These lectures were delivered at the Socialist Equality Party (US) Summer School held in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2007.
They address critical political and historical issues related to the struggle by the Left Opposition, founded by Leon Trotsky in 1923, against the nationalist policies of the Stalinist bureaucracy and its usurpation of political power inside the Soviet Union and the Communist International.
These include Trotsky’s struggle against Stalin’s disastrous policies on the 1926 British General Strike, the 1925-1927 Chinese Revolution and on economic policy inside the Soviet Union itself. Lectures by Peter Daniels and Bill Van Auken address Trotsky’s monumental work, Revolution Betrayed, which explained the material basis of the growth of the counterrevolutionary Stalinist bureaucracy, and his fight to found a new Fourth International, including in opposition to centrist forces who declared that its founding was premature.
This lecture focuses on the strategic and tactical lessons of the failed German revolution, lessons that rapidly became a heated matter of dispute between the Left Opposition and the Troika led by Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev.
The British General Strike of May 1926 remains, after the passage of more than 80 years, a defining moment in the history of the workers' movement. Its lessons are essential for the development of a revolutionary strategy, not just in Britain but the world over.
The rise and fall of the Second Chinese Revolution of 1925-1927 was one of the most significant political events in the history of the twentieth century. It ended with the deaths of tens of thousands of communist workers and the total destruction of the Chinese Communist Party as an organised movement of the working class. One cannot understand modern Chinese history, in particular the nature of the Maoist regime established in 1949, without understanding the lessons of 1925-27.
The historical legitimacy of the Russian Revolution derived not from the possibility of creating an isolated socialist Russia but from the fact that it was the opening shot of the world socialist revolution.
Trotsky’s analysis in Towards Capitalism or Socialism, one of the fruits of his intellectual labours while working in the Concessions Commission and on other economic projects, is one of the most concentrated and far-reaching summaries of his perspective on the development of the Soviet economy.
The five years between Trotsky’s call for the Fourth International in 1933 and the holding of a founding conference in 1938 were marked by a continuous struggle against a wide range of centrist political organizations active during this period, particularly in Europe, many of which professed sympathy with Trotsky’s perspective and some of which declared themselves for the Fourth International.
An understanding of the Russian Revolution and the Soviet state—their rise and subsequent degeneration—is critical in politically arming the working class by learning the lessons of the 20th century in order to prepare for the struggles of the 21st.
The Soviet intervention in Spain can best be understood as an attempt to strangle a developing revolution, to physically liquidate its leading representatives, terrorize wider layers of workers and peasants and prevent their spontaneous revolutionary strivings from acquiring a more politically conscious form.