. In its capacity of a transmitting mechanism in this struggle, the bureaucracy leans now on the proletariat against imperialism, now on imperialism against the proletariat, in order to increase its own power. At the same time it mercilessly exploits its role as distributor of the meager necessities of life in order to safeguard its own well-being and power. By this token the rule of the proletariat assumes an abridged, curbed, distorted character. One can with full justification say that the proletariat, ruling in one backward and isolated country, still remains an oppressed class. The source of oppression is world imperialism; the mechanism of transmission of the oppression—the bureaucracy. If in the words “a ruling and at the same time an oppressed class” there is a contradiction, then it flows not from the mistakes of thought but from the contradiction in the very situation of the USSR. It is precisely because of this that we reject the theory of socialism in one country.

The recognition of the USSR as a workers’ state—not a type but a mutilation of a type—does not at all signify a theoretical and political amnesty for the Soviet bureaucracy. On the contrary, its reactionary character is fully revealed only in the light of the contradiction between its antiproletarian politics and the needs of the workers’ state. Only by posing the question in this manner does our exposure of the crimes of the Stalinist clique gain full motive force. The defense of the USSR means not only the supreme struggle against imperialism, but a preparation for the overthrow of the Bonapartist bureaucracy.

—Leon Trotsky, “Not a Workers’ and Not a Bourgeois State?” (November 1937)