Communist Workers Organisation, Trotsky, Trotskyism, Trotskyists, CWO, London, 2000, pp36, £2.00

HIS reviewer is far from giving the present Trotskyist movement a bill of health, but confused and vulgar attacks such as this can make no contribution to cleaning it up. To start off with, it would be difficult to find so many straight factual errors, often jostling each other on the same pages. Trotsky was, apparently, ‘an endorser of National Bolshevism in Germany’ (p5), ‘unprepared for imperialist war’ in 1938 (p15), and in In Defence of Marxism not only called for the defence of the USSR but even for ‘the defence of the ‘democratic swamp’ in general’ (p16). He is alleged to have described the Stalinist apparatus as ‘a parasitic class’ (p9), which must be overthrown by ‘a social revolution’ (p2). The author is not even consistent in his mixture of bad faith and ignorance here, for he elsewhere explains Trotsky’s argument correctly as ‘the Stalinist superstructure was in contradiction to the proletarian infrastructure of the economy’, and that ‘he preached “a political not social revolution”’ (p10).

Also worth noting is how close this fearfully ‘left’ critique approaches mainstream Stalinism. For Stalin also reminded Trotsky of ‘his Menshevik past’ (p4), also advocated ‘the united front from below’ (p18), also denied that a half-completed revolution had happened in Spain in 1936 (p20), and also argued for the possibility of ‘Socialism in one country’ (pp6-7). And far from anyone in the Second International endorsing this theory (p6), Vollmar made himself a laughing stock when he first raised it.

This is one of the longer discussions, which otherwise occur wherever the text touches upon the disgraceful abstentionism of the Italian Left, whether on Spain, Mussolini’s attack on Abyssinia, or Japan’s upon China (p21). As for Trotsky being ‘unprepared’ for the Second World War, whilst he predicted to the month a year before when and how it would begin, the author’s much-vaunted Italian Left in exile collapsed in the face of it (cf Revolutionary History, Volume 5, no 4, Spring 1995, p200).

For the matrix in which this jumble is embedded is the idealist playground of Bordiga’s illegitimate children, who define themselves as ‘proletarian’ and everything else as ‘bourgeois’. This not only goes for those who disagree with them (Mandel was ‘a bourgeois economist’, p9), but includes the trades unions, the other workers’ parties, and even the workers themselves, for ‘there could be no class party in 1938 because there was no independent class movement’ (p13).

At the risk of being denounced as a capitulator, I can only quote Plekhanov at this point: ‘The only serious way to treat an absurdity is to laugh at it.’

Al Richardson