This critique of Trotskyism doesn’t wish to be a critique of Trotskyism and Trotskys theoretical writings. Lenin wrote enough writings on denouncing Trotskys theories that an entire book can be filled with them.1
Neither does it seek to be an overarching sweep of both Trotskys theoretical writings, his implementing of those ideas and his followers during the entire 20th Century.
Carl Davidsons Trotskyism: Left In Form, Right in Essence largely achieves that.
So too, does Denver Walkers Quite Right Mr Trotsky.
Instead this article seeks to see how Trotskyists have behaved in the 21st century, how they end up supporting imperialism (just as Carl Davidson pointed out the American trots managed to end up on the line of “supporting self determination for South Vietnam”) because of their fundamental lack of understanding of imperialism, their wish to fight the ghosts of “Stalinism”, their inability to assess the class character of protest movements and blatant agent provocateurs of Western imperialism.
We start our investigation with Libya.
They also still hold what can only be described as White Saviour syndrome. They believe that they understand parts of the world they’ve never been to and cultures they’ve never interacted with better than the occupants.
In other words, Humanitarian Intervention(TM) (a long used manipulative trick by the imperialists to Manufacture Consent for war) is still seen as ‘just’ by them.
Trots can also be characterised as swallowing wholesale the stream of fake news that comes out of the mainstream media. But I have done enough insulting and accusation for now; let us see how the various ‘Socialist’ parties have acted in practice and print.
Perhaps the first thing to note of the Trotskyists is their naming of their parties as “Socialist”. In 1847 Engels identified Socialism signifying a bourgeois movement which had a respectable veneer whilst communism was the opposite.
Thus, in 1847, socialism was a middle-class movement, communism a working-class movement. Socialism was, on the Continent at least, ―respectable‖; communism was the very opposite. And as our notion, from the very beginning, was that ―the emancipation of the workers must be the act of the working class itself,‖there could be no doubt as to which of the two names we must take. Moreover, we have, ever since, been far from repudiating it.Engels, Communist Manifesto
We shall see if in 2020 whether these “Socialists” represent a bourgeois movement or the working class movement.
Life Under Ghadaffi – According to the British Parliament
I wish to draw attention to some basic facts about Libya under Ghadaffi as we read through the ‘Socialist press’ and litany of lies that denounced Ghadaffi as a ‘madman’, using Libyas gold for ‘vanity projects”, “nor revenues from Libya’s vast oil resources have trickled down to the majority of people in the country” and using “Libyas wealth for a small elite” etc. etc.
In 2016 the British released a House of Commons report on the Libyan intervention. In it they admit the numerous failings of British parliament and the numerous lies the government was told. They also admitted to what was life prior to the overthrow of the Libyan government and they, frankly, were more honest than the 3 socialist parties mentioned here.
before the war, Libya had less of its population in poverty than the Netherlands. Libyans had access to free health care, education, electricity and interest-free loans, and women had great freedoms that were applauded by the U.N. Human Rights Council]. Libyan Government revenue greatly exceeded expenditure in the 2000s. … The United Nations Human Development Report 2010—a United Nations aggregate measure of health, education and income—ranked Libya as the 53rd most advanced country in the world for human development and as the most advanced country in Africa. 2
Libya 2011: The Socialist Workers Party – Revolutionary And High Sounding Phrases To Get The Masses To Support Nato
As Libya was about to be smashed by the terrorist organisation called Nato, the Socialist Workers Party was putting out such breakthrough anti-imperialism as:
Muammar Gaddafi was always strong on radical rhetoric. He said he supported “the people” and “revolution”. He claimed to oppose imperialism and unconditionally backed the Palestinians. In the 1970s and 1980s these repeated messages seduced many on the left internationally and Gaddafi was able to cultivate the image of an intransigent Arab nationalist who supported struggles for change worldwide.
He was in fact a ruthless dictator who crushed every form of dissent in Libya and proved an unreliable ally for most of the international causes he claimed to support. 3
The painting of Ghadaffi as a “ruthless dictator” is seemingly to make White Western Radicals(TM) feel safe about his overthrow. The Socialist Workers Party wrote this in August, well into the Nato campaign of indiscriminate bombing and financing of Jihadis. In 2 months he would be dead.
The Real Reason The West Overthrew Ghadaffi
With specific attention to “an unreliable ally for most of the international causes he claimed to support.”
We can look to what we know now. The Wikileaks release of Hilary Clintons emails prove firstly the original reason for the Nato intervention and secondly the fact Ghadaffi was attempting to lift the poorest peoples of this planet to their feet.
Libya, under Ghadaffi, had an incredible amount of gold reserves and Ghadaffi was intending to use that gold to create a Pan African currency that would be an alternative to the French franc.
According to sensitive information available to this
these individuals, Qaddafi’s government holds 143 tons of gold, and a similar amount in silver. During late March, 2011
these stocks were moved to SABHA (south west in the direction of the Libyan border with Niger and Chad); taken from the vaults of the Libyan Central Bank in Tripoli.
This gold was accumulated prior to the current rebellion and was intended to be used to establish a pan-African currency based on the Libyan golden Dinar. This plan was designed to provide the Francophone African Countries with an alternative to the French.franc (CFA). 4
Here we see the Socialist Workers Party lying out of their arses. If Ghadaffi had been successful he’d have pushed out the imperialist West out of Africa(particularly France and UK) that have been dropping bombs on the middle east and Africa to hold onto their colonial domination for centuries.
By 2019 the Socialist Workers Party were pointing out that the West was stealing billions from Libya, as if that wasn’t the plan in 2011, but they could not cease to get a jab in at Ghadaffi
Gaddafi used the country’s oil wealth as a giant slush fund to pursue vanity projects and build Libya’s influence.
That the West opposed, backed, then opposed the regime meant that much of this money drifted through the global financial system.5
What does Simon Baskett of the Socialist Workers Party mean by Ghadaffis “vanity projects”.
Perhaps Simon is referring to The Great Man Made River – the largest irrigation system in the world which brought water to all over Libya? Which incidentally was bombed by Nato who claimed they were “firing rockets from water processing sites.”.
Or perhaps it was using Libyan gold to attempt to create a Pan African currency to get out from under the grips of European imperialism?
Perhaps he’s referring to the “vanity project” of Ghadaffis general governance of Libya that meant it ranked the highest on the Human Development Index on the continent of Africa?
We are never told.
Libya 2011: The Socialist Worker
Not to be confused with the Socialist Workers Party the Socialist Worker have never met a Nato campaign they didn’t wholly support in essence covered in opportunistic and revolutionary sounding phraseology.
There is a special place in hell for the Socialist Worker who actually picketed the Libyan embassy in February 2011 as Nato began to start its crusade to destroy the Libyan nation and the Libyan people.
We see here how Trotskyists are “fond of high-sounding and empty phrases”. 6
Not to be confused with the Socialist Workers Party the Socialist Worker in February 2011 had this to say
THOSE WERE the statements last week from two well-known U.S. socialist groups active in anti-imperialist movements. As madman Muammar el-Qaddafi ranted in his bunker about al-Qaeda slipping hallucinogens into young people’s coffee in order to make them rebel, the Workers World Party (WWP) and Party for Liberation and Socialism (PSL) refused to take a stand with the Libyan people against a dictator.7
Take for instance the emboldened part above and compare this to a report commissioned by the House of Commons in 2016, which even Obama was forced to refer to the intervention as a “shitshow”. 8
Intelligence on the extent to which extremist militant Islamist elements were involved in the anti-Gaddafi rebellion was inadequate.
Abdelhakim Belhadj and other members of the al-Qaeda affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group were participating in the rebellion in March 2011.
There is a close link between al Qaeda, Jihadi organizations, and the opposition in Libya…9
Further the report, by the literal bourgeois parliamentarians who represent capital, confirm that the intervention has destroyed the country. We see the horrific impacts by standing with the Trotskyites when actual socialists and actual internationalists “refuse to take a stand with the Libyan people against a dictator“.
We see the Libyan people destroyed. Prior to the war, as the House of Commons report shows, Libya had less of its population in poverty than the Netherlands
The Libyan economy generated some $75 billion of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010. This economy produced an average annual per capita income of approximately $12,250, which was comparable to the average income in some European countries. [The former Indian representative to the U.N. notes that, before the war, Libya had less of its population in poverty than the Netherlands. Libyans had access to free health care, education, electricity and interest-free loans, and women had great freedoms that were applauded by the U.N. Human Rights Council]. Libyan Government revenue greatly exceeded expenditure in the 2000s. … The United Nations Human Development Report 2010—a United Nations aggregate measure of health, education and income—ranked Libya as the 53rd most advanced country in the world for human development and as the most advanced country in Africa.
In 2014, the most recent year for which reliable figures are available … the average Libyan’s annual income had decreased from $12,250 in 2010 to $7,820. Since 2014, Libya’s economic predicament has reportedly deteriorated. Libya is likely to experience a budget deficit of some 60% of GDP in 2016. The requirement to finance that deficit is rapidly depleting net foreign reserves, which halved from $107 billion in 2013 to $56.8 billion by the end of 2015. Production of crude oil fell to its lowest recorded level in 2015, while oil prices collapsed in the second half of 2014. Inflation increased to 9.2% driven by a 13.7% increase in food prices including a fivefold increase in the price of flour. The United Nations ranked Libya as the world’s 94th most advanced country in its 2015 index of human development, a decline from 53rd place in 2010.
In 2016, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that out of a total Libyan population of 6.3 million, 3 million people have been impacted by the armed conflict and political instability, and that 2.4 million people require protection and some form of humanitarian assistance. In its World Report 2016, Human Rights Watch stated that Libya is heading towards a humanitarian crisis, with almost 400,000 people internally displaced and increasing disruption to basic services, such as power and fuel supplies. Forces engaged in the conflict continued with impunity to arbitrarily detain, torture, unlawfully kill, indiscriminately attack, abduct and disappear, and forcefully displace people from their homes. The domestic criminal justice system collapsed in most parts of the country, exacerbating the human rights crisis.
People-trafficking gangs exploited the lack of effective government after 2011, making Libya a key transit route for illegal migration into Europe and the location of a migrant crisis. In addition to other extremist militant groups, ISIL emerged in Libya in 2014, seizing control of territory around Sirte and setting up terrorist training centres. Human Rights Watch documented unlawful executions by ISIL in Sirte of at least 49 people by methods including decapitation and shooting. The civil war between west and east has waxed and waned with sporadic outbreaks of violence since 2014. In April 2016, United States President Barack Obama described post-intervention Libya as a “shit show”. It is difficult to disagree with this pithy assessment.10
Here we see the general crux of Trotskyism at work. With an absolute inability to understand the class character of protests and movements as they occur the Trotskyists act as useful idiots for imperialism. Libya is destroyed now and has been destroyed since the Nato intervention. Libya went from being the most developed country on the continent of Africa to a bandit-riven country owned by varying Jihadis groups who hold slave markets.
This also speaks to the idealism of trots who have never supported a successful revolution on this green Earth and have never supported an existing socialist country – all of which have been written off as “Stalinist monstrosities”.
This is despite the fact, in living memory, the people living in ex-socialist states have said by far they preferred their really existing socialism in Russia, East Germany, Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe. 11
2011: The Socialist Party
The Socialist Party had a better take overall. Writing in March, as the Socialist Worker was demanding Ghadaffis overthrow, the Socialist Party demanded no militiary intervention and no setup of a “no fly zone”.
The Socialist Party even identify the prize behind Libyas destruction
Libya, with its huge oil reserves, is a special prize as its small population and its geography make it easier to exploit. 12
They even identify Libyans lives greatly improved under Ghadaffi
Nevertheless, it cannot be ignored that, since 1969, on the basis of a large oil income and a small population, there has been a big improvement in most Libyans’ lives, especially in education and health.
However, in classic Trotskyist fashion of talking out of both sides of your mouth, the Socialist Party conclude that there can be no support for the imperialist intervention and that Ghadaffi should be overthrown
The fate of the revolution will be decided inside Libya. Its victory requires a programme that can cut across tribal and regional divisions and unite the mass of the population against the Gaddafi clique and in the struggle for a better future.
There can be no support for the imperialist intervention, despite its UN colouring. The Libyan working masses and youth should show no trust whatsoever in the so-called democratic Western powers. 13
The Socialist Party were unwilling to look with a sober eye at the reality of Libya 2011. The mass of the population supported Ghadaffi besides some moronic opportunists. The people against him were Western backed jihadis. The bombing by Nato planes smashed Libyas ability to defend itself from the ground invasion of Western backed and supplied Jihadis. The Socialist Party have taken an anti-Marxist and anti-Leninist position by wishing for a fantasy.
Further they extol bourgeois democracy as an end in itself. The last two paragraphs going fully through the Trotskyite Looking Glass. Marxism 101 teaches us that the organisation of the State is for suppressing one class over another. What do we care whether it’s bourgeois democratic in nature?
A programme for the Libyan revolution that will genuinely benefit the mass of the population would be based on winning and defending real democratic rights, an end to corruption and privilege, the safeguarding and further development of the social gains made since the discovery of oil, opposition to any form of re-colonisation and for a democratically controlled, publicly owned economy planned to use the country’s resources for the future.
The creation of an independent movement of Libyan workers, poor and youth that could implement such a real revolutionary transformation of the country is the only way to thwart the imperialists’ plans, end dictatorship and transform the lives of the mass of the people. 14
Though they have analysed the situation reasonably well they have come to the conclusion that an “independent movement” can be “created” from…thin air perhaps?
Perhaps the Libyan people will pluck this movement out of their arse?
Just as in Syria…. The progressive movement coalesced around Assad quite quickly against the barbaric Islamists.
Trotskyism can largely be regarded as a rebellion against reality. Of conjuring up movements of workers and the poor – not as they rally around Ghadaffi – but another movement.
A more pure movement.
A movement that doesn’t have to make violent decisions to defend itself. Whether that be in a Socialist nation emerging under capitalist-encirclement or a bourgeois nation seeking self determination from the Empire (which current day is the US and its puppet states in Nato).
The Trotskyists “possesses no ideological and political definiteness” beyond standing against the status quo.
Even if that status quo is infinitely more progressive than what is to come.
For Libya – that was utter disaster.
The Socialism that Trots demand is idealism -the perfect society.
And when reality inevitably never lives up to their ideals they end up siding with counter revolution. This is how they have denounced every really-existing Socialist society that has ever existed.
In this case Ghadaffis society was not socialist but it was a nation under the full brunt of Western imperialism. And despite this he provided the best life in all of Africa for its inhabitants. We cannot be seduced by high sounding revolutionary slogans and bombastic parrot phrases. We must judge a movement on its actions.
Therefore either one of two things: The Trotskyists don’t know what they’re talking about, in which case they are producing nothing but confusion.
Or they do know, and in that case are betraying the worlds proletariat.
In either case they serve reaction.
This article is licensed under the Creative Commons License
- Against Trotskyism, THE STRUGGLE OF LENIN AND THE CPSU AGAINST TROTSKYISM
- House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Libya: Examination of intervention and collapse and the UK’s future policy options, 2016/2017
- The myth of Gaddafi the radical, Socialist Workers Party, Tue 30 Aug 2011
- emailid/6528, Hilary Clinton Archive, Wikileaks
- How the West is stealing millions from people in Libya, Jul 2019, Socialist Worker
- Everybody knows that Trotsky is fond of high-sounding and empty phrases V. I. Lenin, Collected Works,Vol. 20, pp. 327-47
- Todd Chretien, Taking sides about Libya, February 28, 2011, Socialist Worker
- House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Libya: Examination of intervention and collapse and the UK’s future policy options, 2016/2017
- In a number of polls collatted in the following article are numerous ex-socialist countries that say they preferred their socialism to the capitalist restoration that occured after the collapse of the Soviet Union, The Diplomatic Post, Communist Nostalgia As The Reality Of Bourgeois Democracy Hits Home In Eastern Europe, April 2020
- Libya: No to Western military intervention, March 2011, Socialist Party